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The Wild Horizons’ Sunset Cruise- A photo diary

I recently had the opportunity to partake in a Wild Horizons’ Sunset cruise. The cruises depart daily from a jetty on the banks of the wide and calm upper Zambezi above the Victoria Falls. The river here is so broad it splits onto three channels and it’s calm belies the thundering spectacle mere kilometres downstream. At this time of year the spray from the falls is a mere smudge on the horizon and the roar of the falls registers as a background vibration from a distance. The scene couldn’t be calmer. Pods of hippos, graceful dragonflies, cormorants, darters, splashing kingfishers, and gliding crocodiles grace the calm waters. As we take off from the jetty engines purring there’s nothing to do but relax and take in the beauty that surrounds- an experience better conveyed through images from the day, enjoy!

7 Wonders of Victoria Falls: #5 A Cultural Experience

Zimbabwe’s hospitality & culture are legendary and sadly something many visitors miss experiencing. Adventure activities and wildlife watching are complimented greatly by meeting the country’s people and experiencing their culture.

There are opportunities to give back to those less fortunate in Zimbabwe.  A humbling and eye-opening experience that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference while also encouraging a feeling of appreciation in those of us who have the time and money available to go on holiday. Whether you  pay for an experience such as a village visit, choose to make a donation to a charity or simply spend time in one of Zimbabwe’s craft or food markets ensure you are also taking the time to stop and talk to  Zimbabweans and find out about their lives, you won’t regret it.

  • Cultural tourism in Zimbabwe is generally a very inexpensive option with costs often simply covering the expenses
  • The proceeds from Cultural Tourism have a direct positive effect on the communities visited.
  • These activities are fantastic learning experiences for both young and old making them a great option for families.  During any of these, your children will likely get to meet and interact with local children while learning about their culture.

Some options on offer in Victoria Falls include:

A rural village tour: You get to visit rural homes, watch fields being tended and possibly get the chance to help in some of the day-to-day chores. Guests are able to gain an insight into Zimbabwean rural life and to see how vastly different it is from life in town- most rural Zimbabweans still practise subsistence farming, few have access to electricity or running water and life is at a far slower pace.

A township tour: The majority of people in Victoria Falls live in the Chinotimba township, which has a population of approximately 60 000 people. During this tour, guests will have an opportunity to observe township-life – from the oldest houses to the taverns, the local market and churches. During a visit to the Chinotimba Primary School clients are introduced to the school headmaster – he or someone assigned, will take the guests on a tour of the school.

A home hosted meal: The concept is a simple one; your host cooks and shares a traditional meal with you, at his or her place… I did this and you can read about my experience on a home hosted dinner here. It was a delightful evening and an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting Zimbabwe. The experience is so genuine. You have an interaction that is deceptively simple, yet somehow meaningful; the sharing of a meal.

The Pay it forward Experience’ This is an experience where guests can really give back to the community, and enjoy a fun, challenging exploration of the markets and town of Victoria Falls. You choose an organization you would like to support from a list and are then given a “wish list” from the chosen charity. You then go on a mission to source the items before delivering them to your chosen charity and meeting the people benefiting from your donation.

* On these experiences guests are welcome to bring along second-hand clothing and footwear, stationery such as exercise books, crayons, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, erasers etc as a donation should they wish to. These items can be invaluable in rural or disadvantaged schools and communities.

The Wild Horizons Birding Report- September

We have recently had some great sightings of migratory species returning to the Zambezi Region for the summer. We are so lucky to get to see these beautiful birds and we thought the best way to share our luck with you was to compile an album of the birds we have seen this week alone! Thank you to Jeremiah Bondera, captain of The Zambezi Royal and keen birder for compiling this list! Without further ado:

Long Crested Eagle Long Crested EagleBlack Crowned Night Heron Black Crowned Night Heron

Hooded Vulture Hooded Vulture

Black Winged Stilt Black Winged Stilt

Yellow Billed Stork Yellow Billed Stork

Yellow Billed Kite Yellow Billed Kite

7 Wonders of Victoria Falls: #2 Raft the Mighty Zambezi!

The one-day low water trip is considered to be the best one-day white water experience available in the world.

