In 1983 the first descent of Africa’s mightiest whitewater river, and arguably the most thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the planet, was accomplished. The team included a couple of hot-shot California boatmen and a support staff boasting presidents, politicians, movie stars, camera crews, native porters and multi-national military personnel. These days, the trip is a significantly less of an undertaking but is still lauded as one of the greatest bucket-list river adventures. Due to its proximity to Victoria Falls (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the nearby national parks offering some of Africa’s best game drives, a phenomenal eco-tourism infrastructure has developed there that is on par with anywhere in the world.
Africa’s Zambezi river, Victoria falls and the neighboring national parks have been staple destinations for river runners, adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts for years. Our itineraries to this incredible corner of Africa have been crafted to check all of the boxes of your picture-perfect adventure to one of the world’s most exotic destinations. Raft the mighty Zambezi, have a drink at the edge of Victoria falls, keep your eyes peeled for the Big Five on a multi-day game drive, experience the magic of indigenous cultures, and relax in world class accommodations.
We work solely with the most premier tour operators, hotels and service providers to guarantee that your trip is safe, fun and affordable. Choose from a variety of trip lengths and packages to guarantee you get the Africa trip of your dreams!
Year to year itineraries may vary slightly simply given the nature of planning trips across the globe. Our itinerary for the 2023 year can be viewed here: 2023 Zambezi and Botswana Itinerary
Below is a sample itinerary that can be used as a general guideline.
DAY 1: ARRIVE LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA
- Sunset Cruise on the Zambezi River
Please check with your nearest Zambian Embassy or Consulate whether you are eligible to pay for a multiple-entry visa on arrival.
Welcome to Livingstone! You will be met on arrival and transferred to our first accommodation stop – the Waterfront Lodge on the banks of the mighty Zambezi. The lodge is 3km upriver from the Victoria Falls and is located within a National Park – watch out for the resident monkeys and a semi-resident wild hippo in the pond by the bar! Stay in a Standard Room with dinner and breakfast included and unlimited WI-FI. Relax, take in the views and we will meet at 16h15 for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River – drinks and snacks are included on this two hour cruise, so put your feet up, look out for wildlife and get your first taste of our local beer, Mosi! This evening we will have dinner at the on-site Kalai Restaurant and enjoy the sounds and sights of Africa
Accommodation: The Waterfront Lodge
DAY 2: THE BEST OF LIVINGSTONE & VICTORIA FALLS
- Livingstone Island Tour and the Devils Pool Swim
- Tour of the Falls (Zimbabwe)
- Visit to local arts and craft market.
- Speedboat Ride, Elephant Interaction and High Tea at The Elephant Café
Please check with your nearest Zimbabwe Embassy or Consulate whether you are eligible to pay for a single-entry visa on arrival for a trip to Zimbabwe today.
Today we start with a splash! Look forward to a dip in one of the most infamous swimming pools in the world – The Devils Pool! This is a natural rockpool formed on the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls located on Livingstone Island. Dr David Livingstone himself was paddled in a dugout canoe through the swift rapids towards the roar and rising cloud of mist suspended above a cliff over which the whole of the mile-wide Zambezi River plunged. The ‘Makoro’ (canoe) paddlers skilfully landed him on ‘Goat Island’ (now known as Livingstone Island) right on the lip of the chasm.
A few steps through the small rainforest on 16thNovember 1855, he gazed upon one of the most spectacular sights in the world – ‘Mosi-o-Tunya’ (the smoke that thunders) which he named in honour of his Queen – The Victoria Falls. After a quick tour of Livingstone Island and a swim in the Devils Pool, we head over to Zimbabwe to see The Victoria Falls, 354 feet high over a mile-wide cliff forming the world’s largest curtain of waterfall. In high water, around 550 million litres of water fall over the lip every minute. Surrounding the falls is a luscious rainforest, sustained year round by spray created by the thundering falls. There are plant species here which are rarely seen elsewhere in the country – our guide will tell us how the Falls were formed, local customs and traditions which surround the Falls and will end with a visit to the local art and crafts centre (Keep small USD change handy!) before having lunch.
Later in the afternoon we will jump on a speedboat from The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa and whizz up the Zambezi River to The Elephant Cafe, passing hippos and crocodiles on the way and be met on arrival by a magnificent herd of rescue elephants. Experience an unforgettable close encounter with these gentle giants and sit on the beautiful wooden deck at The Elephant Café for some tea and tasty bites. This unique restaurant famously includes wild edibles in the food – it won the Best New Restaurant in Zambia for 2016. Tonight before dinner, we will meet our guides, receive our dry bags and discuss the next few days in detail. Rest well and look forward to the next few days on the Zambezi!
