There are certainly not many people who have done as many multi-day trips down the Zambezi as Hamish and Lovemore. Together, our founder and Zambezi Team Leader have over 50 years experience running the Zam! Recently, we asked them which are their favourite rapids on the river, and why!
Q: How did you start out on the Zam?
A: Okay, where do I start from? I really love this river. It has been my home for more than 20 years. Some people may not know, but I started as a porter carrying rafts in to the river before I became a guide and safety kayaker. Now I love managing the Water By Nature season on the Zambezi and giving our guests amazing experiences.
Q: What are your three favourite rapids?
A: Firstly Rapid 5, Stairway to Heaven is so much fun. It comes with the most unbelievable drop, down into the Catchers Mitt and more huge waves. This is proper Zambezi Class V.
Then it’s Upper Moemba. This is my second favourite rapid and our last rapid on day three before we camp in my home country of Zimbabwe for the night. We take a route down the right side of the rapid where only a small amount of the water goes, but there are still very big drops with crashing waves and the most amazing way to finish a day!
Finally I love Ghostrider, the last and longest rapid on the Zambezi that almost nobody else runs. 3 huge waves, where we start centre and try and head as right as possible through the last big wave. Here we finish our 4 day trip and get collected by a helicopter before flying back to Livingstone!
Q: Lovemore, what do you love doing the most on the Zambezi?
A: I love to bake a cake and this is something I learned from one of the Water By Nature guides, Steve Hammond. I also love to sing with the other guides, especially Asimbonanga Mandela sung by the late Johnny Clegg from South Africa. I also love working in other destinations like Morocco.
Q: Hamish, what does the Zam mean to you?
I’ve always loved the Zambezi. I remember so clearly my first trip down the river in 1995 when I worked for one of the local companies. It was such an amazing place to work and really epitomised what a rafting trip was especially when we got to do multiday trips. Although I get down there less now that what I did, I do try and go occasionally to row a gear raft and just enjoy the sights and sounds of the Batoka Gorge. It’s a very special place.
Q: And your three favourite rapids?
A: One has to be Gullivers Travels (Rapid 7)! I love the challenge of this rapid: it just has so many aspects to it and so many different water levels which give you more challenges to contend with. The excitement as you pass ‘Directors Wave,’ paddle past ‘The Crease’ and into ‘Land Of the Giants’ is as exhilarating for guides as it is for our guests.
I also love Rapid N.18, Oblivion. This rapid is not incredibly challenging, but it is pure 100% unadulterated FUN. It’s particularly fun in lower water (September and October) and the rafts run one at a time, over the first wave, over the second wave and into the huge crashing third wave, the one they call Oblivion. Be prepared for a boat full of water!
Finally this couldn’t be complete without the Upper Moemba, like Lovemore. I love this rapid. I always tell folks it’s the biggest ‘Chicken Line’ in the world. Most of the Zambezi is flowing off a huge unrunnable shelf of water to the left and we take a channel to the right with around 20% of the water on the Zambezi. Its important to line up (especially with the gear raft) on a small, barely covered rock on the left of the channel and quickly turn the raft to face the massive waves coming left and right, until you reach the bottom completely full of water with a massive smile on your face. We have an awesome campsite here overlooking Moemba Falls where the guides prepare a wonderful spread of wine and cheese. It’s a special night.
Q: And what do you love to do on the Zambezi?
A: That’s easy. I love floating down the river, listening to the birds and sounds of the gorge, and then in the evening having a chat and a laugh with people around the campfire before falling asleep under the stars. Pure magic.
by Hamish McMaster
Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.
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