Ask any local what their choice of a “must do” experience at Victoria Falls is, and most will say white water rafting - and with good reason. The rafting below the Falls is rated among the best in the world.
Photo: Wild Horizons
Rafting trips have a different point of exit, depending on the length of the experience (typically half- or whole-day rafting trips) and run up to 23 rapids. Some excursions offer lifts out of the gorge but most require you to hike out to your pick-up point, which is a steep climb of at least 250m.
Check with your operator before booking, if this is a concern. The experience varies in intensity, depending on the amount of water flowing through the gorge. In the case of white water rafting, less tends to mean more!
Typically, winter - the drier season - sees the river raging around rocks and outcrops, and the waves generated tend to be higher relative to the water level than in summer.
The rainy season sees huge volumes of water crashing through the gorge, and the experience can be more akin to riding a giant wet roller-coaster. No matter what time of year you go white water rafting, expect to get wet, and there is the real possibility of finding yourself in the water.
Safety, however, is a major concern and there are always two or more safety kayakers around to pull you out.Safety gear is provided and excursions almost always use multiple rafts in each trip for safety purposes. The half-day excursion typically shoots 12 rapids, while a full day's outing usually includes 11 more.
Many of the rapids are class 5, which means the most difficult to navigate and, at one point, there's a 90% chance that the raft will flip if the water is not skilfully negotiated.
The names of the rapids give you an idea of what to expect: Stairway to Heaven, Oblivion, Morning Shave and Shower, Deep Throat and Creamy White Buttocks.
Appropriate clothing for the experience is a baseball-style hat, swimming shorts, a T-shirt and old footwear that will stand a soaking. Operators joke that the river god, Nyaminyami, is keen on removing rafters' shoes when not well secured.
Under no circumstances should you take a camera, passport or any valuables with you - even spectacles should be left behind unless it is absolutely necessary to use them.
Helicopter transfers in and out of the gorge are available from both Zimbabwe and ZambiaCheck out the best season for white-water rafting
Grading the RapidsClass 1:
Flat water, easier than a Sunday school picnicClass 2:
Easy rapids, what's the big deal?Class 3:
Slightly dodgy but manageableClass 4:
Now we're getting serious; previous experience beneficial; definitely no kidsClass 5:
Extremely risky; you're likely to end up in the drinkClass 6:
Don't even think about it; certain bodily injury or deathMap Grading the Rapids at Victoria Falls
River boarding is the latest adrenalin sport to hit Victoria Falls. It's like surfing the Zambezi. As the brochure says "swim the rapids and surf the waves, armed with nothing more than an over-sized bodyboard, wetsuit and flippers". Operators offer a day-long combination of rafting and river-boarding.