The Zambezi has a bit of a reputation as it is one of the longest rivers in the world, but can anyone raft it? The answer, plain and simple is: Yes.
As a guide, I have enjoyed more than 1000 trips down the river, and feel it is time to dispell the myth that you can’t raft the Zambezi without flipping. Yes, of course you can – with an experienced guide.
Guides choose a line through the rapids, and decide from challenging or more straightforward lines. Even in the biggest waters, it is possible to take a more difficult line through a rapid and not flip.
If you are thinking of taking a day trip on the Zambezi, first check out a video of the previous day’s trip; if you see the guide holding on going into a rapid, you may want to choose another company!
The clue is in the job title: Guide. They should be guiding you through the rapids. So, let your guide know what line you would like to take. They should always give you options and listen to you. On saying all of this, flips and swims do happen, it’s just that it’s best to relax and enjoy the ride.
And if you do go in, the water temperature is 24C – a welcome relief from the 30-40C above the surface! The best time to raft the Zambezi is during Low Water, from early August until mid-December. At this time you will get to raft from rapids 1 to 24 on a day trip, or from Ghostrider to Matetsi on a multi-day. During other periods, the river is generally less challenging and the rapids not as big, and you will only be able to raft from rapids 11 to 24. The weather is best between early August and mid-October: after this you’ll get thunderstorms and rain.
Possibly the hardest part of the entire rafting trip on the Zambezi is the walk out of the Batoka Gorge at the end of the day trip. However, many companies now use the gondola at rapid 25 to avoid the added effort. On some multiday trips, guests get to fly out by helicopter along the river and back to town. This is an amazing end to a great rafting session, and you get to re-trace your steps and see some of the big rapids you conquered.
The Zambezi is predominantly grade 4. However, there are some big grade 5 rapids, depending on water levels: Gulliver’s Travels, Open Season, Upper Moemba and Ghostrider are all grade 5. There are also some rapids on the Zambezi that are un-navigable, such as Commercial Suicide, Lower Moemba, Deep Throat and Chabango Falls (Damsite). Clients are walked around these rapids for their own safety. What makes them unrunnable? Well, since a capsize is almost certain, and the consequences of a swim in such torrid water can be life threatening, guides give them a wide berth. Not to worry, there are plenty more fun big water rapids to run anyway!
Every year, we organise charity trips down the Zambezi. Recently, we took 73-year-old Barbara on a seven-day river trip down the Zambezi, and yes, she rafted everything! If she can do it, ask yourself, can you? Of course you can! Share your experiences….
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5 Comments to “Rafting The Zambezi – Can anyone do it?”
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