a group of three white water rafts about to go through a set of rapids on a river

Essential Knowledge You Must Know About Rafting the Wild Zambezi River – Victoria Falls

Published on: December 28th, 2019 at 7:11 pm

The white-water rafting in Victoria Falls is well known by many all around the world and it’s actually recognised as the greatest one-day white water rafting experience in the world. It delivers amazing rapids throughout the 23km journey that is sure to test out even the most experienced rafter but also possible for a novice to complete thanks to the professional guides. Below is some essential travel advice to consider before rafting the Zambezi River for yourself. 

The tips and rafting guide you need to read before your trip in Victoria Falls

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Best time for rafting the Zambezi River

As the weather seasons are split up into wet and dry in Africa it is really important to consider when to visit Victoria Falls. If you’re in Victoria Falls at the end of the dry season then the waterfall is likely to be dried up on one side but if you visit when the river is flowing at its peak then you can only get good views from a helicopter ride from above. The same impacts greatly on the best time to raft the Zambezi River.

The rafting season is generally open from the month of July and runs right through until February, meaning you have around 8 months to enjoy the rapids. If your a first timer to rafting or someone just interested in ticking it off the bucket list while you are visiting then any of these months will be fine.

If your a white-water rafting enthusiast then you will probably want to go white-water rafting in Victoria Falls when the river is offering the best conditions. For that, the period between September and November is the time you need to be rafting the Zambezi River. This is because the wet season-high levels have dropped leaving the rapids with the perfect amount of water flowing through them. Be prepared as this is when the course is at its most wild.

A group of friends white water rafting down rapids in a river
The start of rafting the Zambezi River will begin with a few smaller rapids before you work your way up to same of the famous category 4 and 5 rapids

Please note:

That during the months of February through to July they open a “high season” circuit and this is completed from rapids number 14-25. It is usually the same price for the day trip, less than half the rapids and high water levels. Not the recommended time to complete this.

What category rapids are there

All in all, there are 25 rapids on the circuit (12 if you opt to do the high season trip). The length of the rafting trip is 23km and generally takes around 5 hours to complete. While rafting the Zambezi River you are sure to come across all different kinds of rapids that will test your skills and certainly demand great teamwork from all members on your raft.

The white-water rafting in Victoria Falls officially has a rating classification of 5 out of 6, with 1 being the tamest experience and 6 declaring it forbidden to raft commercially. In total there are 19 level 4 rapids and an impressive but also equally intimidating 5 level 5 rapids. With the names of some of these rapids including Stairway to Heaven, The Devils Toilet Bowl, Commercial Suicide, The Washing Machine and Double Trouble you know your in for the ride of your life.

Is rafting the Zambezi River safe

Almost everyone I talk to about white-water rafting in Victoria Falls has concerns about the safety and the first thing people say is, is rafting the Zambezi safe? This is normal and I completely understandable especially if people are not experienced white-water rafters. Truthfully, there is always going to be an element of risk with an activity of this nature so I can’t write it is 100% but I can assure you this.

The staff that operate the rafts are the best in the business. They are a mix of locals who have been brought up rafting the course and experienced rafting professionals from different parts of the world. Each instructor needs to have a certain amount of hours and rafting trips down the river before they are allowed to complete trips with clients. They all hold up to date safety and medical training, carry radio equipment and satellite phones to ensure they are contactable at all times.

A yellow white water raft going over a large rapid
Things get a little rougher if you decide to venture down stream of Victoria Falls for an activity of white-water rafting on the Zambezi River

On top of this, you will be shown a safety video before the trip at their office building. Once on your raft, you receive training at the top of the rapids where you get familiar with your instructor’s instructions, the correct paddling style and learn how to enter the raft again from the water if you fall out. You will also be wearing safety helmets and a life vest the whole time you are on your raft.

Access in and out of the river

The Zambezi River where you will be rafting is set inside the beautiful Batoka Gorge. It has a steep depth of 250m and as you can imagine this can prove a challenge to some people when trying to access the river. 

You should be prepared and capable to walk down and upstairs and have enough confidence with crossing some areas that consist of narrow walkways on both the descent to begin the rafting trip as well as at the end when exiting the river after the 23km rafting trip. The guides will carry all the required equipment down to the river and up at the end and you have plenty of time to complete this without feeling rushed. The strong incentive of a delicious lunch waiting at the top is worth the effort.