Accommodation: The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
DAY 3: WHITE WATER RAFTING EXPEDITION BEGINS RAFTING RAPIDS #1 – #10
- Explore under Victoria Falls
- White Water Raft rapids #1 – #10
- Rapid Highlights: The section of river today is famous around the world for its spectacular white water, the highlights of the day being rapid #5, known as the Stairway to Heaven and rapid #7 known as Gulliver’s travels, both are grade 5, very different to each other and challenging in different ways.
- Camp at rapid # 10 on a beautiful white beach under the African Stars
A good day for an adventure! After a relaxed breakfast, your dry bag is packed and your valuables are locked away before our safety briefing and equipment introduction starts. Then we are on our way! Walking down into the Batoka Gorge, our epic journey starts at the base of the Victoria Falls – we explore the basalt cliffs and pools underneath the Falls. This experience is guaranteed to be another highlight of the trip – visited by few people, the base of these magnificent Falls will undoubtedly one of the most dramatic spots you will encounter.
After a light lunch, it is time for us to meet the Mighty Zambezi River. The 10 rapids we encounter for the day will be fun, but will be challenging! Our experienced crew are there to see you through some of the most intense white-water on the planet, you will be tested by Class 3-5 Rapids with names such as Morning Glory, Stairway to Heaven, The Devils Toilet Bowl and the Mighty Muncher before our only portage of the day around the Class 6 rapid # 9 Commercial Suicide.
Tonight we arrive at our campsite on a beautiful white, sandy beach – after helping to build camp its time to relax, enjoy a hearty dinner and the spectacular view, celebrate an awesome day on the river and look up at the majestic African starlit sky. The Batoka Gorge is all ours tonight!
Accommodation: Zambezi Campsite at rapid #10 on a Full-Board basis. (local beer, wine and spirits included)
DAY 4: WHITE WATER RAFTING EXPEDITION CONTINUES RAFTING RAPIDS #11 – #26
- White Water Rafting rapids #11 – #26
- Rapid Highlights: Slightly more relaxed than day one, we paddle approximately 18km down to camp. However don’t be too relaxed, highlights today include a continuous section of white water incorporating rapids #12 A,B and,C and rapid #13, collectively known at the Three Ugly Sisters and the Mother. Other rapids include the Washing Machine and the world famous Oblivion.
- Camp at rapid #26
After we awake to the sound of the soaring Fish Eagle, we make you a delicious cooked breakfast, have plenty of coffee and pack up the camp leaving only footprints behind. The section of the Zambezi River encountered today is a little less challenging than Day 1. Or is it? Meet the Three Ugly Sisters closely followed by the Washing Machine, Terminator 1 and 2 and the world-famous Rapid # 18 Oblivion. After the days excitement, we reach our second night’s campsite at Rapid #26 – tonight your only decision will be whether to put up your tent or even fall asleep on the beach beneath the stars for yet another unforgettable evening in the Batoka Gorge.
Accommodation: Zambezi Campsite at rapid #26 on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included)
DAY 5: WHITE WATER RAFTING EXPEDITION CONTINUES RAFTING TO MOEMBA FALLS
- Lower Moemba Falls
- Rapid Highlights: The geology of the gorge changes as we leave our camp at rapid # 26 also known as Closed Season. Some long straights of flat water are broken up with spectacular and diverse rapids, the highlights being Open season, the Narrows 1, 2 & 3, Chamamba Falls and Upper Moemba Falls.
- Camp at Moemba Falls
Let’s get ready for a final day of adventure to our last destination – the stunning Lower Moemba Falls. You will encounter some of the Zambezi’s best rapids today 16 in total including. Open Season, The Narrows, Chamamba Falls, and Upper Moemba. As the gorge opens up today we may get the chance to glimpse at some wildlife, such as crocodiles and klipspringers plus a vast array of birdlife. When we reach Moemba Falls, take time to explore this remote area and soak up the last night of the Zambezi camping experience.
Accommodation: Zambezi Campsite at Moemba Falls on a Full-Board basis. (local beer, wine and spirits included)
DAY 6: FLIGHT OF ANGELS
- Take a 20 minute helicopter ride out of the Batoka Gorge
- 1.5hr massage at The Spa & Wellness Centre
- Afternoon / Evening at Leisure
Goodbye Zambezi! This morning we leave the Batoka Gorge in true style. Jump aboard a helicopter for a 20 minute flight including the breath-taking ‘Flight of the Angels’ over Victoria Falls. We check back into the Waterfront Lodge and take the rest of the day at leisure for some well-earned Rest & Relaxation or for some additional activities! After 3 nights on the Zambezi, you may want to take advantage of a 1.5hr signature massage at the award-wining Spa & Wellness Centre at the nearby David Livingstone. Using a hot & cold compress with a traditional Zambian massage technique called ‘ukuchina’ for those aching muscles – well done, you made it! What an achievement!
