White Water Rafting the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe

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Within the blink of an eye, I had been hurled from the raft and was free-floating down class five rapids. Gasping for air, I came to the surface for no more than half of breath before the next set of rapid waves pushed me under the water.

I felt like I was in a washing machine as I was tumbled around under the water. Catching a glimpse of the shore I couldn’t help but notice the crocodile lounging in the sun near the water.

Victoria Falls is known for its breath-taking falls and its adrenaline-pumping bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge. But what really fuels the falls is the Zambezi River. This is one of the meanest white water in the world, so naturally, we felt the need to take on the challenge and go for a day of whitewater rafting.

The hike to the bottom of the gorge can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on how many rafters are there that day. Every group shows up around the same time so it basically becomes a large inchworm with rafters trying not to fall down as we make our way to the river.

Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator
Climbing into the Batoka Gorge to access the Zambezi River

Many people had issues climbing down and some even fell while they labored along. The path was no more than a person wide, with loose gravel. Some parts we had to climb down rigged wood ladders with a paddle in my hand, as my rafting helmet would slip over my eyes. Lina was definitely regretting her decision to wear only flip flops that day.

Once we made it to the river it was time to jump in our raft. Our boat was named the Titanic, after our rafting guide. At first, we didn’t get it, but it didn’t take us long to figure out that this river guide liked putting people in the water. He had earned his nickname.

I quickly grabbed one of the front seats and Lina sat behind me. Our guide took our shoes from us and strapped them down in the back of the raft. It was time to go over what we should do while rafting. If our guide yelled out to paddle, we paddled. If he yelled out paddle hard, we had to paddle hard.

Paddle to the right one side had to paddle backward and to paddle, to the left it was the opposite. Then it was time to jump out of the raft and practice getting people into the boat. This was something I’m glad we practiced because we used it.

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Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator

Whitewater Rafting on the Zambezi River

We would take on rapids 11-24 during our trip on the Zambezi River. With names like these, we were always wondering what was coming up ahead on the route.

  • 11 Overland Truck Eater Grade 5
  • 12 Three ugly sisters
  • 13 The Mother Surge to 5
  • 14 Surprise Surprise
  • 15 The Washing Machine
  • 17 Judgment Day
  • 18 Oblivion Grade 5
  • 19 Last Straw
  • 20-24 unnamed

The fourteen sets of rapids we would hit are some of the most extreme sets in Africa. We were heading down them in nothing more than a rubber raft. The Zambezi River snakes through a 100+ meter gorge where crocodiles are found sunbathing on the rocks.

The different rapids are rated from class 2-6 depending on what time of the year it is. There are even times of the year where rafters have to exit the river and walk around some of the more difficult spots of the river.

Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator

The Mother Takes A Few

It was time to handle The Mother and boy o boy, the Big Mama chewed us up and spit us out. Now I know what it’s like to be a sock in the washing machine.

This stretch of rapids lasts for two minutes ending at a large turn where boats wait for their spotters to make sure all of the rafters make it. At this time of the year, it was a class 4 surging to class 5.

We started out like we had the whole trip heading right down the heart of the rapids. We had a little issue paddling, one side of the boat was stronger than the other so we ended up heading down the rapids backward.

As a result, the boat hit a large wave at a wrong angle sending it standing on its side. Lina was the only person, besides the guide, who did not fall out. The rest of us were just ejected from the raft.

Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator

Taking on Oblivion

Heading into Oblivion we were ready for anything. We hadn’t fallen out since we left The Mother and we were starting to find our paddle stride on the mighty Zambezi.

Then we paddled right into the center of Oblivion. As we hit the first set, water splashed in our faces, our guide started yelling out to paddle hard as we headed into the next set of rapids. Within the blink of an eye, I saw water crashing and people falling out of the raft.

It happened so fast but the next scene saw only the raft flipped over on top of us. I luckily ended in the water right next to the boat grasping for the rope. The guide ended up right next to me, jumping out of the water onto the bottom of the raft within seconds.

He was not concerned about me since he saw me next to him in the water. He quickly looked around for the rest of our crew.

However, our ride down Oblivion wasn’t over and we endured a thrashing from the mighty rapid as we clutched to the side of the raft and waited it out. We couldn’t flip the raft and reboard until we were clear of the turbulence.

The guide quickly instructed me to inch my self around the boat to the other side. I did not understand at the time that this was so we would flip the boat back over.

With hesitation, I inched over to the other side. This was hard because the river’s current wanted to suck me away from the boat as I got slapped in the face with waves.

Once I made it around the front of the upside-down boat I noticed my whole group holding onto the side. Lina had been trapped under the raft initially but was able to hold her breath and navigate out from under it to the side.

We all had a good laugh and a high-five before flipping the boat over and getting back on board.

Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator

The End of Our Journey

Our last rapid was at number 24 and shortly after we had to keep right so we could pull up on to the rocks and debark from the Zambezi. Once back on land we shortly celebrated our efforts on the river before setting off to hike back up the gorge walls to the top.

This hike would take us 30-40 minutes scaling up rocky paths where logs were rigged up as stairways. Some of it was even scrambling in parts, but it’s all part of the adventure.

If you’re looking for a river-rafting trip where you don’t get tossed, this is not the trip for you. You will get bucked out of the raft and if you do not your guide is being soft to your group.

That is why you go rafting, to head into the wild parts of the river and see if your group can survive. I’m glad our guide took us right into the action, unlike other groups who went around though the weaker parts of the river.


A trip down the Zambezi River in a raft will cost you around $150. All the trips leave from Vic Falls and include transport and lunch. The prices are fixed across town.

Rafting on the Zambezi River is the ultimate African adventure, rivaled only by a trip down the Nile in Jinja, Uganda. Of course, we’re going to take on that bad boy too. So, what do you think?

Would you take on the Zambezi River?

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Whitewater Rafting Zambezi River Zimbabwe Viator

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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3 thoughts on “White Water Rafting the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe”

  1. It is very nice to see the type of blogs you have been sharing for so many times. I am very thankful to read this blog as well.

  2. I love the fact that your guide took you right into the action. I have never rafted, but I want to sometime, and to go for the FULL experience. Great pictures! 🙂


    • YES!! They called him the Titanic for a reason!! 🙂 We have rafted on the Nile River since, which was really intense but we really loved our experience on the Zambezi. You can’t go wrong on either river with a great guide.


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