Top 10 Highlights:
- Class V Zambezi white-water rafting – rated the Best White Water Rafting experience in the world! Starting your rafting journey under the world famous Victoria Falls.
- Camp on white beaches in the Batoka Gorge under the African stars – look out for the endangered Taita Falcon who nests in this gorge!
- Experience the best rapids of the Batoka gorge from The Boiling Pot through to the dramatic Moemba falls, 50km in total.
- Skip the hike out and enjoy a helicopter flight out of the Batoka Gorge and a flyover of Victoria Falls!
- Visit one of the 7 Natural wonders of the World, 354 foot high Victoria Falls and swim in the infamous Devils Pool.
- Sunset Cruise aboard the Lady Livingstone.
- Take a speedboat ride up the Zambezi River past hippos and crocodiles for an elephant interaction with a herd of rescue elephant and a meal experience at The Elephant Café – Winner of the Best New Restaurant in Zambia 2016.
- After 3 nights on the river, look forward to a 1.5hr signature massage at the award-wining Spa & Wellness Centre at your accommodation using both a hot & cold compress with a traditional Zambian massage technique (ukuchina) for those aching muscles.
- Overnight in Botswana for a Chobe Safari experience – famous for its abundant wildlife: large herds of elephants, cape buffalo, and kudu; Primates such as monkeys and baboons, 460 species of birds, and of course predators – crocodiles, lion, leopard, hyena, and jackal!
- Final night in Zambia at the 5* River Club – an enchanting treat on the Zambezi River reminiscent of heydays of exploration in Africa. Relax in a place where time has appeared to have stood still, play a ‘spot of croquet’ or drift-away in a hammock for some well-earned rest and relaxation.
At the base of Victoria Falls, one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, the great Zambezi River begins its journey through the Batoka Gorge, a deep black chasm forming part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River is home to some of the most notorious Class IV-V whitewater in the world, and this long standing world class adventure combines culture, natural wonders, warm water multi-day class IV rafting, and an African Safari Tour through Botswana’s famous Chobe National Park.
Other highlights of this incredible and life changing adventure will include dining at the Elephant Cafe (Zambia’s #1 rated restaurant), helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, a specialty Zambian ‘ukuchina’ massage, and a river safari in Chobe National Park, one of Africa’s top rated nature preserves!
2019 Ultimate Zambezi Rafting & Botswana Safari Experience – 10 Day-
Dates: November 4-13, 18-27
*Custom group dates available year around
Double Occupancy: $4,200/person
Single Occupancy: $4,400/person
The first minimum sized group to book either date can save 10% on 2 tickets using promo code “zambezi10”
Day 1 – Check in for your first two night’s accommodation at the magnificent 4.5* David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa. Day one includes a magnificent upper Zambezi sunset cruise on the Lady Livingstone, upstream from the mighty Victoria Falls.
Day 2 includes a dip in one of the most infamous swimming pools in the world – The Devils Pool! This is a natural rock-pool formed on the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls located on Livingstone Island. This is followed by a trip over to Zimbabwe to get a look of the Falls from a different perspective. Also included on day two is a trip to the local craft market.
Rounding off day two we take jet boat ride up river to the magnificent 5* dining experience that is the Elephant Cafe. This experience includes game viewing, elephant interaction with our very own elephants and an incredible 5* dining experience.
Day 3 – The 3 night white water rafting expedition begins with exploring the basalt cliffs and pools under the Victoria Falls. We then raft from rapid #1 through to the stunning camp site below rapid #10. This 9km of whitewater is some of the most intense on the planet, grade 5 rapids include The Stairway to Heaven and Gulliver’s Travels.
The second day rafting is a little more relaxed but watch out for The Mother and Oblivion and we raft all the way through to rapid #26.
The third full day on the River is a highlight for whitewater enthusiasts, from Rapid # 26 the Batoka gorge continuously changes its character and the gorge opens out at one point to rolling hills before closing up again as we approach the scenic Moemba Falls. Highlights include a forbidding Grade 5 rapid known as Open Season, Chimamba and the Grade 5 Upper Moemba Falls. We camp the third night between Upper Moemba Falls and the stunning Lower Moemba Falls. This beautiful campsite allows us to explore both the Falls and the wilderness.
