People would still think it extreme to hear you say that you are “off to Zimbabwe” for a holiday. 10 years down the line from Mugabe’s fiasco and the poor country is on its knees. Actually, no it’s not, it’s flat on the ground gasping for breath. They say they want to sell their new diamond finds to revitalise the country… more likely revitalise a few people’s bank accounts… ok, ok, so call me a cynic!
But it’s still a magnificent country and it’s a great place to visit especially as there are so few other visitors at the moment that you pretty much have the country to yourself – with a few hardy Zimbabwean souls of course.
And whilst you’re there you would be foolish not to consider white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River.
It’s not called “the wildest one-day whitewater run in the World” for nothing. Just watch this video and see for yourself what it’s like. It’s long but it’s well worth the 15 minutes it’ll take you to watch it.
Victoria Falls is the epicentre of the Zimbabwe (and Zambia’s) white water rafting world. It is a high volume, pool-drop river with little exposed rock either in the rapids or in the pools below the rapids. The British Canoe Union has rated the Zambezi River as Grade 5 which means: “extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas”. Grade 6 is unrunable and rapid number 9 on the Zambezi, “Commercial Suicide” , is a Grade 6 and has to be portered around.
The Batoka rapids below Victoria Falls were run in a raft for the first time in March 1981 and has grown in popularity ever since.
The state of the river relies on the the rains received upstream – in Angola and Western Zambia. Seasonal summer rains start around mid-November each year and usually end in April. Water in the catchment area only hits Victoria Falls early in January then rises rapidly and usually results in peak floods over the falls in mid-April. Water levels drop steadily for the rest of the season until the new rains start and it’s when the waters are low that the rafting and kayaking is seriously extreme.
When planning a trip to Zim it is worth knowing that extremely high temperatures are experienced just before the rains – October and November, known euphemistically as the “suicide months”. Day time temperatures can exceed 40 degrees and they don’t drop below 30 degrees for nights on end. The summer rains begin somewhere in mid-November. It’s a release from about six weeks of hell … unless of course you like extreme heat.
So, what would be the best month to raft there? It depends how brave you are…
April to around mid June is “super high” season – if levels are excessive, rafting will often close for about 4 weeks from the end of April. “High water” season precedes the main floods in February and March and follows as water recedes in June and July. “Medium low” season is during August, September and in January, just after fresh water is hitting Victoria Falls. “Low water” is from October to December when the Zambezi shows it’s wildest colors! It’s extreme, it’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s adrenaline pumping. It would be a pity to miss it!
The distance between rapids varies from 100 metres (328 feet) to 2 kms (1.2 miles). The Gorge itself is approximately 400ft (121.9 metres) deep at the put-in point and 750ft (228.6 metres) at the take out point. The river drops about 400ft (121.9 metres) over the 24km (14.9 miles) covered in the one-day raft trip and the depth of the river can reach 200ft (60.9 metres).
And as if the rapids themselves don’t supply enough of an adrenaline kick you might like to know that there are crocodiles in the river, but they are small due to the unsuitability of the area for their habitation. Does their smallness make you feel braver?!
As you will know from previous articles of ours, white water rafting is not the only extreme sport you can do at Vic Falls. There’s bungee jumping, slides, gorge swings quite apart from the game drives, booze cruises, and Devil’s Pool to relax in. How could you possibly resist this extreme vacation destination?