Accommodation: The Waterfront Lodge
DAY 7: CHOBE SAFARI, BOTSWANA
- Overnight in Botswana for a Chobe Safari experience – famous for its large herds of elephants and Cape buffalo.
- Chobe River Safari
- Big 5 sightings and over 460 species of bird!
Please check with your nearest Botswana Embassy or Consulate whether you are eligible to pay for a single-entry visa on arrival.
After a good night’s rest and sleep-in, we leave Livingstone mid-morning for an hour’s road-trip to Botswana, once we exit Zambia – we board a speed boat for a short river crossing ‘where four countries meet’. Welcome to Botswana! We will have lunch at the Bakwena Lodge on the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana. Bakwena, from Setswana meaning ‘people of the crocodile’ (one of the largest tribes in Botswana) embraces the surrounding culture and country as inspiration for its style and hospitality.
The staff are members of the local villages and form part of our responsible tourism initiative through investing in our local communities.
In the afternoon we will go for a river safari on the Chobe River – the ultimate safari experience which boasts Africa’s Big Five and the world’s largest elephant population. The game cruise on the Chobe River brings you close to brilliant bird life, pods of watering hippos, primeval crocodiles and elephants, breath-taking in their sheer number. Not all sightings are guaranteed!
Accommodation: Camping Safari
DAY 8: CHOBE SAFARI, BOTSWANA
- Safari Drive in Chobe National Park
- Goodbye Dinner
This morning’s land-based safari heads deeper into the Chobe National Park to spot the elusive big cats that make Chobe their home. After breakfast, we check-out and bid Botswana farewell or “tsamayasentle!” After our safari we will make our way back across the border and back to our home in Livingstone at the comfortable Waterfront Lodge, where you will by now feel like quite the local!
We will have our goodbye dinner, hopefully wearing our tailor made local clothing from Day 2, and reminisce on a wonderful trip!
Accommodation: Waterfront Lodge
DAY 9: BYE & FLY
This morning, have your coffee overlooking the Zambezi and soak it all in. Our departure transfer leaves The River Club at approximately 11h00 in time for your flight from Livingstone Airport.
Camping on the Zambezi River
Camping is a treat for all outdoor enthusiasts. Our Zambezi River rafting overnight trips are not all about the river. We want our guests to enjoy the entire experience, including the camping within the Batoka Gorge. We like clients to get involved with building camp, helping to prepare food and collecting fire wood. All meals are freshly prepared, local beers and local spirits are included. Feel free to bring your own bottle of your favorite malt.
Zambezi River rafting overnight trips operate in the low water season, usually from August through to the new year. The rains usually arrive mid November and, although we are equipped to run Overnight Rafting trips in the wet season, be aware it could be very wet camping.
We will run overnight trips with a minimum of 4 people any day of the Low Water Season, however we try to facilitate smaller groups of one’s, two’s or three’s by running trips over the weekends, departing Saturday and returning Sunday.
Included in the rate
- All tours and activities listed in itinerary
- All meals and drinks while camping/rafting
- All rafting and safety equipment
- Two person tents and camping gear
- Skilled, professional rafting guides
- Free video footage of your rafting trip
- All transfers throughout the trip
- Bakwena Safari Lodge and River Club on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included)
Not included in the rate
- Visas (if applicable)
- Insurance – including travel and mandatory evacuation insurance
- Guide tips and miscellaneous gratuities
- Personal items
- Sleeping bag
- Optional excursions
- If you don’t have a passport, we ask that you apply for one immediately in order to allow for ample time for processing and for you to receive it. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date to see that it is valid for at least 6 months from the dates of this trip.
- Please make a copy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. It is also a good idea to leave a copy with your emergency contact at home. We also request that you send us a copy to keep on file for emergencies during your trip. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement. It is recommended that you do not pack your passport in your checked luggage and instead carry it on your person during travel days in case you asked to present it for any reason.
Visas are no longer required for entry into Zambia or Botswana. A is required to enter Zimbabwe. We recommend the KZA Visa, which is $50 USD.
Mandatory Evacuation Insurance
We require that you purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance to participate in this expedition.
Call or visit Travel Insurance Services at 800-937-1387 for inexpensive options that cover this requirement. We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan.
Please consult the following article or explore some different recommended provider options below:
MEETING PLACE & TIME
You should make arrangements to arrive in Livingstone, Zambia before 2pm on the first day of your trip.
