Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 7-13, 1997
Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River
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Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River
Question: I would like to know the best time of year for rafting big water on the Zambezi River in Africa. Any advice on outfitters for a three- to five-day trip, probably starting from the Zambia side?

Wallace Bain
Arlington, VA
[email protected]

There's no wait for whitewater on Africa's wild Zambezi River
(739k avi or 718k mov)

Adventure Adviser: According to my expert source at a company that devotes itself entirely to adventure travel in Africa, the best month to raft the Zambezi is August. The weather at this time of the year is fantastic, the river is at its highest, and the wildlife viewing is unparalleled.

For the kind of rubber-raft whitewater adventure you're looking for, I'd go with Mountain Travel Sobek, the company that claims to have made the first descent of the Zambezi back in 1981. Its nine-day trips, departing six times between August and October, include six nights camping and two nights in a hotel.

On the trip you'll catch the river at the base of Victoria Falls, where the roiling rapids begin. You'll bounce through waves of steaming whitewater for a long stretch and then pull up on a sandy beach for some time to hike and relax before the next adrenaline rush. You'll have to navigate the crowds on the first day out, but on the second day you'll paddle into the lower gorge, where few people venture.

Here the rapids get really wild, but offer a few calm stretches for plenty of opportunities to view hippos, crocs, baboons, and other large African creatures. The land cost is $1,875. Call 800-227-2384 for exact departure dates.

If you want to try replicating the feeling of Livingstone as he navigated this river for the first time, consider Explore's Zambezi Adventure trip. You'll start at the town of Kaangula and end up at Livingstone Island on the very edge of Victoria Falls. But instead of rubber rafts, you'll be in mokoros, dugout canoes that are poled by local tribesmen.

The first night, instead of finding the nearest sandy beach to pitch your tent, you'll be a guest of the Balozi tribe and partake in a traditional African feast followed by dancing and mingling. The next day, as the river gets a bit rowdier, you may have the opportunity to try your hand at poling your mokoro.

At the end of day two, you'll spend the night on your own private island. The last few days of the trip are spent on Livingston Island, where you can partake in a whitewater raft trip below the falls or try bungee jumping. The land-only cost for this trip starts at $3,500. Call Explore at 505-820-2470 for more details.

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