Almost as famous to modern-day travellers as the Victoria Falls themselves, rafting the rapids of the Zambezi through the Batoka Gorge below the Falls is regarded as the best commercially operated white-water rafting in the world.
Below the Falls the full flow of the Zambezi is concentrated between the solid basalt walls of the Batoka Gorge. From wide and shallow, the river is transformed into a deep, narrow and powerful turbulent torrent, its energies released in a series of monster rapids separated by calm stretches.
The series of over twenty rapids, stretched over some 25 kilometres, are classed by international standards as between grades 3 and 5 (Grade 6 being too big to run commercially), although they vary greatly in their size and power during the year depending on the height of the river, which in turn is dependent on seasonal rains.
Rafting is split into high-water and low-water seasons, operating different stretches of the river. 'Low water' occurs when the river is at its lowest levels between July and mid-February. This is regarded as the best time to raft the Zambezi, the exposed rapids at their full force. Day trips are generally operated between rapids 1 and 19 covering a distance of some 25km. 'High water' follows after the rains in Angola and Zambia have swelled the river, from February to July. The river level rises, drowning the rapids of the upper section in whirlpools, and rafting shifts downstream, running from rapid 11 (the Overland Truck-eater) to 23, covering a distance of approximately 15km. At times of very high water the rafting stretch can shift to between rapids 15 and 24, and in extreme years the river closes for a short period in April and May when excessively high water levels can washout the rapids.
The staggered rapids provide breaks between the adrenalin, giving you the opportunity to take breath and enjoy the beauty of the gorge, perhaps spotting a black eagle soaring high overhead. You'll also stop for a snack and refreshments along the way, and at the end of the day you get the opportunity to stretch your legs as you climb back out of the gorge (which deepens as you go downstream!), before refreshments and catching your transfer back to town.
Guests should be reasonably fit for this activity, as the walk into and out of the gorge is quite steep (there are stairs and steps down) as well as the white water rafting activity itself, and that's before you consider a bit of swimming - which isn't always optional!
Your safety whilst rafting is of course the highest priority of the guides, and rafts are supported by safety kayakers ready to assist swimmers, and literally millions of people have safely rafted the river in the twenty years that rafting has been commercially operated on the Zambezi.
During rafting season we often show the daily rafting film in the early evening at Shoestrings - a great opportunity to see what you are letting yourself in for if you are not too sure!
After the wildest one-day white-water run in the world, continue on down the Zambezi River on a two-day (two night) or five-day (four night) trips.
All equipment is taken on the rafts and camp is set on remote sandy beaches only accessible by raft. The river varies from long peaceful stretches to renowned and wild Grade 5 rapids such as 'Ghostrider', 'Chimamba' and the Moemba Falls.
Surf the waves and swim the rapids - for those who feel that the thrill of trying to stay in a raft is not enough for them, this is definitely the way to go. Running the rapids of the Zambezi River on a boogie-board and making the Grade 5 rapids work for you is an adventure not to be missed.
You'll need to be a good swimmer and confident in the water. Not all the rapids are runnable on a board so the day is combined with a rafting trip between the best surfing rapids.
The Zambezi is famous among surfers as the only river in the world with a perfect barreling wave - a magical feature which appears for a short time each year.
Board, wetsuit, safety helmet and flippers provided. Low season only - the availability of this activity is dependent on river levels.
Yet another way for those thrill seekers to try and beat the mighty Zambezi. You'll need to have some kayaking experience, or travelling in tandem with someone with experience, and your skills will be tested in a local swimming pool so that the guides are happy with your ability before tackling the rapids.
All equipment provided. Low season only - the availability of this activity is dependent on river levels.
High-speeds, the sheer rock faces of the gorge whizzing past millimetres away from your face in a blur, this is an activity for those who love living life at a very fast pace. This high-powered jet-boat specially imported from New Zealand offers you a way to run the rapids in a way not previously possible. Not only do you get to see a traditional village on your drive out to the gorge, but you get to enter and exit the gorge by cable-car, avoiding a laborious trek.
Set overlooking a huge bend in the Zambezi’s Batoka Gorge known as The Big Eddy, these High Wire activities cater to all levels of adrenalin and all ages with several activities being suitable for all ages. Situated at a point where the gorge is approximately 300 metres wide and 120 metres deep, this is a spectacular breath-taking setting, and that's before you consider the activities!
A wild and full-on adrenaline rush, this high wire bungee is suspended across the Batoka Gorge and high over the Zambezi. A harness is attached to the jumper and then the jumping ropes, the other end of which is pivoted to the middle of the cable across the gorge. Leaping off the edge, you free fall for about 70 metres before going into a 95 metres long pendulum bungee swing. The most intense of the high wire activities this is not for the faint-hearted! Tandem jumps are also an option.
The world’s longest zip-line, suspended 425 metres across the Batoka Gorge and over 100 metres above the river below. Launched over the edge you'll accelerate to over 100 km/h as you speed across the gorge.
Great for all age groups this is 'calmer' of the high wire activities. The gorge at this point is 200 meters wide and a 120 meters deep. Launch yourself with a running take-off you soar horizontally through the air suspended over the gorge. Speeds of up to 15 km/h are reached on this activity.
The Vic Falls Canopy Tour consists of 9 different slides, varying in length (with the longest being approximately 85m and the shortest being 40m) and 1 cable bridge walkway.
A shear 120 metre abseil down the vertical cliff-face of the Batoka Gorge, doing 360-degree twists, descending backwards or rap jumping forwards and walking down the gorge. Suspended against the rock you can jump out and swing yourself from side to side or round in twists. Abseiling is descending backwards down the gorge and lowering yourself all the way to the bottom. On a rapp jump, your harness for the abseil is connected backwards enabling you to run or walk down the cliff facing down into the gorge!
Be it abseiling down the sheer rock-face of the gorge, facing your fears trying the rap jump, speeding on the zip-line or the thrill of the bungee swing, various multi-activity adrenaline day packages are available. Enquire for more information.
Still one of the highest commercial bungee jumps in the world, the bungee jump offers a blood-pumping feeling that is not to be missed and surely offers one of the most spectacular locations in the world, with the Victoria Falls as your backdrop. Situated on the historic bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, you get to launch yourself head first into the gorge (either by yourself or tandem). Combo activities available.
Step off the Victoria Falls Bridge in an 80 metre freefall before becoming a human pendulum as you swing in a huge arc across the gorge. If you do not want to step into the void alone, take a partner with you and scream together!
The Bridge Slide is exciting but friendly, suitable for ages from six years and up – either alone or with a friend. Beginning from a platform on the Zambian edge, the zipline glides across the Batoka Gorge before landing on the Zimbabwean side of the bridge.
Journey through 100 years of Victorian engineering to the heart of Cecil John Rhodes’ vision of a Cape to Cairo railway. Tour includes an entertaining and informative talk on the history of the bridge, and tour including magnificent views from the walkways underneath the bridge.
Combine a Bungee Jump, Bridge Swing and Bridge Slide for a special combo deal.