Rafting the Zambezi River – The Ultimate Experience
By Mike Boisvert.
Sourced in the landlocked southern African nation of Zambia, the Zambezi is Africa's fourth-longest river and the largest continental river that flows into the Indian Ocean. The world's largest waterfall, the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls, also calls the Zambezi its home. Hydroelectric dams built along the length of the river draw potential energy from the Zambezi to provide power to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
It's one thing to witness the power of Africa's mile-wide Victoria Falls, created by the Zambezi River as it flows between Zambia and Zimbabwe; it's something altogether life-changing to hike to the base of the falls, hop in a rubber raft, and give yourself over to the river's fury.
From the violently crashing waves, flips, and abrupt drops of the middle Zambezi's Class 5 rapids to the smaller Class 2 and 3 rapids of the lower Zambezi, rafting the Zambezi River is the adventure of a lifetime. Depending on where you enter the river, your rafting expedition can be relatively calm and relaxed or relentlessly intense and packed with non-stop thrills. Zambia's low water season, which usually runs from late July to mid-January, offers scorching hot temperatures in addition to the wildest rafting rides.
Even the most experienced and intrepid explorers will be hanging on for dear life through the Batoka Gorge's run of high-volume, world-class rapids, nearly all of which have been given witty, descriptive nicknames like Stairway to Heaven, Washing Machine, and Oblivion. Rapid number nine is widely known as the most difficult rapid on the middle Zambezi run, hence its ominous nickname: Commercial Suicide! As the whitewater careens through the Batoka Gorge's narrow basalt walls, the Zambezi serves up 23 world-class rapids, all of which rival those found in the Grand Canyon. You'll encounter 20-foot drops, 12-foot waves, and swimming pool-size whirlpools. And that's just day one of your five day, 75-mile journey from Vic Falls to the Matetsi River mouth. Back in 1981, when U.S. river runner/explorer Richard Bangs led the historic first descent, rafting the Zambezi was considered a death-defying proposition. These days local outfitters guide thousands of whitewater amateurs down its Class IV-V rapids each year.
You put in at one of the seven natural wonders of the world and get to experience culture of a village that's more than 500 years old. It's some of the most spectacular big-water river running on the planet. As far as getting the complete river experience, it doesn't get any better.
The gorge is so steep and deep that you won't run into the usual suspects even on a safari, but there is a chance you will spot vervet monkeys, baboons, black eagles, giant kingfishers, the rare hippo ~ and crocodiles. Don't let the rafting outfitters tell you otherwise; there are indeed crocs patrolling the Zambezi. Odds of being attacked are really low, but consider it extra motivation to stay inside the raft.
Widely celebrated for its traditional festivals, world-renowned national parks, and exceptional safari expeditions, Zambia is an unforgettable nation filled with friendly citizens and unique environmental beauty.
Travelers who are looking for a venture that's less heart-pounding and stomach-churning than Commercial Suicide will find themselves right at home on the smaller rapids of the lower Zambezi, which can be explored on canoe or river raft. River rafts, canoes, and even speed boats may be used to cruise the rapids of the upper Zambezi.
Besides the breathtaking excitement of whitewater river rafting, Zambia offers an ample array of tourist activities designed to fit every budget and travel style. Located roughly 10 kilometers from Victoria Falls along the border of Zimbabwe, the city of Livingstone is picking up steam as a leading destination for extreme sports and journeys into the country's pristine natural areas, with many guides and tours offering bungee jumping, helicopter flights, and day trips to local wild game parks. As a burgeoning modern city, Livingstone features hundreds of shops, bars, and restaurants, with dozens of overnight accommodations ranging from sensibly economical to downright luxurious. Zambia's largest metropolis, Lusaka, also serves as its capital. Home to nearly two million people, Lusaka offers many of the same attractions as Livingstone — curio markets, sports clubs, and high-end shops — with an added touch of cosmopolitan appeal and a busy urban atmosphere.
Global Descents offers six-day trips from $2,500 per person while Bio Bio offers an 8-day trip from $3,000 per person that includes a visit to Victoria Falls, a 3-day rafting trip on the Zambezi and game viewing in Chobe National Park in Botswana. A great resource for kayakers is http://thezambezi.com/. Both United Airlines and British Airways fly from the East Coast t Johannesburg. From the West Coast fly American or British Airways. South African Airways will take you all the way from D.C. or NYC.
© 2011 Gay Outdoors ; All Rights Reserved.