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Rafting the Batoka Gorge, Zambezi River

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Posted by JohnBerry on March 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Commercial rafting first commenced on the Zambezi River in 1981 and since then this activity has grown in popularity.

Every year, approximately 50 000 people enjoy white water rafting on the Zambezi on a stretch of water that is now internationally acclaimed as the best white water rafting trip available in the world.

Features of the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls

  • The Zambezi River is classified as a high volume; pool-drop river i.e. there is little exposed rock either in the rapids or the pools below the rapids.

  • The distance between rapids varies from 100 metres to 2 kms.

  • The Batoka Gorge itself is approximately 120m deep at the put-in point and 230m at the take out point.

  • The river drops about 120m over the 24 km covered in the one-day raft trip and the depth of the river can reach 200 ft.

  • The British Canoe Union has classified the river Grade 5 – “extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas”.

  • Nearly half of the rapids negotiated are Grade 5. (Grade 6 is un-runnable – rapid Number 9, “Commercial suicide” is a grade 6 rapid and we porter around this rapid).

Wildlife in the Batoka Gorge

  • Wildlife in the gorge is not abundant – it’s too steep. On occasion klipspringer, rock hyrax, vervet monkeys and baboon are spotted.

  • The birdlife is far more spectacular. Black eagle, augur buzzard, black stork, pied and giant kingfisher and red winged starling are some of the birds normally seen during the trips and sightings of the very rare Taita Falcon are  uncommon.

  • There are crocodile in the river, but they’re small and not a threat – this wild stretch of the Zambezi River is an unsuitable habitat.

Experience and Fitness for a Rafting trip

  • No previous rafting experience is required and clients need not be proficient swimmers.

  • At the beginning and at the end of the raft trip clients have to negotiate a steep path in and out of the Gorge.

  • The walk out is 230 vertical metres up a gradient of 1 in 3, and a person of average fitness can manage this in about 20 minutes.

Whitewater rafting age restrictions

  • The minimum age is 15 years. Children under 15 years may participate subject to consultation between parents and trip leader, whose decision is final.

  • The maximum age limit is dependent on the individual’s general state of health and physical fitness.

Rafts and Equipment

  • Operators us some of the finest equipment on the market to ensure that the trip is a safe and enjoyable one. Rafts  are the tried and tested river rafts required for the Zambezi River.

  • America’s Cup high flotation life jackets and Protec safety helmets are issued to clients before the day’s rafting.

  • Wet suits are provided and usually used by clients during the colder months (June/July).

  • All camping equipment, tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, dry bags, etc. is supplied on our multi-day trips and expeditions.

  • Clients need to bring good humour, shorts, T-shirts, costume, shoes, cap, sunglasses, sunscreen and toiletries.  Warm clothing is suggested on the winter-time multi-day expeditions.

Guides and Safety

  • Guides are fully trained professionals and all hold valid advanced first aid certificates.

  • Whilst every precaution is taken, it is essential that clients are fully aware that there is a risk of injury associated with the activity of rafting on the Zambezi.

  • A comprehensive first aid kit and skid stretcher are carried on each trip.

  • Each client is required to sign a White Water Rafting indemnity form prior to departure.

  • Each trip leader is in radio contact with our bases in Victoria Falls and Livingstone and direct with M.A.R.S. (Medical Air Rescue Service).

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