Wild Horizons White Water Rafting: A Day to Remember
White water rafting in Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River! It's an experience like no other and one that I am so glad to have had.
If you've been thinking about giving it a try, but are not sure if it's for you, then read on because this blog post should give you everything that you need to know before booking your own rafting adventure.
The Mighty Zambezi River
Victoria Falls is a natural wonder of the world and it's so amazing to be able to experience this place from such an intimate perspective. The rapids are intense, but the guides are both experienced and excellent at making sure that you feel safe throughout all aspects of this incredible adventure!
The Zambezi river is quite simply the most magnificent white water rafting corridor on earth! Visually, the Victoria Falls is a spectacle of water and rushing foam.
It's an incredible sight to behold when you think about the natural beauty that it has taken millions and billions of years for nature to create.
The Zambezi River is anything but simple – it twists and turns, changes direction suddenly, and can have strong and unrelenting currents. Please remember that this force of nature needs to be respected and your safety is paramount, but there is more on that coming up.
What is the best time to go White Water Rafting in Victoria Falls?
Now, the time of year will dictate the order of the day for the best rafting trip.
The Victoria Falls rafting season starts with high water in January and goes through to April. This is the time when you can enjoy a more leisurely ride with fewer rapids, but still plenty of thrills for those who want them!
The Zambezi river water level rises again from May onward to June and July so this means that there are many opportunities available if you or your group wants an adrenaline-filled adventure during these months as well.
The first 10 rapids are not safe to raft at high water levels, so on this trip, you will only do the remaining 11-23. It's a shorter day even though it is still sold as a full day of rafters' delight!
When the water level starts dropping in August through December is when you can be sure to get the ride of your life. You will get to experience all rapids with the exception of #9 which are really extreme and considered commercially unrunnable in rafts. You can read more about the various class of rapids here.
Whichever time of year, the boisterous rapids of the Victoria Falls Zambezi River always offer an exhilarating and adventurous ride. Every turn is precisely calculated with a bit of cat-and-mouse to keep you on your toes!
What do you need to know?
Here is what you will want to know before booking this once-in-a-lifetime bucket list Zambezi river experience in Victoria Falls.
You need to clear an entire day in your calendar for this epic event, it's an experience that you will never forget as long as you live.
While there are two or three excellent operators for this activity. I highly recommend Wild Horizons, they offer a great overall rafting experience. Make your booking here
What to take along
Don't get dressed up for this occasion, all you need is a T-shirt, swimming costume a cap and some old footwear or water shoes. Of course, sun protection is also highly advisable as you are going to be out there for between 6 to 7 hours. Wetsuits will be provided during the winter months.
What not to take
It is not recommended that you bring sunglasses unless of course, you have a way of securing them to yourself. There is a Victoria Falls National Park fee payable, the details will be given to you at the time of booking.
Camera's and GoPro's are also best left in your hotel room. You will have the opportunity to purchase a flash drive with all the photos and video's taken of you throughout the day. An experienced team will row ahead and capture all the thrills, spills, and action as you make your way down the Zambezi river.
Make your choice
When booking, you will be given the option between an “oar boat” and a “paddle boat”.
In the oar boat, your guide will steer you through Zambezi river with "12 foot-long" oars from the middle of the raft. You'll be sitting in front and back, holding on to the safety line.
The paddleboat requires all passengers to paddle and maneuver the boat down the river and going into the rapids. The guide sits at the back and steers the raft for you.
In both instances, there will be a friendly and highly experienced guide with you in the raft, advising you every step of the way. He will tell you exactly how to approach each obstacle, what to do and what to expect before going through it. Each rapid is unique and needs to be navigated in the right way to make it successfully out on the other side.
Starting the day
Make sure you arrange for an early breakfast at your hotel before the bus arrives to fetch you. Everyone gathers at Victoria Falls Lookout Café, a Wild Horizons restaurant with a spectacular view of the gorge. Here, you will meet up with your fellow rafties for the day and of course your guides.
Be sure to take careful note of the collection time as there is a strict schedule for Victoria Falls white water rafting.
The rafting guides will ensure that each guest is suitably equipped for an unforgettable experience on the Zambezi river. Listen carefully to the safety talks at the top of the gorge, the information and tips given will stand you in good stead to be able to overcome most difficulties that could be encountered throughout the day, both on and off the river.
Getting to the Zambezi river
After being kitted up with a life jacket, helmet and paddle you will be taken by vehicle to the starting point.
Be warned, this is not at the river's edge. You will need to make your way to the bottom of the gorge down a steep series of slippery steps. Savour this moment, because, at the end of an exhausting day of rafting, you will have to summon whatever remaining energy you have to get back out of the gorge which is a very steep climb of about 250m and should not be underestimated if you have any fitness issues.
The rafts will be waiting for you at the bottom, guides will then take you to a quiet body of water, where they can assess your ability and give any necessary remaining safety instructions.
