Canopy Tour – Spectacular views make for great photo opportunities.
Over the course of our lives, human beings are taught a series of lessons aimed at keeping us safe and out of harm’s way. Don’t run with scissors, don’t talk to strangers, and most certainly do not throw yourself off a wooden platform perched on the edge of a cavernous gorge. It seems like useful enough advice. However, every year thousands of Adrenalin junkies break free from the chains of reason and allow their bodies to be swallowed whole by masses of African air as they plummet towards the rapids of the mighty Zambezi. The expert guides at Wild Horizons facilitate an experience of exhilaration with a level of professionalism and enthusiasm that has jumpers bouncing back for more.
Wild Horizon’s high wire activities are nestled between the jaws of the Batoka gorge. The open, natural design of the Lookout Café allows it to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding environment, and offers a unique 360 degree view of the excitement and beauty that unfolds there everyday. With the flying fox and canopy tour to the right, the zip line and gorge swing to the left and the luminous rafts plunging through the rapids below, even those sitting and sipping a cocktail in the café feel included in the adventure. The sheer extravagance of this natural wonder can be overwhelming even to those who have seen it one hundred times before. To help you navigate this landscape and decide which activity best suits you, we have put together a High Wire Hand Book.
The Canopy Tour
The canopy tour consists of a series of short zip lines that zig zag between the vegetation spilling from the rock face. This is an ideal activity for anyone who will appreciate the time to drink in an exclusive view of the scenery. Accompanied by a trained guide and occasionally a curious baboon, it is impossible not to have a smile stretched across your face as you whiz from one platform to the next.
Canopy Tour – Each slide gives you more confidence…
The Flying Fox
It is not often in life that we can transform fantasy into reality, and anyone with the slightest sense of adventure has fantasized about flying. Strap on your GoPro, fasten that harness, kick off your shoes and you are just a short run away from flying with this next activity. The harness is designed to attach to your back, so that the moment your feet lose contact with the wooden platform, you are tilted and lifted into superman position (but with a view far more exquisite than he would have had). Stretch your arms out, with nothing to grasp but the cool wisps of wind as you sweep across the sky.
The Flying Fox
The Zip Line
Anyone out there with a need for speed, this is the activity for you. Our zipline is the longest in the world, extending 425 meters across the gorge, suspended 120 meters over the rushing rapids and travelling around 106 kilometres per hour. There is the option of taking/dragging a friend along for the ride, or sailing solo. Ignoring the frantic voice in your head, you will sit on the edge of the platform and get your first full look at the adventure that awaits you. Slowly, you will inch off the ledge until you are dangling above this incredible spectacle. Point your toes, make sure your eyes are open and feel your body shoot forward into the beautiful abyss.
The Tandem ZipLine
The Gorge Swing
The most important thing to know about the gorge swing, is that the scariest moments are the ones leading up to the jump- when you hook a trembling arm through the harness, take those tentative steps to the edge of the platform and peer down the steep drop below. This is the part your brain kicks into high alert. Tremors will shoot down your spine and every cell in your body will tingle in anticipation. However, the second you step into the African atmosphere the wind whips all the fear and doubt right off you. When there is nothing pulling you down but the force of gravity, your heart is in your throat and the only sounds your own screams of thrill, you will finally understand why so many people are addicted to this feeling. The drop may only last three seconds, but the memory lasts a lifetime. Perhaps it is the perceived danger of the jump, or the incomprehensibility of what you have accomplished, but during the swing at the bottom, you will feel more alive than on the day you were born.
The Gorge Swing
Of course, there is an opportunity for creativity with this activity. For increased incredulity, some people prefer to do the jump backwards. For the extremely daring, there is a hand stand option. The choice is yours, and our experienced guides will be with you every step of the way to ensure that no matter which way you jump, you are 100% safe.
This section of Victoria Falls is where Africa really shows off, and whether you choose to do an activity or not, this is a corner of the world worth seeing. Written by Jess White
We met our guides Michael and Bright at The Lookout Café. The venue is spectacular and the views give you a tantalizing taste of what’s to come. Our guides kitted us each with full body harness, pulley and safety helmet and there was plenty of laughter about the flattering fit of the harnesses!
We then walked a short distance to the first slide on the Victoria Falls Canopy Tour and our guides demonstrated how to slide on the cables and the safety procedures.
The Victoria Falls Canopy Tour offers everyone an exhilarating opportunity to soar through the rain forest in the Batoka Gorge with spectacular views of the mighty Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls Bridge. It is an unforgettable adventure as you slide from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables set amongst magnificent natural surroundings.
