For Fun, Just Add Water (Low water vs High water rafting)
Richard Bangs once wrote that wild rivers are the earth’s renegades, defying gravity and dancing to their own tunes. Your first glimpse at the raging rapids that roll and churn down the Zambezi awaken the adventurer inside you, taunting you and seducing you. They beckon with their tremulous arms, teasing with their spurts of white water and daring you with their coiling waves.
The Zambezi is a moving, breathing part of the earth. It is the vein through which life flows and thrusts. Every stroke of your paddle takes you further than a vehicle on the road ever could. They say the first river you raft runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in you, the memories swirling like eddies in the pit of your stomach each time you remember it. The Zambezi morphs in shape and stature when the water levels drop or rise, yet each experience is exhilarating in its own way because life is simple- For fun, just add water.
When water levels drop, thrill levels soar. Between August and December, the river seems to be racing itself, plunging furiously between the lips of the gorge, cascading dramatically around very boulder and corner. It toys with the rafts with such precision, that every flip seems pre-meditated. During this time, expeditions begin at rapid number 1, the “Boiling Pot”. You take off from the white water rafting factory- the base of the Victoria Falls. The roar of the river diving down 100 meters of black basalt rock creates an ambience of adventure, purring at your inner adrenaline junkie. If you are after a heart racing, eye widening, and mind blowing rafting trip, then low water is what you need, and you have between August and December to get it.
During the high water seasons (January, February, March, May, June, July), gallons of water crash down the Victoria Falls, streaming into the thirsty gorge, and flooding the rocks and outcrops that form the rapids. When you dip your fingertips in to rippling water, you touch the last of what has gone before, and the first of what is still to come. At these times of the year, the river is more subdued, relaxing after a thunderous low water race. However, the sheer volume of water makes the first ten rapids unrunnable, and thus rafters will only tackle rapid 11 (The Over lander Eater) through to number 23 (The Morning Shave). As the water levels continue to creep higher and higher around March, rafters respectfully leave the Zambezi to her own devices, until they drop again around June.
The Zambezi was designed by the dare devil in Mother Nature, and there is no theme park in the world that could ever compete. Contrary to popular belief, the river is not one long, frothing rapid. The “Devils Toilet Bowl”, “The Stairway to Heaven” and “Mothers Revenge” (just to name a few) spring before you in short, dramatic bursts.
The stretch of water between them is gentle and smooth- the calm before the storm. They are just long enough to allow you to drink in the incredible scenery and let the sun soak up the water on your skin. The soft slosh of water against the rafts is accompanied by exhilarated shouts and laughs that bounce off the walls of the gorge, as euphoric rafters share their stories and psych up for the next roller coaster. Cruising down this channel of water feels like cruising through a postcard. The most experienced photo editor in the world couldn’t enhance the beauty of the looming gorge stretching to meet the brilliant blue sky. Paddling through an exquisite crevice in the earth, flanked by indigenous flora and passing by inquisitive fauna, is humbling and breath taking in the same moment.
The Zambezi Low Water Rafting Season is finally here! LOW WATER rafting commenced 3 August 2017. Take on the Zambezi with Wild Horizons and the finest crew on the river – Africa’s Greatest Adventures!
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.
Wild Horizons is introducing with immediate effect daily scheduled tours of the Victoria Falls; guided in both Spanish and French. These tours take place on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls. They aim to help our many foreign language guests to experience the mighty Victoria Falls and learn about it in their native tongue.
The Spanish and French language tours of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe are conducted daily throughout the year on a scheduled basis. En route, clients may be taken past the ‘Big Tree’, an impressive baobab, where they may stop and take photos. Clients will be accompanied through the Rainforest by one of our qualified Foreign Language Guides who will give a detailed history of the Falls as well as detailing the flora, fauna, bird & wildlife and other points of interest.
Guides are happy to assist clients with photographs whilst visiting. Raincoats are provided when needed.
The Victoria Falls – Now In Its 150 Millionth Fantastic Year – Reaches Its Zenith In About May each year. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience. The sight, the sound, the smell; the humbling feeling that here indeed is Nature’s Supreme Masterpiece. No photograph can begin to depict the reality… and nothing prepares you for your first sight.
- DEPART: Daily
- COSTS: No additional cost normal Tour of Falls rates apply
- DURATION: 2 hours
- DEPARTURE: 08h00 to 08h30 from hotels and B&B’s in Victoria Falls Town
- MINIMUM 1 MAXIMUM 20 pax per tour
- LANGUAGE: French or Spanish
- PLEASE NOTE: * Child Policies are available upon request
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!
A helicopter flight over the Victoria Falls offers an entirely new perspective on a truly special sight. It is only from the air that the scale and majesty of the zig zagging gorge carved by the progression of the Waterfall over millennia are apparent.
The flight over the waterfall is nicknamed ‘The Flight of Angels’- a phrase taken from what Davis Livingstone said upon seeing the Falls “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by Angels in Their Flight”.
As you take off you first follow the incredibly wide lazy path of the upper Zambezi- an entirely different character than when it spills over the waterfall’s chasm and crashes through the narrow gorge. Then you encounter the majestic spectacle of the Victoria Falls- the entire width apparent as you fly lazy figure eights giving everyone a chance to view the Falls and capture the rising spray and plumes of falling water. It truly is something that gives a sense of awe- and in the helicopter you glide in such a smooth way that it’s easy to forget what is propelling you. To me, it truly feels like a magic carpet ride.
If you are taking a 13-minute flight, your pilot will then fly you back upstream and return to the launchpad. If taking the longer 28-minute flight, you will continue down to the Batoka Gorge. This offers the opportunity to spot wildlife from the sky as you take in the beautiful scenery of the Batoka Gorge.
Flights take place every day (weather permitting) from dawn to sunset. For enquiries and bookings contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.http://wildhorizons.co.za/helicopter/#6 The ‘Flight of Angels’ Helicopter Ride