If you’re unable to climb stairs or feel that climbing 250m of height at the end of the gorge is not possible for you then, unfortunately, I don’t think this is a trip you can complete.

Brodie from Aussieinwanderlust getting a photo with the Victoria Falls flowing fast in the background
Myself standing for a proud tourist photo in front of one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls

Lunch provided

As I quickly mentioned above there is a fantastic lunch included that will be waiting for you at the end of the rafting trip and trust me you will be hungry by the time you get there. The lunch is a large selection of BBQ meats, grilled vegetables, multiple side salad options and bread.

After the supplied lunch you will have a small amount of time to digest and take in the views of the amazing surrounds before jumping on a small bus and heading back to the town of Victoria Falls. I suggest after spending a day rafting the Zambezi you venture to one of the best restaurants in Victoria Falls and cure your huge appetite.

What to take with you for the day

As you can imagine when tackling the wildest rapid circuit in the world not a lot of equipment can go with you. The chances of falling out are high and even waterproof cameras are not guaranteed to survive. If you have a GoPro or other type of action camera it is possible to request a helmet to mount this onto and use at your own risks.

Other than that I suggest taking minimal items, there will be a dry bag on board the raft if you want to bring items such as sunscreen. 

You will also be required to pay for the entry fee of the National Park, ensure you have $10USD (this currency may have changed now as Zimbabwe have changed currency) for the payment. 

What to wear

When heading to do the rafting try and wear clothing and footwear that is as light as possible. The last thing you want is heavy clothing dragging you down if you fall from the raft or items restricting your movement when trying to paddle.

  • Wear swimming shorts or swimsuit
  • A comfortable and lightweight top or rash vest
  • Light shoes or sandals 
  • Bring a small sunblock (one between your group if travelling together)
  • A jumper to leave in the bus for the drive back to Victoria Falls
  • GoPro or different type of action camera (at own risk)

You are now all set with the information required to prepare for white-water rafting in Victoria Falls. It really is an incredible day out and you are sure to make some great friends with other travellers inside your raft. After the rafting, they also prepare a slideshow of the pictures and videos professional camera crew have captured while you were busy negotiating the rapids. It’s another nice detail to enjoy over a drink and enables you to share some laughs together.

To find out about my personal experience of rafting the Zambezi River head over to “white water rafting the Zambezi River” and read all about what to expect. If you’re planning to holiday in Victoria Falls I have a selection of informative blogs to help with almost every part of the planning and organising of your trip. Also, find the best African safari options run by the leading travel companies in the world.

What are you waiting for? Find the best rafting trip here.

If white-water rafting isn’t your idea of a great day out I completely understand, I’ve also got your back as well though. Find a mix of two great lists of great activities on offer at Victoria Falls. If you’re into more of a slower-paced and relaxed holiday this list is for you but if you want to get your heart pumping then check out these 9 high adrenaline activities sure to tick the boxes.

Victoria Falls Blogs

Cape Town Blog Series – All the information you will need to plan and enjoy a trip to Cape Town. A full guide of the city, activities to do in and around the area, safety advice, where to stay in Cape Town suggestions, recommended restaurants to eat at, hikes and safaris to do plus much more.

Victoria Falls Blog series – All the information required to plan and enjoy a trip to Victoria Falls. Find things to do in Victoria Falls, the best value accommodation option in Victoria Falls, restaurant advice, visa information and much more

Best Africa Safaris to do – find a selection of quality safari options that include South Africa and Zimbabwe

All other Africa Travel blogs – Information on these and other destinations such as Botswana, Namibia, Morocco and Egypt.

Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use

Book Your Flight

Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.

Book Your Accommodation

This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.

Recommended Accommodation in Victoria Falls:

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.

My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?

As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.

I also have a couple of great blogs that share quick and easy ways to save money on flights or accommodation. Take a look and save some cash on your next trip.

The Best Place To Book Your Tours

If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.

They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.

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Tips for rafting the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls
A complete guide to rafting the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls
The best guide to rafting the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls

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Last Updated on: May 27th, 2020 at 3:45 pm

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