Day 6 – After your final night of camping you take a helicopter ride out of the Gorge, get an amazing birds eye view of Victoria Falls (locally named the Flight of the Angels!) and look forward to the rest of the day at leisure at our accommodation for the night, The David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa.
Back at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge for your final night your stay includes a free 1.5 hour massage and a 2 hour sunset cruise on the fabulous Lady Livingstone.
Day 7 – Take a short trip over to Botswana for an incredible safari experience in the famous Chobe Game Park, famous for its large herds of elephants and Cape buffalo. Expect to see the big cats too if you are lucky. The Chobe experience also includes a river safari where you get to see the wildlife from a different perspective.
In Chobe you will stay at the magnificent Bakwena Safari Lodge on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included).
Day 8 – After a morning game drive in the Chobe National Park you make your way back to Zambia and your final night’s accommodation at the 5* River Club on a Full-Board basis. (local beer, wine and spirits included). Here you can expect peace and tranquility on the banks of the Upper Zambezi. Perhaps a game of tennis or afternoon croquet to help you wind down?
Day 9 – 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 Airpor
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 4,5* David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa – this is a beautifully appointed thatched lodge oozing with charm set on the banks of the mighty Zambezi, named after the intrepid traveller, David Livingstone. 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. Beverages here will be for your own account. Relax, take in the views and we will meet at 16h00 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 David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
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 4,5* David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa and take the rest of the day at leisure for some well-earned Rest & Relaxation! After 3 nights on the Zambezi, take advantage of a 1.5hr signature massage at the award-wining Spa & Wellness Centre on-site at the accommodation. 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 David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
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 be staying at Bakwena Lodge – a 4,5* eco-luxury retreat 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. The personal touch of owner-manager’s, Adam and Jen, can be felt on arrival and once you’ve unwound and settled in, chill out in the main entertainment area with its lounge, restaurant and Rain Tree bar overlooking the river, or to cool off in their unique eco-swimming pool.
This afternoon, we opt 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: Bakwena Safari Lodge on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included)
DAY 8: CROQUET, ANYONE?
- Safari Drive in Chobe National Park
- Overnight at the 5* River Club
- Afternoon Tea and Croquet
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!” Today we will transport you back in time to the elegant 5* River Club – an enchanting oasis located a short distance from Livingstone where a ‘spot of croquet’ or boules are a daily requisite with Afternoon Tea. The private and spacious suites are individually set within magnificent trees on the edge of the Zambezi River, overlooking the Zambezi National Park.
All rooms are west-facing and take advantage of the spectacular African sunsets. The lodge is set on a 50-acre secure property with manicured lawns and a magnificent rim-flow swimming pool and hammocks overlooking pods of resident hippo. Your stay includes accommodation in a River Suite with lunch on arrival, Afternoon Tea, dinner and breakfast, with local drinks and wine during lunch & dinner, laundry, unlimited Wi-Fi and a sundowner cruise with bar. Enjoy the time as you please!
Accommodation: The River Club on a Full-Board basis. (local beer, wine and spirits included)
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 favourite 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
- 1st two night’s accommodation at the David Livingstone & Spa (Bed & Breakfast)
- Sunset Cruise on the Lady Livingstone
- Swim in the Devils Pool
- Falls Tour Zimbabwe
- Craft market tour
- Elephant Cafe High Tea including jetboat & elephant interaction
- Skilled, professional rafting guides
- Waterproof dry bags to hold your gear for the trip
- Two-person tents on a shared basis
- Thermarest-style mattresses
- Personal flotation device (PFD)
- Highest quality inflatable rafts and related equipment
- All meals and drinks whilst camping/rafting
- Free video footage of your rafting trip
- Transfers to and from Livingstone accommodation
- All park fees
- Helicopter flight out of the gorge and over the Victoria Falls
- 1.5 hour massage at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa
- Chobe safari.
- Bakwena Safari Lodge on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included)
- The River Club on a Full-Board basis (local beer, wine and spirits included)
- All transfers throughout the trip.
Not included in the rate
- Flights to and from Livingstone, Zambia
- Zambia Visa (required for this itinerary – other arrangements may be necessary for extended pre- or post-trip travel)
- Insurance – including travel and mandatory evacuation insurance
- Guide tips and miscellaneous gratuities
- Sleeping bag
- Items of a personal nature and equipment outlined in personal equipment list
- 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.
