I kept hearing from various people while doing the overland trip from Kenya to South Africa that rafting down the Zambezi river when visiting Victoria Falls is a must.
So although it cost 180 USD for this unemployed student back then, I didn’t think twice and signed up for it.
We were told that an Australian (who refused to wear a life jacket) died during the same rafting trip a year ago. It wasn’t long before we saw the river and understood why.
After the briefing on rafting commands and what to do should one fall off the raft or should the raft flip over, we were told to jump into the river (Zambian side) and swim to the other side (Hello Zimbabwe!) where the rafts were waiting for us. Needless to say some non-swimmers were already terrified at this point as the Zambezi is a high volume, pool drop river.
The full day tour took us through 22 rapids: most of them Class 5! According to the British Canoe Union, Grade 5 is “extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas”.
I had a shock the first time I fell out of the raft. No wonder the Australian guy who didn’t have a life jacket on, died the previous year. Even with a life jacket, I found myself being pushed into the water again and again at every new wave that crashed into me. The Zambezi is renowned for its extremely high volume of water (4 times the Colorado River at its peak) and I certainly witnessed that as I prayed for the safety kayak to reach me quick.
There was a safety kayak to every two rafts. I hung on to the kayak tightly as soon as it reached me as I couldn’t imagine surviving a second longer “floating” (I was under water mostly despite having a life jacket) down the river.
With some of the biggest rapids in the world, rafting on the Zambezi is undoubtedly a must on any trip to Victoria Falls for the adrenaline seeker/water lover. The names of the rapids say it all: Washing Machine (I felt like I was in one while waiting for the safety kayak to rescue me), Devils Toilet Bowl, Gnashing Jaws of Death, Overland Truck Eater, Stairway to Heaven, Midnight Diner, The Mother and Oblivion.
Just before we broke for lunch, our entire raft flipped!
One of the girls who wasn’t a swimmer got trapped under the raft when it flipped and understandably was extremely shaken by the experience. Although she paid for a full day trip, she left during our lunch break.
Lunch was a simple sandwich and I couldn’t wait for Part 2 of the best-rafting-day-ever to begin. We even saw a crocodile on the river banks in the afternoon. We were told by the guides that the crocodiles on this part of the river were small as there is not much to eat since most animals would not survive the drop of the Victoria Falls.
The views of the gorge were incredible throughout the day. We could finally enjoy the sights when the river was more calm during the afternoon.
Be ready though as you will need to do the 20 minutes climb to get yourself out of the 750 foot gorge.
I decided to write this post after going rafting in the Lütschine near Interlaken in Switzerland last Sunday.
Have you had an incredible rafting experience that you would recommend?