You are in another world from the moment you step off the first platform and slide through the tree-tops… there’s simply nothing to prepare you for the magnificence of the view across the gorge you glimpse as you first whizz across it. As you continue on the tour it appears that each slide offers something more and you can feel the groups’ confidence build.
At first some of us were very unsure and there was much nervous giggling but by the third slide whoops of sheer delight were reverberating through the gorge. We soon realize that with the combination of the safety line and the knowledge and expertise of Michael and Bright who are calm, confident and encouraging, we were totally safe.
All groups are escorted by a lead guide and safety guide at all times. The guides are friendly, professional and reassuring. Your safety is paramount and Wild Horizons have strict procedures in place to ensure that you are constantly connected to either the cable or the platform.
The scenery high up within the forest canopy is spectacular. We enjoyed spotting birdlife amongst the surrounding trees and canyon walls and were lucky enough to have a Verreaux’s eagle soaring above us and periodically landing in trees on the canyon wall to watch us inquisitively. I can only imagine he thought we were learning to fly! Each tour lasts between 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how many people are in your group and the speed you choose to go. We had a much-needed cold drink as we walked out of the gorge still smiling from the adventure.
Next up was the Flying Fox. We were re-harnessed so that we were suspended from our backs. The Flying Fox consists of a cable over the width of the gorge and with the harness facing down you literally ‘fly’ through the air over the turmoil of the Zambezi below. With our confidence soaring from the Canopy Tour we all stepped off into the abyss. The view is unbelievable!
Similarly to the Canopy Tours escalation of excitement and adrenaline, so the order we did the other activities in scaled up in order of excitement. Accordingly we moved on to the Zip Line- this is an activity we chose to do in tandem. Our harnesses were re-adjusted and we were seated for the activity. The platform it leaves from offers an exciting view of what you are about to embark upon- a very steep descent that has you travelling at up to 105 km an hour whilst travelling across the gorge with the Zambezi below.
My friend perfectly described the feeling of hurtling downwards and across the gorge as a ‘rush of joy’!
The final and most adrenalin inducing activity is the Gorge Swing. Not for the faint of heart this includes a whopping 70 metre free-fall before you are ‘caught’ by the harness and begin swinging across the gorge. This is an incredible experience as you swing in a huge arc with the Zambezi churning below you. It’s impossible not to appreciate the feeling of hanging over the mighty Zambezi by a cord!
And suddenly we were done! Buoyed up by adrenaline and the indescribable feeling of feeling more alive we headed back to the Lookout Café for a celebratory beer. We were all thrilled at the end of a great day and the shared memories we had created.
- Wear comfortable clothing and closed-toe footwear. Open sandals are not suitable as they will simply fall off. Wear shorts or long pants and not a skirt as you will be in a harness. Running shoes are perfect and strap-on sandals will do.
- Take an easy to use camera with a strap that can attach around your neck or to your hand. There are plenty of great photo opportunities!
- The Canopy Tour experience is an excellent corporate and team building event.
- There is a safe box at The Lookout Café where you can leave your belongings and any valuables- however I suggest packing lightly.
A High-wire Activity is an adrenaline rush and a must do when visiting Victoria Falls.
There is a range of activities from the family friendly and exciting Canopy Tour to the extreme gorge swing for those who are more adventurous. Wherever you fall on the adrenaline scale try something new and you won’t regret the memories you make.
There are 4 levels of Activity:
The Canopy Tour: The gentlest of the high-wire activities. This exciting and scenic activity offers amazing views of the turbulent rapids, the Victoria Falls Bridge and the spray of the Falls. This unique experience is suitable for families or groups who will be able to enjoy the activity together. Adventure seekers of all ages can partake. Observe the riverine forest from a variety of vantage points – from above, below and within the canopy itself. Experience forest bird-life, which can include the Black Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Knysna and Purple-crested Turaco (Lourie).
Flying Fox: You get clipped into a harness that is attached to a pulley which then glides along an almost horizontal cable across the gorge, 125m above the canyon floor. This gives you the sensation of flying. It looks tame in comparison to the Zip Line and Gorge swing, but this is still a thrilling experience.
The Zip Line: This is similar to the Flying Fox but here the cable is not horizontal it is at a steep angle so once you let go you accelerate down-hill at speeds of over 100km/h. It is extremely exhilarating and can be done singly or in tandem. It is twice the distance as the flying fox.
Gorge Swing: Leave your stomach behind, this is only for the totally insane. Your harness is attached to a rope, the rope is attached to the middle of a cable that runs across the full width of the gorge.