Let's get Rafting in Victoria Falls
If all is well - it's time for action! You'll be given clear instruction about how best to position yourself in order to steer through the first few easy waves before hitting some more challenging ones further downstream; this section should last around 15 minutes depending upon water levels at that time (higher or lower than average) which are dependent largely by rainfall upstream far away from Victoria Falls itself.
The guides will be happy to answer any questions that may arise along the way. They're always ready (and waiting)to help out where needed.
The experience of white water rafting is quite intense, yet exhilarating.
More about the Victoria Falls white water main rapids.
There are 20 aptly named main monsters that were assigned by the original pioneers of white water rafting in the area. The names alone are enough to conjure up fear into even the most hardened rafter.
The Wall, #1:
It's a seemingly terrifying one, the Zambizi river churns with powerful waves that shift and change shape with no warning.
Between Two Worlds, #2
During certain times when the water level is right, an amazing surfing wave forms. This rapid is named 'between two worlds' because the bridge is the boundary of Southern and South Central Africa.
Morning Glory, #4
Morning Glory or The Wake-Up Call. Like a lot of the Zambezi river rapids, this one changes drastically with the water level. The various lines from the top all lead into a crashing hole at the bottom.
Stairway to Heaven, #5
With this crazy Grade 5 white water rapid, the river drops around 30 feet in a 50-foot stretch. It is one of the largest commercially run drops anywhere in the world. Approaching this monstrosity you can only see the horizon until the last few seconds.
The Devils Toilet Bowl, #6
During higher water, a narrow constriction in the river creates a huge whirlpool and when the water is at lower levels, two daring waves form that can cause problems. Going left or right should see you through ok.
Gullivers Travels, #7
This is the second Grade 5 and also the longest of all the rapids, with a lot of weaving you will be home clear. Definitely a seriously technical challenge.
The Midnight Diner, #8
Here you need to choose your line to avoid the huge wave in the middle. Known as the 'Midnight Diner' because of the various options open to you to get through.
Commercial Suicide, #9
This massive rapid is just commercially un-runnable for rafts. The odd brave kayaker can sometimes be seen attempting one of the four possible options through this monster.
The Gnashing Jaws Of Death, #10
A lovely wave train that is normally not a problem to navigate, there are shallow rocks on the bottom left.
The Overland Truck Eater, #11
During low water, this is a steep drop with a terrifying hole and churning boils and at high water a wave forms which is ideal for kayakers.
The 3 Ugly Sisters, #12A,B & C
This is pretty much a continuous stretch of whitewater, approximately a kilometer long. There are three rapids close together at different levels #12A or #12B. 12B's is a must for Kayakers!
The Mother, #13
Simply the mother of all wave trains! the 1st and 4th waves can be enormous. This rapid is certainly a Zambezi highlight.
The Washing Machine, #15
During low water, a recirculating pour-over forms at the center of the rapid, keep right to avoid.
Terminator I & II, #16A & #16B
The Terminator is well known for high water. Rapids 16A and 16B combine to form a huge wave train. 16B is the largest wave and will flip any raft that dares to go there. During low water, there is a pretty straightforward route down the middle.
Double Trouble, #17
There are 2 large holes situated in the middle of the river. These are safe during medium to high water, but when the river drops, they should be avoided, either to the left or right.
This world-famous rapid tends to be at its best in low flows from September to November. It's made up of three large waves, the third is the biggest (and best!) Most rafts flip here.
Are you scared yet?? Don't be, you won't regret taking a ride down one of the world's greatest wild water corridors.
Taking a break
Cold drinks and water will be served midway through the rafting experience, and you'll be given a chance to relax for a while before hopping back in and carrying on till the end.
Getting out of the gorge
When you have been through the last rapid on this epic rafting trip, it's time to prepare for the epic climb back out of the gorge. Take it slow and steady, its not actually that bad.
A delicious lunch and ice-cold beer or soft drinks are served at the top of the gorge in line with rapid # 19. Believe me, you are going to be ravenous by that stage.
After lunch, it's about a 20-minute drive back to town, where you will be delivered safe and sound back at your hotel.
If you are middle-aged and not the fittest like me, my advice it to plan something more tranquil for the following day's activities. A day at the pool or maybe a river cruise is just the medicine you will need to recharge before your next big adrenaline activity in Victoria Falls.
This rafting experience is worth every second. If you're looking for a day of adventure that'll be one to remember forever then this is the trip!
Tipping is not compulsory, but it is appreciated. If you would like to leave a token of your thanks, the following is a guideline:
Guide: US$10 per guest per day.
Other Staff: US$5 per guest per day.
The staff at Wild Horizons are friendly and knowledgeable - they know their stuff. But don't worry if white water isn’t your thing, these guys have got plenty of other excellent activities for your itinerary. Check out their website here.