Zambezi is a big volume run starting from imediately below
Victoria Falls. Low water flows (July to January) are typically
150 cumecs minimum up to 1000 cumecs at low water close, highwater
flows are 1000 to 5000 cumecs before highwater close. Highwater
levels can get up to 15000 cumecs.
The flow this October (approaching minimum) was something
around 200 cumecs, similar to the Bio-Bio in January or high
water on the Sjoa. This amount of water makes for very powerful,
big rapids but the pool drop nature of the river makes everything
pretty safe. From the Zambian side, a days rafting (or kayaking)
consists of 18 numbered rapids. From Zimbabwe you start with
rapid number 4. The first 3 rapids are III to III+ but serve
as a good warm up, plus you get a spectacular view under the
falls. Sobek and Safari Par Excellence are the main companies
that operate from the Zambian side.
||Unless you want to try the `minus' rapids (for
which you have to walk upstream under the falls), the most difficult
rapids start at 4, with 4, 5 and 6 all IV+. At around 600m number
7 is the longest rapid on this section and the difficult move
at the top makes this the hardest of the rafted rapids. I'd
give it a V because of this. Then 8 is again IV+ before you
reach `Commercial Suicide', number 9. This is most definitely
V+, with a difficult right to left cut across the top of a monster
hole after you've almost certainly been trashed in the entry
drop. Luckily you can follow the rafts along an easy portage
river right (at least at low water, at high water you have to
run it). Number 10 is easy, hardly worth naming, before the
rafts stop for lunch. After lunch, number 11 is again IV+, a
good trashing could easily be taken in this one, but it is the
last of the tricky rapids. The rest is grade IV with a couple
of III's thrown in. 12b has a truly massive surf wave that has
to be seen to be believed and the are a few easily visible holes
to trap the unwary before number 18, where most of the rafts
deliberately flip. Kayakers can easily skirt the hole or drop
in for a sound trashing.
Most of the photoboaters and safety kayakers
who run this regularly use play boats. There are a lot of
supersports and 270s plus a sprinkling of Kendo, Fury, Topo,
We flew charter (Caledonian Air) from London to Jo'burg for
300 pounds and then overlanded up to Victoria Falls via Bulawayo.
This takes about 1.5 days, but better schedule at least 2.
Transport cost around 40$US each way, we took a bus to Bulawayo
and then an overnight train (very colonial) to Vic Falls.
Costs in country are minimal, rafting will set you back around
95$US, it's about the same for kayaking.