Once you are all set, you stand on a platform on the edge of a sheer 120m cliff, say a quick prayer and jump off – how crazy is that? You jump off and free-fall for about 70m straight towards the river below, then as the rope becomes taut you start to swing away from the ravine you were hurtling towards, fractions of a second ago. You then swing in a gentle arc giving you time to appreciate both the beauty of the scenery and the adrenaline rush.
Wild Horizons is a multi-faceted tour company that provides a large array of activities, operates out of multiple locations, has a huge fleet of vehicles, 2 luxury bush camps, employs over 400 people and operates at full tilt, 24/7. So you can imagine, that as a new employee arriving on day one of the job, the introduction is both hugely exciting and somewhat overwhelming. For my first blog post, I thought I would recount what my first couple of weeks in the Wild Horizons marketing department has been like!
One of the things that struck me first and foremost was the friendliness of absolutely everyone. From the gate-guards to the mechanics, to the camp managers and the directors – I was instantly made to feel welcome. I started off with a tour of the main HQ in the industrial sites of Victoria Falls, the size of which blew me away. Four large wings of offices surrounding a big courtyard with lush green buffalo lawn and teeming flower beds around the sides. A large workshop at the back and ample room to park the large fleet of vehicles and luxury transfer busses. My tour of the HQ was accompanied by mass introductions to all the staff in every department – around 100 people in total would be my guess. I admitted to myself that it would be pointless to stress too much about everyone’s names as I would never remember them first time round. No doubt I would pick them up one by one as I deal with each department in due course.
One of my first tasks is to join the marketing team in coming up with a marketing campaign for one of Wild Horizons’ many products – the Vic Falls CanopyTour – the newest of 4 products which Wild Horizons offers from its jump site – “The Lookout”.
The Lookout (#wildhorizonslookout) is a thatched deck structure, which is perched right on the lip of the Batoka Gorge, just downstream of the Vic Falls Bridge on the Zimbabwean side. It has a spectacular view of the bridge and sits overlooking the first ‘bend’ in the zig-zagging gorge which occurs below the Victoria Falls. There is even a tame wild goat called Dixon who hangs out there like all the time!
The other 3 products which operate from The Lookout are the ‘Flying Fox’ – a foofie slide which extends across the width of the entire gorge; the ‘Gorge Swing’, which is a death-defying free-fall off a platform into the gorge attached to a rope, which then ‘swings’ you as you reach the bottom; and the ‘zip-line’ – which is a dual-cabled foofie slide that makes a rather steep downward parabola, but without quite putting you into freefall. Finally, the Vic Falls Canopy Tour is a series of 9 shorter, low-speed cable-slides that crisscross the inside of the first bend of the gorge (below the Victoria Falls Hotel) where the vegetation is thick and very jungle like – with vines and steep drops galore. It offers a very mild adrenaline rush and is the perfect ‘in-between’ activity for those who can’t quite bring themselves to do the more intense adrenalin activities such as the gorge swing, whitewater rafting or the bungee jump.
So off I go with a group of paying clients on the Vic Falls Canopy Tour. We harness up and set off on a path down the side of the gorge, and it’s not far before we get to slide no.1. The guide hooks our safety lines up to a safety rope that runs along the entirety of the course – all the walkways, bridges and even on the actual foofie slides where is a second steel safety cable which we are attached to whilst sliding. My first impression is that the safety is being taken very seriously.
We step up onto a box/platform that overlooks a cliff and the guide hooks our main & safety lines to the respective cables, and upon hearing a whistle through the trees from another guide indicating that he is ready to receive us – we step off the platform and start whizzing down the slide. Now we have been given thick leather gloves for our hands, and we have been instructed to hold our harness line which connects us to the cable with our left hand, and then loosely hold the cable with our other hand, BEHIND the pulley. This allows for us to squeeze the cable with our hand to slow ourselves down when we start reaching the end of the slide. It took a few go’s to get the timing right, but before long I was timing my hand-braking perfectly and was landing gracefully on the box as is required for the guide to dismount you from the pulley and hook you back up to the ground safety line.
This carried on for 8 more slides of varying lengths and speeds, and I looked forward to each slide more than the last – the views were just spectacular and the ambience of being in the Batoka Gorge canopy, with the view of the bridge right in front of you, and the Zambezi roaring beneath you – was just incredible. A really great product indeed, and it even had really nice boarded walkways and rope bridges for the more difficult parts. So far, I’m thinking I love my job!