A visa is required for entry into Zambia. A visa is not required for entry into South Africa or Botswana if the planned visit is for 90 days or less. As this trip also visits Botswana, you will require a double-entry visa for Zambia. A double-entry visa can be obtained at the Livingstone Airport upon arrival and costs US$80.
Depending on other travel plans, or if you plan to visit the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, you may need a multiple-entry visa for your return to Zambia or a KAZA visa for entry into Zimbabwe. A multiple-entry visa must be arranged in advance. While not required for the our itinerary, you may need one depending on your travel plans. Information and applications are available at: www.zambiatourism.com/travel-info/visa-information and for the KAZA visa at: http://www.zambiatourism.com/media/KAZAvisa-Leaflet-Dec-2016.pdf
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 no later than the morning or early afternoon of the first day of the trip.
GETTING TO AND FROM LIVINGSTONE
Many major airlines offer service to Livingstone, Zambia. Most commonly there are layovers in South Africa either in Johannesburg or Cape Town. The itineraries tend to be fairly long, and even longer if you opt for a cheaper flight schedule. We like to recommend that guests at least choose at least a semi-reasonable flight itinerary simply because if you show up well rested you will be able to start really enjoying the experience more quickly. Though, your flight itinerary and what you feel best suits you and your trip are up to you.
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. For certain guests it will be possible, and sometimes mandatory, to portage or walk around some of the rapids. Those walks or portages will sometimes involve climbing up and over rocks and navigating large boulders, sometimes on ledges above the river. Those decisions will often be left to the discrepancy of the rafting guide and his assessment of the paddle crews ability and ultimately the groups safety as a whole. Those considering this trip should be mentally and physically prepared for potential class IV and V swims, the ability to be trained on how to receive a throw rope, how to assist in their own rescue, and the ability to swim both aggressively and offensively.
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.
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. Though feel free to bring your own!
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.
We Participate in Pack For A Purpose!
Small Space, Little Effort, Big Impact! Help Pack for a Purpose make a difference around the world by using available space in your luggage to provide supplies to the communities you visit. For more information on Packing for a Purpose in Livingstone, please visit packforapurpose.org
Travel and Camp Gear:
Following is a list of required and recommend items for this multi-day tour through the stunning landscapes of East Africa. As part of the trip we will provide waterproof drybags for all of your personal items, camp chairs for fireside relaxation and enjoyment, and tents and sleeping pads. We ask that your bring your own sleeping bags.
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.
Please click here to look at a more in-depth list of required and recommended gear:
International Trips Pack List
- Light quick-drying shirt and long pants for sun protection
- Personal toiletries
- Mosquito Repellent
- Water bottle with clip to attach to raft
- Sleeping bag
- Water shoes and Hiking Shoes
- Hat / Sunglasses (with strap / croakies)
- Go-Pro / Waterproof Camera Equipment (at your own risk)
- Personal Medications you may require
- The temperature and climate on the river will be that of low elevation tropical jungle. Although September is typically one of the drier months there is always a chance of rain. Being so, we recommend an ample supply of quick drying clothing, lightweight pants and long sleeve shirts for sun protection, a large hat, extra socks, and sandals with straps for the river and sneakers or hiking shoes for camp and side-hikes.
- A few lightweight thermal layers for potential chilly nights.
- A small amount of Cash and copy of your passport
- Rain top and rain pants can be priceless in the jungle.
- A large towel and/or a hand towel are great comfort items on a multi-day trip.
- A book or magazine
1) Water levels vary seasonally-Dates for your trip are important.
Thankfully the Zambezi is a free flow river, the water level is not affected by any dams; however, it is affected by seasonal natural flow variations. Rafting trips adapt to the changing water levels by “putting on” at different entry points.
Generally Late-July to Mid-January the trips put in at the “Boiling pot” directly below Victoria Falls. At this time the Zambezi River is at a relatively low flow, more of the bedrock is exposed, creating the huge crashing rapids the Zambezi is renowned for.
From Mid-January to July Safpar operate on a “high-water” run, which is generally from rapid number 7B, rapid number 10 or rapid number 14. At this time the bedrock in the riverbed is covered and these trips are characterized by big eddy fences and boils. Highlights of a high water run are that some huge features on the river banks come into action, namely rapid 16B, a colossal set of breaking waves.
Crew dropping into Rapid 16B. High Water Zambezi.
