Speak to any guests or guides who have rafted a multi-day trip on the Zambezi and you’ll more than likely get a range of different answers as to which are the best rapids on the Zambezi River. Whilst a multi-day rafting vacation is about far more than just rapids, it is nevertheless a fun part of your day! Having rafted this river for the past 25 years, these are my favourite rapids.
1. Ghostrider: The final and largest rapid on the Zambezi. Situated immediately below the proposed site for the new Batoka damsite. This rapid provides a challenge at almost every level. It comprises a series of three VERY large waves to negotiate. On Water By Nature trips we use paddle assist rafts where 6 paddlers are assisted by their guide at the back of the raft with 2 large oars to give extra power through these waves. The guide will line their raft up right of centre and will keep his/her crew paddling hard through the waves trying to stay as hard to the right of the wave train. The reward? A great helicopter flight back over Victoria Falls to Taita Falcon Lodge 750 feet above the Zambezi River.
2.Upper Moemba. The rapid right before we camp on the third night on the river. The actual line required is down a narrow channel on the river right side of the rapid where only around 15% of the water passes. Does this make it less difficult? As you paddle around the corner and see the videographer perched, camera lens focussed on the raft, you paddle close to a pour over on the left side of the channel before your guide shout HOLD ON and you’ll be doused by 4 massive waves, alternating from each side of the raft! The reward? The best beach and sundowners spot on the Zambezi.
3. Stairway To Heaven: As the name might suggest, this is a pretty awesome rapid. When describing it to my guests, it is like ‘liquid bliss’ paddling down a rapid with a series of larges waves coming at you, whilst just avoiding a large hydraulic on the centre left of the rapid called the Catchers Mitt. The rapid if very iconic and easily recognisable from the large pour over on the river right side of the rapid. Guides line up rafts on the small riffles evident a couple of metres out from the pour over and then line up to guide their raft around 1 boat width from the pour over pointing right to be straight for the large lateral waves coming at you from the bottom of the rapid. Check out this amazing perspective of the rapid taken with a drone.
4. Gullivers Travels: The longest rapid on day one of the Zambezi trip. As the top section opens and rafts begin to run for Rapid one, this rapid can be quite challenging and as the water level drops, it gets easier. Made up of several parts, your guide will take your raft right of indicator rock, before paddling onto the ‘green highway’, into directors wave, take on the right edge of ‘The Crease’ and past Patellas Gap and into Land Of The Giants. This rapid provides a great challenge for raft teams, paddling together, holding on when necessary and providing additional power for your guide on a stern mount set of oars to get your raft through this amazing Grade V Rapid. We will place plenty of safety in and around this rapid in both kayaks & catarafts.
5. Oblivion. A real treat on day two of your rafting adventure, this rapid is made up is 3 waves, the third being a large wave/hydraulic. It is key in this rapid to have momentum and plenty of speed going into it and getting angles on the first two waves right, so you manage to hit the third wave correctly. Often gear rafts and safety boats take an extreme left line to miss the large third wave. For many people this rapid is one of the highlights of the trip and one of the reasons the Zambezi has such a great reputation for big fun wave trains.
No matter whether you choose to do a day trip or a 7 day adventure on the Zambezi, you are in for some amazing fun. But the Zambezi of course is so much more than just great rapids. It is the wonderful people of Zambia, the gorgeous campsites, the spectacular wildlife and the wonderful adventure. We look forward to seeing you on the Zambezi from late July until November when the Mighty Zambezi is at it’s best.
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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