This will be one of those days that you will remember for the rest of your life. The intensity of rafting varies due to the fluctuating levels of water plunging through the gorges. On the whole, lower water levels means higher thrill levels and more rapids. As the water level drops, so the river follows the contours of the river bed more closely and the white water starts to really boil and crash through the gorge. Low water is generally from about August through to late December. However Rafting these grade of rapids at any time of the year is a thrilling experience and definitely not to be missed. It can also be a physically taxing activity so ensure you are prepared by eating before hand and taking the long walk out at the end slowly; take as many breaks as you need.

Right now Wild Horizons is offering a fantastic Low Water special.

‘White Water Madness’
Insanely Low Price- A full day of White Water Rafting with Wild Horizons for US$120 p/p

*excludes US$10 p/p River usage fee. *Valid for 2015

Why Travel with us?

Wild Horizons offers one-day rafting trips and take their safety seriously:

  • Wild Horizons is the largest rafting operator in Victoria Falls, carrying the highest number of guests and to go with this they have an exemplary safety record.
  • Each trip runs with a guide per boat and a trip leader for the group of boats. Each Trip Leader has 18 years or more of experience rafting. 18 years! That’s an amazing amount of experience and all of the guides under him have at least 6 years of rafting experience, basically all this adds up to you being in the best of care with guides who know how to have fun and keep you safe!
  • Wild Horizons offers a hearty and healthy meal, as well as a great selection of cold drinks at the top of the gorge something you’ll appreciate after a day of rafting and the admittedly tough walk out at the end. Sit back enjoy the meal and enjoy the massive sense of accomplishment after the adrenaline high of rafting the mighty Zambezi.

Email info@wildhorizons.co.zw to book or visit the website to book.

What to Bring:

  • Swimsuit and shorts but nothing that water will suck away
  • A way to secure glasses to yourself or they will be lost
  • T-shirt or long-sleeved shirt for sun protection
  • Sunscreen and lip balm (guides will have dry bag for this)
  • Sturdy shoes or sandals. Your shoes must be securely fitted to your feet (ie no flip-flops) or they will be lost!
  • A sense of Adventure and the desire for fun!

See our previous posts on the 7 Wonders of Victoria Falls #1 Seeing the Falls & #2 A Highwire Activity

Family Friendly Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is a great family friendly destination. However with a full gamut of activity options it can be overwhelming to plan your trip. To make it easier we have rounded up some of the best activities for families. Of course, every family is different; if you have any questions or need advice feel free to contact us, we are happy to help.

Although it can seem like Victoria Falls only offers adrenaline based activities there is actually far more to do and see here- and some pretty exciting options are safe and friendly for even young children. The town also offers a convenient ‘home base’ from which many exciting activities are easily accessible whilst you have comfort and convenience.

Activities:

A Cultural Tour is a great way to expose your children to different cultures and ways of life whilst still having fun. You can choose from many different options- such as a rural village tour, a township tour or a home-hosted meal. In any of these your children will likely get to meet and interact with local children while learning about their culture. Check out some cultural tours here or you can read about my experience on a home hosted dinner here.

The Boma Experience is a fantastic night out for children and adults alike. With a huge buffet that includes local delicacies and Western fare everyone will find something they like. And the evening will be filled with entertainment from traditional dancers to a local story teller and a fortune teller. After dinner, you can join in the drumming lesson- something your children will love.

KIDS IN VIC FALLS - BOMA

A Zambezi Sunset Boat Cruise is a must do and a fantastic family activity. Cruises last on average 2 hours which is just right- not too long for kids. The boat will leave the jetty and meander through upstream through islands, while you enjoy the views and potential bird and wildlife along the banks. Most vessels serve snacks and beverages. Have your camera ready to capture one of the most amazing sunsets in Africa.

Tip: Ensure that you book the right cruise for you- some larger boats have a party atmosphere, others are smaller with an emphasis on relaxation. We recommend The Zambezi Royal. There is no minimum age on this cruise and children pay 50%.