The river is always changing so no two trips are ever the same. If you fancy big demanding water, high adrenaline, then book your trip as the low water season opens or closes, Late July/August and end Dec/January.
The Zambezi reaches her lowest point in the gorge during the first week of November and starts to rise after that. At this time of the year, you are rafting only 5% of the rivers peak flow.
2) You should gift your friend a Nyami-Nyami necklace.
The Nyami-nyami necklace carving is a symbolic representation of the god of the Zambezi. Legend has it that wearing the necklace will grant you safe passage through the gorge. However, in order to work the necklace must be a gift. These necklaces are available in bone, wood, stone and lately in aluminum.
They are excellent keepsakes, and if you see one being worn anywhere in the world; it is an indication that the person has rafted the Zambezi River. The origins of the legend are contentious, the most well-known story is that “Nyami-nyami” is trapped by the Kariba dam wall, and his wife is downstream, below the wall. While the Kariba dam was being built, the “Tonga” people foretold of his anger at man’s folly in damming the mighty Zambezi. The subsequent floods that destroyed the first stages of the wall were seen as an expression of his anger by the local people.
In our area, it is believed that in times of great hardship and drought “Nyami-nyami” will show himself to the people, and allow them to take portions of his body to alleviate hunger.
This legend perhaps has some basis in our local African grey mottled eel, which resembles the Nyami-nyami’s carving. When the Zambezi has an extremely low year, normally due to drought, some pools get cut off from the main river and these eels are hunted by the fish spear. However, it has been some time since this has happened.
Nyami-nyami necklace worn by one of our guides.
In 1989 “The Damned River” was filmed on the Zambezi, the film crew painted a Nyami-nyami on a high rock face below rapid 5b for the movie, it can still be seen clearly today. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097146/
If you plan on journeying to the Zambezi River to experience the Victoria Falls (known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”) and take part in the world’s greatest rafting trip. You should consider the various multi-day options available. Overnight and four-day trips let you cover more of this amazing river. There is a strong “expedition” type feel to the trips.
Untouched camping spots, on remote pristine white beaches, make this a must. Explore under the Victoria Falls, soak in the serenity and raft some incredible rapids downstream from the commercial day section. The astrology is amazing as the light pollution is non-existent, easy to see how the gorge got it’s “a thousand stars” rating.
“Star Gazing”, at a camp opposite the “Shire”. Visible on the hillside are fishermen fires.
Humble Lunch under the falls
Beach living Rapid 25
We encourage guests to sleep outside of their tents under the stars if they wish. The gorge is extremely underpopulated and underutilized. Meaning that the critters that feed on us are not usually present on our carefully selected camping spots.
4) Your raft may Flip or you may go for a “swim”
“Rapid #3”, are we going over? No-one can guarantee a “no-flip” trip.
The Zambezi is affectionately known as the “Slambezi”, as big water flips are more the norm than the exception. This is mitigated by the river conditions. The Zambezi is a “warm-pool drop” river. What “warm” means is that we don’t have to deal with the huge issues associated with cold water. If you go for a dip or have a flip we pull you back on, or one of our kayakers will rescue you and the trip continues, absolutely no big deal.
“Pool Drop” means that the rapids generally empty out into relatively calm pools. So if the raft does go over, we have time to collect everybody, get you all back on your raft and take a break before the next rapid. On other rivers of a similar class, a flip is a calamity, as the rapids often feed into each other.
If you can count “One Zambian Banana, Two Zambian Bananas, Three Zambian Bananas” and still haven’t broached the surface for a breath, beers are on us.
5) The river is in a steep-sided gorge
“Nsongwe Gorge” viewpoint, ladder visible in the bottom right of the picture.
The “Middle Batoka Gorge” on which we raft, is formed from the action of the river eroding through fault lines in the basalt rock. The result; a very steep sided gorge with limited access points. You will be required to hike in and out of the gorge to enjoy the rafting. By hike, we mean you will have to ascend steep paths for up to 30 minutes, to reach roads and infrastructure. Be sure to bring footwear that allows you to hike up and down. We have made these paths easier to transgress with “Mopani” (a local tough tree) wood ladders.
It is tiring, and in the heat, the climb can be daunting, take your time, no rush in Africa. We make sure there is plenty of water and our guides are on hand to assist you. Keep in mind that if you are considering rafting this class V river, you should be mentally and physically prepared for this challenge. The hike in and out is a great indicator of the fitness levels required for this river. The average person has no problem on these paths.