GETTING TO AND FROM LIVINGSTONE
Many major airlines offer service to Livingstone, Zambia. Most commonly there are layovers in South Africa in Johannesburg or Cape Town, or in Lusaka, Zambia. Delta and United Airlines are both currently offering direct flights to South Africa out of Atlanta, Newark and Dulles airports, which are the quickest ways to get to Zambia. Once in Johannesburg or Cape Town you will likely need to spend the night and catch a flight on a regional airline to Livingstone, Zambia. We recommend looking in South Africa Airlink and Proflight Zambia for regional options.
Our advice is to remember that there is no fast way to fly to Africa. Whether you fly direct or connect through Europe or the Middle East the itineraries tend to be fairly long. If you are on more of a budget you will likely have a longer flight schedule.
Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your international flight logistics or additional tours, activities, destinations or other travels while in abroad.
Please do not purchase airfare until your trip has been confirmed by the minimum number of required guests and you have paid your deposit.
It is important to remember that while the land activities of this excursion are quite universally accessible that the river portion is through perhaps the worlds most famous commercial whitewater destination. Those considering this trip should be prepared for class IV, high volume rafting. With all of that said, thousands of people raft the Zambezi every year and it has been commercial rafted for nearly 40 years.
The Zambezi is know for being a “flipping river” but a lot of that has to do with client’s sometimes aggressive and adventurous attitude. While not guarantee-able it is absolutely possible for us to have a “no flip” trip if that is what you desire. Often client’s attitudes will change after they get a little bit of experience on the river and realize that it is not as scary as they imagined.
The Zambezi is large, warm and mostly friendly. On our recent trip in 2022 we had no flips and only one “swimmer” in a small rapid.
Packing For Your Trip
Here is a shorter run-down. For a more up in-depth description of what to take please refer to the packing list in the itinerary link under “Sample Itinerary”.
Camping on the Zambezi River
Camping is a treat for all outdoor enthusiasts. Our Zambezi River rafting overnight trips are not all about the river. We want our guests to enjoy the entire experience, including the camping within the Batoka Gorge. We like clients to get involved with building camp, helping to prepare food and collecting fire wood. All meals are freshly prepared, local beers and local spirits are included.
Zambezi River rafting overnight trips operate in the low water season, usually from August through to the new year. The rains usually arrive mid November and, although we are equipped to run Overnight Rafting trips in the wet season, be aware it there is always a chance of rain in the tropics.
Travel and Camp Gear:
Following is a list of required and recommend items for this multi-day tour through the stunning landscapes of South Central Africa.
We encourage you to also pack for the multiple days that we will not be on the river. Clothing for those days should be your normal casual wear with consideration taken for the climate and the particular activities listed in the itinerary. A good pair of shoes or boots is a great addition.
The fall months in this part of Africa are the dry time of year. There is potential for cool nights and a very low chance of precipitation. That said, we recommend bringing a light jacket for the evenings and a raincoat just in case. In general you should plan for hot and sunny weather and make sure to pack protective clothing for the sun, a hat, sunglasses and eyeglass retainers, and to bring lots of sunscreen and plan to work on your tan!
Our partnerships in Livingstone, Zambia have been carefully chosen. We work with renowned and respected local outfitters with deep roots in the community and a high emphasis on safety who have been operating these trips for over 30 years and facilitate the experiences of 10,000+ people a year on the Zambezi River and throughout its surrounding areas.
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana are all stable and secure African nations with large, well developed and regulated tourist industries. Victoria Falls, the Batoka Gorge, Zambezi River and Chobe National Park are all world renowned tourist destinations that attract millions of visitors every year. Victoria Falls is arguably one of the most famous of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Some potential problems are traveler’s diarrhea, bug bites, colds, cracked skin, foot fungus, and skin infections. While we take precautions to minimize any potential problems it is important to remember that you are the first line of defense for your own good health. Participants should consult the CDC website for information on traveling in the destination country and visit a doctor well before the trip. In addition to any prescription medications you might require participants should consider carrying some sort of anti-diarrheal medication, over the counter pain meds, and scheduling appointments to get immunizations if you feel it necessary.
For more specific information please refer to the itinerary PDF link under “Sample Itinerary”.
Mosquitos are far less common during the drier months and many people find that wearing appropriate clothing (shoes, long sleeves, pants) and repellent in the evenings is sufficient protection. Malaria medications and other vaccinations that are sometimes recommended for international travel (Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Yellow Fever, Rabies) are easily obtained by a visit to your doctor. Ultimately these health decisions are up to you. The Center for Disease Control website is a great resource for any research you might want to do.
Join us for an adventure that you will never forget!