If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush while visiting Victoria Falls, don’t miss the chance to go white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River.
Between the high concentration of technical rapids and stunning views of the gorge that separates Zimbabwe and Zambia, it’s widely considered the best one-day commercial white water rafting trip in the world.
However, this activity is not for the faint-hearted! White water rafting in Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is one of the most epic, adrenaline-pounding day trips I’ve ever gone on.
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All you need to know about White Water Rafting in Victoria Falls
Want to go on this thrilling white water rafting adventure while visiting Victoria Falls? Here’s what you need to know before going!
The Rapids on the Zambezi River
The Zambezi River has a high concentration of grade four and five rapids, which, as far as rapids go, is quite technical. To give you an idea, the highest level a rapid can go is six.
Don’t worry, the guides are extremely knowledgeable about the rapids and do this tour on a daily basis. As long as you listen to their instructions, you can still go whitewater rafting, even as a beginner. You just need to be comfortable with the fact that the raft will probably flip over!
The full-day rafting tour takes you through 21 named rapids. Some of my favorite names are “Devil’s Toilet Bowl” and “Commerical Suicide” – encouraging, right?
There are also some smaller rapids between the named ones, but these are so minor in comparison (grade one or two) that they don’t even bother to name them.
What to expect on the White Water Rafting Day Tour
There is the option to do a half-day rafting tour (either rapids 1-13 in the morning or 14-21 in the afternoon) or a full-day tour with all 21 rapids. I opted for the full-day adventure, which starts bright and early, around 7:30 am.
We were taken inside Victoria Falls National Park and given a briefing on safety and what to expect. My group had six people: three older men and a couple from England.
The three men had done it last year, so it gave me reassurance that they survived and booked the tour again. They told me that they didn’t flip last year, which I soon discovered does not mean anything!
After the briefing, we were given a safety jacket and paddle and walked down to the bottom of the gorge at ‘boiling point’, which is directly under Victoria Falls.
Boiling Point, where the rafts depart from
This isn’t an easy walk; it’s quite steep. Walking down over the jagged rocks to get into the raft was actually one of the scariest parts of the day!
Once in the raft, the guides got us to practice some techniques, and we started the journey with the first rapid hitting us almost right away. Good thing it was hot outside because we were completely soaked by 9 am. Good start to an adventure!
For most of the morning, we managed to avoid flipping the raft until we got to “the three sisters” which is a series of three rapids in a row. The second one got the best of us, and we all ended up in the water.
I actually found it really scary when we flipped, as I was submerged under the water for what felt like an eternity.
The important thing to remember is that this only lasts a minute and to remain as calm as possible. It’s easier said than done, but by the third time we flipped, I was much less scared. It gets better, I promise!
We flipped over three times throughout the day!
The group of three men on my tour had only signed up for the half-day, so we dropped them off after the 13th rapid and continued on our journey. After that last flip, I think they were grateful to be out of the water!
No one else joined us for the second half of the day, so a couple of the staff who had been in kayaks joined us to balance the raft. The staff gave us some snacks to enjoy while we calmly floated down the river.
The difference between the rapids and calm sections of the river is insane. There were many points throughout the day where we could get out of the raft and swim gently down the river.
This is such a nice way to cool off in the hot weather and, overall, an incredibly relaxing experience. The Zambezi River flows through the Bakota Gorge, which is just stunning. We were able to spot many birds from the raft!
At points, the Zambezi river is calm
The second half of the rafting trip is more intense, as you are almost guaranteed to flip on ‘Oblivion,’ the last rapid of the day. We actually flipped once before that, as well. If you are nervous about rafting, I suggest the half-day tour in the morning.
Even though there were many points where my heart was racing, I had so much fun on the full-day white-water rafting trip on the Zambezi River. I’ve been rafting at least a dozen times before this, and nothing comes close in comparison.
Once the rafting ended, we had to walk back up the gorge. It’s a steep incline of about 250m. Thankfully, we were rewarded with beer and lunch after the hike!
Best time to go White Water Rafting on the Zambezi River
The water level on the Zambezi River is dictated by rainfall in the area, which means there are distinct seasons in which you can go white water rafting in Victoria Falls.
All the rapids are open during the low water season, which typically runs from August to December (1-21).
During the high water season (May- July and Jan- March), the first ten rapids are closed for safety reasons. The rafting usually closes from the beginning of April until approximately the beginning of June, depending on high water levels.
If you want to get the full experience of white water rafting in Victoria Falls, then plan your trip for August-December. This also coincides with the dry season in Zambia/Zimbabwe, when the weather is extremely hot.
Rafting is the perfect activity to do in such hot weather, as the water keeps you cool. Just remember to apply lots of sunscreens throughout the day. They have containers you can keep it in!
Is White Water Rafting in Victoria Falls safe?
White water rafting in Victoria Falls is not an activity for the faint-hearted, but it’s safer than you’d probably think. These companies have been running rafting tours for years, and the guides do this on a daily basis.
They will provide you with a safety briefing beforehand and direct the group on what to do for each rapid. Multiple staff members come with you on the journey, including extra guides who will be in kayaks to help you should the raft capsize.
Be prepared that the raft will flip over – probably multiple times!
You can raft the Zambezi as a beginner, but having some prior experience will definitely help you feel more confident.
I always recommend travelling with travel insurance, especially if you participate in adventure activities like rafting.
I’ve rafted several times around the world, and nothing compares to my experience on the Zambezi River. Although many moments in this tour are relaxing, you need to be prepared for some adrenaline-inducing ones.
How to book a White Water Rafting Tour in Victoria Falls
White water rafting is one of the most popular tours in Vic Falls, so it’s important to book in advance. You can either book a guided tour online or through a local tour agency or hotel.
Rafting can be arranged from either the Zimbabwe or Zambia side, as the river is shared by both countries.
If you are really into rafting, there are also multi-day tours you can book that take you further down the Zambezi River. I didn’t do this, but camping under the stars at night after a day of rafting sounds like a magical time.
Going white water rafting in Victoria Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I highly recommend it if you are visiting this area. I don’t know if any future rafting trips I take will ever compare!
Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country and pet as many dogs as possible. Over the last 15 years, she has travelled solo to 70+ countries and six continents. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home, where she runs the website Take Me To Puerto Vallarta.
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