Guests ascending the Nsongwe ladder during the dry season, being assisted by Malvin Ndlewewa.
The majority of the paths into and out of the gorge have been used by our ancestors for thousands of years. The top and bottom of the paths are often “Old man settlements”. You can still find flint tools and millet grinding holes at these locations. Of note is the “Songwe Gorge” settlement at the top of the “Rapid 10” path. This heritage site was home to a large village of our ancestors.
6) There are crocodiles…but they are not a problem
The Nile Crocodile is endemic to the Zambezi River and there exists a resident and moving population in the area we raft. However, in all the years we have been rafting we have not had any issues. Renowned ichthyologist and biologist Dr. John Minshull postulates that the conditions in the upper reaches of the “middle Batoka gorge” hinder large reptile growth (they don’t get to a size that considers us prey very often).
One theory is that small crocodile hatchlings do go over the Victoria Falls and survive the drop. They survive by eating small crustaceans and insects. However, as their nutrition needs increase, along with their body mass. Their ability to move and find enough food in the small eddies, in the fast flowing water begins to dissipate. They then move further downstream, to quieter areas; out of the swift rapid areas.
Some large crocodiles do walk into the gorge from the upper river, and others do inhabit larger quieter pools, and evidence (small hatchlings in areas) suggest they do breed. Once again the theory goes that they struggle to function efficiently in fast-moving water or appear in great numbers due to the absence of food. So in some areas that remain relatively calm, we have small populations; generally, we know where these spots are and we take care and acknowledge the risk. When we do see them, they tend to be retiring and shy, a sighting is an exciting part of the day.
Picture of this croc not taken in the Gorge, but at our rafting base on the upper river.
Crocodiles, Hippos, and Elephants regularly go over the Victoria Falls at certain water levels. We often find the carcasses in the Batoka Gorge and there are some well known “bone gardens” in some locations.
7) You may be in a raft with strangers…but not for long
Rafting Crew on the side of rapid#9
We run the Zambezi in 16-foot self-bailing rafts, with crews of up to 8, but usually 6 or 7. You and your travel companions may be teamed up with people you don’t know. Not to worry, you will be under the instruction of one of our “International Rafting Federation” accredited guides. This is a great opportunity to meet new people and create lasting friendships. It is an incredible shared experience, on an incredible river. The teamwork and exhilaration of a day on the Zambezi simply can’t be explained; until you “tick it off”. Sharing a “Mosi” beer with your fellow rafters at our rafting base, on the banks of the upper-Zambezi River, is a great way to finish the day. We call it “Beer and medal time”.
Rafts on the Zambezi, closest raft has a stern mount set-up.
We run “Stern mounts”, rafts with oars. This is usually at the guides discretion. However, on every trip you will see at least one “stern mount”. The seat that the guide sits on, is actually a stretcher should we require it.
8) The Zambezi is class V
Dropping into the “Land of Giants”.
“Highway to Heaven” crew successfully running Rapid #5.
Worldwide trends have seen an increase in the overuse of Class-V classification on runs that are clearly below the grade.
Class-V is defined by the British Canoe Union as:
“Extremely difficult – long and very violent rapids with severe hazards. Continuous, powerful, confused water makes roué-finding difficult. Precise maneuvering is critical.”
The Zambezi is a Class-V river and it is important to give the River the respect it deserves. We have a strict 15-year old age limit in place. This is more to do with emotional stability in receiving instructions in stressful situations; not to do with body size. While we manage risk to the strict policies of the “International Rafting Federation” and with 30 years of experience. Guests should be aware of what they have signed up for.
However, the Zambezi also has something for everyone and at times of the year when the top section is full class V, guests can opt to put in lower down on the river for a class iii-iv run. We would advise you consult us regarding your expectations and the time of year of your visit.
It is also essential to ensure your Travel Insurance allows grade IV-V rafting. In the unlikely event of a “life or limb” situation we are in the position to utilize helicopter evacuation protocols. Our insurance will cover this, but at the medical facility, you will need your insurance to take over.
9) You are contributing hugely to the economy and community
Tourism is Zambia’s third biggest economic contributor. The rafting industry is a cornerstone activity in the tourism line- up in Livingstone. The industry employs a large number of the people in the area, both directly and indirectly.
