Zambezi Rapids,
“blow by blow”

The world’s ultimate one day white water run

Below the mile wide lip of the Victoria Falls lies an adventure that until recently was hidden from man. The mighty Zambezi, protected over the centuries by Nyaminyami the river god, snakes its way through the tortuous Batoka Gorge. Exploding with fury, this is considered as

Read my
Personal account of the trip

This is an absolute gem of a trip – featuring big whitewater, spectacular African scenery and warm sunny weather! At Victoria Falls, the entire river leaps wildly into a cataract creating Musi-oa-tunya (smoke that thunders). On a clear day the spray from the falls rises hundreds of meters skywards and the resounding thunder is heart stopping.The waterfalls remain unchallenged, but rafting in the gorges below is now one of the world’s greatest whitewater challenges.
One of the many highlights is bobbing around at the base of the magnificent Victoria Falls – definitely one of the more dramatic places on this planet to begin a river adventure.

Your day (or days) is (are) spent challenging rapids with names like ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Overland truckeater !!’. After completing one of the more exhilarating adventures in the world, head off to sample the wildlife viewing that this region is famous for. A brilliant way to really top off your trip to Zimbabwe.

Commercial rafting first commenced on the Zambezi River in 1981. This activity has grown in popularity to the point where a rafting trip on the Zambezi is now a regular feature in most tourists’ itineraries.
In 1996 approximately 50 000 people enjoyed white water rafting on the Zambezi on a stretch of water that is now internationally acclaimed as the best one-day white water rafting trip available in the world.

The Zambezi River in Africa is classified as a high volume, pool-drop river i.e. there is little exposed rock either in the rapids or the pools below the rapids. The distances between rapids vary from 100 meters to 2 kms. The Gorge itself is approximately 400ft deep at the launch site and 750ft at the take-out point. The river drops about 400 ft over the 24 km covered in the one day raft trip and the depth of the river can reach 200ft.

The British Canoe Union has classified the river as Grade 5 – “extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas”.
Nearly half of the rapids negotiated are Grade 5. (Grade 6 is unrunnable – rapid Number 9, “Commercial suicide” is a grade 6 rapid and we porter around this rapid).

Due to the steepness of the Gorge, wildlife is not abundant. On occasion Klipspringer, Rock Hyrax, Vervet monkeys and Baboon are spotted. The birdlife is spectacular however. Black Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Black Stork, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, and Red Winged Starling are some of the birds normally seen during the trips. Sightings of the very rare Taita Falcon are not uncommon. There are crocodile in the river, but they are small due to the unsuitability of the area for their habitation.

The one-day low water trip is considered to be the best one-day white water experience available in the world.
The “low water” run occurs when the Zambezi River is at its low level generally between July and mid-February. This is the most exciting time to do rafting. Day trips are conducted between rapids 1 and 18. The “high water” run follows after fresh inflow from the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. The water rises and flows more rapidly and the day trips move downstream from rapids 11 to 23.

What are the options?
One and half day rafting trips

Full day – low water (July to mid-February – the wildest one-day white water in the World.)
Half day – low water, morning and afternoon
Full day – high water (mid-February to June – the Zambezi in flood.)
Rafting Expeditions

One day and overnight
Two and a half days
Five days
Eight days

I can recommend from own experience the full day rafting trip with Safpar.
My wife and I had a great day and SafPar organized the trip perfectly.

Rapid Number Rapid Name Grade Description
Day 1 1 4/5 Near the base of the Falls, only approachable from Zambia
2 3 Directly below the bridge. Beware of bungi jumpers!
3 4 Easily avoidable hole
4 Morning Glory 4/5 First major rapid
5 Stairway to Heaven 5 25 ft (8m) drop over 30 ft (10m)
6 Devil?s Toilet Bowl 4 Short rapid with large whirlpool
7 Gulliver?s Travels 5 Longest and most technical on Day 1
8 Midnight Diner 3/5 2 runs available
9 Commercial Suicide 6 Portage
10 Gnashing Jaws of Death 4 Easy run before lunch
11 Overland truck eater 5 Don?t swim on a full stomach!
12 A,B,C 3 Little Pigs 3/4 Interesting run leading into 13
13 The Mother 4/5 At its best it?s a huge wave train
14 3 S bend in the river
15 Washing Machine 5 Unrunnable in the middle because of a large hole
16 & 16.5 Terminator 4 Very exciting at high water
17 The Bitch 5 Unrunnable because of 2 large holes
18 Oblivion 5 The rapid on the Zambezi. More flips than any other rapid in the world
19 2/3
20 2/3
21 2/3
22 2/3 Easy runs at the end of the day
23 2/3
24 2/3
25 2/3
Day 2 Open Season 4/5 At a given level, the rapid with the smallest margin for error. At some levels clients walk around it.
Narrows 1 4 Tricky, powerful “cauldron”
Narrows 2 4
Narrows 3 3/4 Interesting channel run with various options
Let?s make a deal 2/3 Three channels are available, some of which are a little technical at low water
Chimamba 2/5 One of the most technical rapids on the river at certain levels
Upper Moemba 4/5 Mandatory scout to check a tricky sneak run before Lower Moemba
Lower Moemba 6 No option ? portage
Day 3 Chibongo 6 Commonly known as the dam site (Heaven forbid! Sign up for the International Rivers Network right here) ? long portage
Ghost Rider 5 The largest rapid on the Zambezi ? huge standing wave for 200 m
Deep Throat 5 From a width of 1.7 km at Vic Falls, the Zambezi is compressed into a 6 m wide channel. An awesome sight and a portage at some levels.
Asleep at the wheel 4 The river splits into two channels. The right leads into a waterfall; the left into a runnable rapid. Don?t fall asleep!
Wave Train 3 Gentle rollercoaster
Days 4 & 5 Lots of flat water with small rapids

Source: Wikipedia
Victoria falls photo: this work has been released into the public domain by its author, John Walker.