Wild Horizons Boat Shoot_15

There are also some activities you may not have expected would make the ‘family friendly list’ but I recommend many of the highwire activities for a safe thrill. My favourite for families is The Canopy Tour which lasts between 2 to 2 and a half hours. Depending on their age and size children can be harnessed in with their parents or go alone. The Tour consists of 9 different slides, varying in length and 1 cable bridge. Friendly and experienced staff will give a detailed safety briefing before the canopy tour and there are two guides on each tour so you will feel comfortable before you depart.  It offers amazing views of the turbulent rapids, the Victoria Falls Bridge and spray of the Falls.

WH CANOPY TOUR12

Of course, while you are here you will want to visit the Victoria Falls! Victoria Falls itself is a fantastic activity for older children in particular (10+). The safety precautions around the edge of the Falls are limited; older children will appreciate the beauty of the Falls whilst being able to also stay away from the canyon edge. For children small enough to be carried you should also be fine although be prepared to walk for a distance.

  • Can be a long walk for very small kids so be prepared with a stroller or baby carrier.
  • Safety precautions are scant along the edge so it’s important to keep you children close if they are young or to arrange for a half day of babysitting whilst you view the Falls.

Text by Sarah Kerr

Multi-Day Whitewater Rafting: A Surreal Adventure Experience!

The Zambezi River, which borders Zimbabwe and Zambia, is widely acclaimed as offering the world’s best white-water rafting run in the world. With a large number of its turbulent rapids which occur in the Batoka Gorge (below the Victoria Falls) achieving a high ‘Grade-5’ status or higher, adventure enthusiasts revere its reputation across the globe. Even the rapid names are enough to get the adrenalin pumping – from “Stairway to Heaven”(Rapid no.5), to “The Gnashing Jaws Of Death” (Rapid no.10), and “The Overland Truck Eater” (Rapid no.11).

A ‘Grade-5’, or ‘Class 5’ rapid, as outlined by the International Scale of River Difficulty, is the grade given to the most dangerous and difficult rapids that are commercially passable by raft or kayak. ‘Grade 6’ rapids are not commercially passable, and only the most experienced of rafters/kayakers attempt this scale of rapid at extremely high risk. An example of a ‘Grade 6’ rapid on the Zambezi is the infamous Rapid no.9 – “Commercial Suicide”.

Whilst the Wild Horizons one-day rafting trip is by far the most popular with tourists and adventurers who usually have limited time in Victoria Falls town – there is one relatively unknown, yet a breathtakingly beautiful product that is also on offer from Wild Horizons for the more adventurous thrill seeker and explorer: Multi-day Rafting. Over the last thirty years, adventurers the world over have been seeking the challenge and serenity that this famous five-day long Zambezi white water rafting quest provides. These days, adventure-seekers may choose between a two-night, two-day trip, or for the more enduring, a four-night, five-day trip.

Multi-day rafting guests start off with the standard one-day trip, which either starts at rapid no. 11 (during high water) or rapid no. 1 during the low water season. It should be noted that multi-day rafting trips only operate during low water rafting (usually around mid-September to mid-December). Low water rafting starts at “The Boiling Pot”, right below the magnificent Victoria Falls. The view of the Falls from down here, just beneath it, is truly unforgettable. You’ll know you won’t forget it when you feel the immense changes in air pressure, and water vapour erratically bursting through the canyons; obscuring your view of the 3,000 tons of water that fall out of the Zambezi River into the boiling pot every second. The thundering roar is deafening, and it reverberates loudly in the chest cavity! It is truly one of the most humbling, magnificent and powerful spots on Earth.

The gorge is over 100 meters deep at the Falls and slowly increases to over 200 meters by the end of a full day rafting trip. The glistening basalt rock walls form a series of sharp hairpin bends, which meander some 120km down the course of the Zambezi River, thus bestowing a beautiful gift from Mother Nature – the course for the world’s best white water rafting!

Rapids are interceded by calm stretches of crystal clear water, where you can take a break from the adrenaline, relax and marvel at the spectacular gorges – thick with vegetation. At the end of the first day of the 120km journey, multi-day rafters bid farewell to the single-day companions that they have made on the river, and set up camp for the night on the white sandy beach below rapid number 21.