The tax re-numeration and benefit infrastructure, are vital to the people living here. A high proportion of our guides have been working for us for over 15 years.
Safpar are constantly training new staff in all aspects of the business. Choosing to use us as a local operator ensures your payment goes back into the development of the region. Safari-Par-Excellence has been operating here for the past 25 years and we are active in many developments and corporate responsibility spheres. We encourage you to “pack for a purpose” and invite you to visit the schools and projects we support. We operate on a “needs” basis so our projects are continually changing.
10) There is a dam development in progress
Originally proposed in the 1970’s the Batoka “Hydro-electric Scheme”, has been provisionally greenlit by the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments (The Zambezi forms the border between the two countries). While still awaiting ESIA completion; the Dam is mooted to be completed by 2025 according to the literature available. At the current dam wall specifications, the river will be flooded and rafting on the Zambezi River will no longer be possible. At the time of publishing the dam is still scheduled to go ahead.
1) Know your Visa requirements
If you are not from the SADC region and require a Visa when visiting Zambia, and the Victoria Falls, there are a few options you should be aware of depending on your itinerary.
Those passport holders who qualify to purchase a visa at the port of entry have the option of a “Single entry Visa” for USD 50, a “KAZA Visa” for USD 50 or a “multiple entry Visa for USD 80. Generally speaking, the best option is the “KAZA Visa”. This allows multiple-entry travel between Zimbabwe and Zambia and a day trip to Botswana and is valid for a month. It is important you specifically ask for the “KAZA Visa” at the port of entry. Additionally, be sure to check the number of days you have been granted in your passport and that of any dependents. Overstaying is a serious problem and can be easily avoided by checking the number of days before leaving the desk. Some of the ports can take payment by card, but this can be hit and miss. Aim to have the right cash amount on hand for your party; in the correct denominations, and you will speed through the arrival formalities.
Check if you are eligible for a KAZA Visa on arrival here.
Some nationalities will be required to apply for a visa in advance of travel to Zambia – if you are one of those passport holders who want to do more than a day-trip to Zimbabwe or Botswana, it would be best to apply for a multiple-entry Zambian Visa at USD 80 pp. (Please check in advance whether you need to pre-apply for a visa to your day-trip country too!) Check if you require a visa in advance of travel to Zambia here.
2) Book in advance
The “Flight of Angels” offers the best seat in the house.
Some activities that the region is famous for, have limited space and you could be disappointed during peak season. Be sure to book “The Elephant Café”, the microlight “Flight of the Angels” and “Devil’s Pool” in advance. Other iconic activities such as the “Whitewater rafting”and the “River cruises” can usually be booked while in the region. However, early booking confirmation allows you to make the most of your time without having to shuffle things around.
The Elephant cafe’ is Livingstone’s premier dining experience, prior booking is essential.
3) Plan your “Falls Day”
Prior planning for your visit to “Mosi-Oa-Tunya” (the “Smoke that Thunders”) as “Victoria Falls” is locally known is important. Travelers often get carried away with everything the region has to offer and end up rushing the falls in a morning before they fly out. A good way to do it is to plan your visit to the falls, around the “Devil’s pool” or the “Micro-light flight”. Both of these activities can take place early in the morning or late in the afternoon and augment a “Day of Thunder”. Also be aware that around the full moon during high water, the park is open for guests to view the “moonbows”, nighttime rainbows. The cost to enter the park for this is an additional USD 30, take a small picnic and a bottle of wine; be courteous with your flashlight, you don’t need to put it on, the moon provides plenty of light.
Moonbow in February.
Start off with visiting the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side, entry for international visitors is USD 20 per person. Depending on the time of year, allow an hour and thirty minutes for the walk around the viewing points. If you are physically fit it is worthwhile to hike into the “boiling pot” and view the historic Victoria Falls Bridge and the Batoka Gorge just below the face of the falls. Ask for directions from the National Heritage staff on-site. This is particularly worthwhile during the high water season from February-June. Allow an extra forty-five minutes for this and make sure you take drinking water with you.
The boiling pot.
From the Zambian Falls gate, the Zambian Exit border is a short walk away. Once you have stamped out of Zambia you can easily walk to the Zimbabwean border, this is worthwhile as you can walk across the Victoria Falls bridge, which offers some great viewing opportunities. There are taxi’s, usually charging about USD 3 per taxi if you would rather not tackle the 1.3km walk. On the way across the bridge, you can stop at the “Bridge Café” for a beer or refreshment. From here you have a great view of the bridge and the bungee jumpers.
Victoria Falls from the Zambian Side.
As you stamp into Zimbabwe the entrance to the Victoria Falls is a 100 meters from the border. The Entry Fee is USD 30 per person for International Residents and USD 20 for SADC Residents. Allow for 2 hours to view the falls from this side. Once this is done, a “High Tea” at the colonial era “Victoria Falls Hotel” is a great experience. The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from the Victoria Falls entrance. The balcony area looks onto the Victoria Falls in the distance and the hotel itself is worth a look around.
Complete the day with a cocktail at “The Royal Livingstone” deck, back in Zambia, this hotel has an unhindered view of the spray from the falls and is a salubrious end to a great day.
4) What to bring.
Livingstone can be really cold from May-July in the evenings and early mornings, while the rest of the year it is generally hot. Hats and sunscreen are a must year round. The “rainy” season is from November to Mid-April.
Livingstone is not a high malaria area, if you choose to use them, be cautious with your choice of prophylactic and discuss the side effects with your Doctor. Doxycycline, in particular, seems to have issues with sun sensitivity in a lot of people and you will be in the sun frequently.
A small “dry bag” is a good idea to keep your travel documents and camera dry when visiting the falls, they are inexpensive and allow peace of mind. When viewing the Falls in high-water season, you will get soaked.
A small day pack of essentials, such as a head torch, sunscreen, insect repellent, pocket knife and common medications is a good idea to have on you too.
Most lodges and hotels have water filters and you can buy bottled water at most places. However, we recommend “Life straw” bottles rather than buying bottled water.
Small incidentals such as camera cards and camera batteries have limited availability in Livingstone and can be way more expensive than other countries. Ideally, these should be brought with you.
All electrical appliances in Zambia run on 230V. The primary socket types are British or South African. Although multi-adaptors are generally available at hotels, we recommend bringing your own.
Cashwise the Zambian currency is the Kwacha-(ZMK), the currency recently got re-based and three zero’s were lopped off, so sometimes you will see (ZMK)R other symbols are KW (also sometimes with an R indicating re-based). Older Zambians also call the ZMK a “Pin” i.e “10 pin” is 10 kwacha, this is a carryover from when Kwacha notes would be “pinned” together from the days of the unnecessary zeros. ATM’s are available but can be unreliable and have long queues at month end as people withdraw their money. There are ATM’s at the airport once you clear immigration and customs, it is a good idea to draw some local money while there. United States Dollars and South African Rand are widely accepted, and most places can take cards.
We support pack for a purpose. Help Pack for a Purpose makes a difference around the world by using available space in your luggage to provide supplies to the communities you visit. For more information on Packing for a Purpose in Livingstone, please visit packforapurpose.org
5) Be aware of the season in which you are traveling.
The pulse of the Zambezi River sets the tone of the region. From Late January to June the Zambezi is in high flow. The best time to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls is from February to May when you will experience the world’s largest sheet of falling water flowing at full tilt. It is also the season of the photographer, the landscape is alive with color and the rains have put down the dust, leaving egg blue skies and spectacular sunset/ sunrises and crisp mornings.
The Victoria Falls Bridge
However, at this time of year wildlife is relatively scarce compared to other months, the elephant herds have left the river and moved inland. We usually see them returning mid-late June, the bush is also relatively thick and game viewing is difficult.
From July to August the game viewing is phenomenal and it is also one of the best times to go rafting, take a look at the “Ultimate Zambezi” trips, which include a trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Giraffes at Chobe
Be advised that the Zambezi River traditionally reaches it’s lowest flow during the first week of November. Around this time from October, the Zambian side of Victoria Falls is almost non-existent. The body of the water going over the falls is confined to the narrow “Devil’s cataract”.
The spray from the falls early March, seen from 6km’s upstream.
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 purchase sunscreen before the departure for our river trip.
Our partnership with Safpar Rafting in Livingstone, Zambia was carefully chosen. They are a renowned and respected local luxury outfitter 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.
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.
One of the most common ailments among tourists in less developed countries is traveler’s diarrhea(gastrointestinal problems). You should try to minimize chances of getting it by avoiding potentially contaminated foods before the trip. We recommend our guests carry a supply of anti-dihhreal medication just as a general precaution.