 

Late afternoon at the beach-camp sees some casual beach volleyball, cold beers, and the opportunity to throw out a line and catch some bonus bar snacks before dinner. A significant drop in temperature is felt as the shadows of the gorge encroach rapidly up the river and onto the beach as the sun sinks behind the lips of the basalt cliffs high above. After nightfall, a beach bonfire provides warmth and visual entertainment (affectionately known as “Bush TV”) to guests as they settle into their first night of camping in the belly of the beautiful Batoka Gorge. A dinner table is set under the luminous corridor of stars above, and after a hearty stew or braai, guests are sure to get a good night’s sleep in the tents and sleeping bags provided; snoring to the watery lullaby of the rapids!

 

On day-two, the beautiful cycle of adventure, adrenalin, endurance, and river exploration repeats itself once again. The first big rapid of the day – “Morning Shave” (no.23), is the perfect wake-up call! On center-left of the rapid, there is an easy wave train to wet you down. “Closed Season” (rapid no. 25) is the last of the numbered rapids, the rest are now referred to by name only. “Closed Season” is closely followed by “Open Season” – one of the biggest rapids on the Zambezi, and pure Grade Five fun! There is a large hole on the river-left and some rocks towards the middle of the run. 

 

 

From here on in, the gradient of the river starts to level out, and rapids become further interspersed. This is not to say, though, that they get any tamer – as “Ghostrider” – the biggest and best rapid on the Zambezi River, is still to come on Day 3! Towards the end of day 2, guests will raft through the Narrows 1, 2, 3 & 4 – the fourth comprising of a technical rock garden, featuring “Beer Eddy”, whereby as the name suggests, if your guide goes into the eddy, the first round of post-trip drinks will be on him/her!

After a second night of camping under the stars below the Moemba Falls, the start of day three brings the infamous “Ghostrider”. Known only by the exclusive few that have ventured this far; this is Class Five, big water at its best! Three enormous waves, with drops that make rafts disappear; only to re-appear on top of the next wave – this is the biggest, and best commercially runnable rapid that the Mighty Zambezi has to offer. Wild Horizons ensures that only the most seasoned of river guides lead guests through this one. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practised rescue drills are essential. Still, for a true adventure seeker, this rapid is worth the journey!

Day-three, and “Ghostrider” sees-out the last of the higher-grade rapids as the gradient of the river continues to level out in anticipation of the Matetsi River mouth, and the start of Lake Kariba’s Western basin.

Multiple smaller rapids frequent the rest of the course for the last two days, providing much-needed relief to those who have ventured thus far. All of a sudden one finds themselves immersed deep inside the heart of the Zambezi. Serene beauty in a unique wilderness that is far, far away from the tourism-fuelled hustle and bustle of Victoria Falls town. The sense of being so far down river, so far removed from civilisation, and so deeply swallowed by mother nature herself – is something which simply has to be felt to be described. Sheer rock walls arise hundreds of meters above the river and the roar of the rapids resound up the narrow canyons. It is here where one may catch a glimpse of the highly endangered Taita Falcon as its soars above you. Vertical walls give way to wider valleys at times, and white sandy beaches dazzle in the sunshine. This is the lower Batoka Gorge at it’s best!

On the morning of the fifth day, all that remains is a relatively smooth two-hour paddle down to the mouth of the Matetsi, where the gorges that have been strictly hugging the river start to give way to the beginnings of Lake Kariba, yet another dimension of this magnificent river’s character. At this point a truck awaits, and after packing up and loading all the rafts and camping equipment, guests are transported the 180km journey back to Victoria Falls town; stopping for lunch and refreshments on the Deka Bridge on the way home.

A multi-day rafting trip is one of the best ways to connect with the spirit of the Zambezi, and truly experience a journey that is both self-challenging and spectacularly beautiful. Wild Horizons operates multi-day rafting trips for groups of 4 or more at a cost of USD$545 per person for the 2-day/2-night, and USD$1,132 per person for the 5 days. Rafting the mighty Zambezi, even if just the thrill of experiencing the one-day run – is an unforgettable experience and should definitely be on your bucket list! Contact Wild Horizons for more information (www.wildhorizons.co.za)

 

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