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Thread: Zambezi Rafting

  1. #1
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    Zambezi Rafting

    I know this is the kayak board, and this is a bit off topic, but this is probably the best place to post this.

    So, I'm going to Africa on my honeymoon, and it's been a dream to raft the Zambezi. My fiancee is convinced I'm going to get injured and is putting up some pretty fierce resistance (to the verge of tears thinking I'm going to die). I think she saw some article that claimed 30 people a year die rafting there.

    Anyone here rafted the Zambezi? Any advice on how to ease her fears? I'd prefer not to piss her off right away in the marriage. TIA.

  2. #2
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    Advice? Hmm, grow a pair first off or your marriage won't be too much fun.

    There are some gnar sections of the Zambezi, but they don't commercially raft that stuff. My sister's been down one of the sections if that tells you anything. I'd worry more about the political/safety situation in Zimbabwe if you happen to be staying in that country.

    It certainly is safer than a lot of rivers/creeks that people in this forum kayak on.

  3. #3
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    My wife and I did it in 2002. It was a blast.

    We heard horror stories, and they could very well be true. E.g., A friend of a friend allegedly got stuck underneath an underwater ledge for a couple minutes, etc. And somebody had allegedly drowned the day before.

    But, a lot of that is probably hyperbole, and I wouldn't let it dissuade you. Loads of people, old and young, do it. It's a great time.

    Also, if you are going to Zim, don't change your money at an official money changer. Do it on the black market. When we were there, the BM (and international) rate was about $300Z to $1US. Whereas the gov-imposed rate was $60Z to $1US. At the very least, I'd urge you to get some local advice before you change your money.

  4. #4
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    The Zambezi was where I went from being a marginal kayaker to a kayaker that charges. The whitewater from Victoria Falls to about 17 miles downstream is possibly the most fun - big water - whitewater I've experienced. The combination of huge flows, say 15,000cfs, hot water around 80 degrees, and pool and drop nature: significant drops, each typically followed by a mile of flatwater made a great place to learn. Pool and drop rapids are great because if you get bucked out in the rapid, you get picked up in the flatwater below compared to continuous whitewater.

    In comparison, the Futaleufu, Chile has similar sized rapids, but fewer overall, cold water and more continuous rapids, meaining the rapids are more gripping because of the consequences.

    When are you going? If it is during flood stage, you'll only get to run the lower rapids, say #13 to #23, whereas between August and November the flows are "low" and you'll get to raft from about rapid #4 through to #23.

    Obviously, whitewater is inherently dangerous just like skiing is and is on a similar scale of danger. The biggest factor on the Zambezi is the high flows. Typically, part of the fun of the Zambezi is each raft flips once or twice because they are aiming for the biggest holes and waves. But the guides are awesome and you can be in the pansy boat that stays upright if you want.

    I was in Victoria Falls in 2000 and was with a couple other people that decided to walk down the wrong dark alley to the Casino where we got mugged with two guys that had a knife. They didn't hurt me, but it was an intense night when one girl had her hand cut. I'd be more concerned to know what the political/economical situation is currently than be worried by the whitewater.

    The first half of this video is of a single rapid, #18. I watched a video of vertically flipping rafts my first season guiding in 1995. That's when I decided I had to go to the Zambezi one day.



    Here's a comparison with my trip on the Futaleufu. Notice the cold water gear and silty blue glaciated water:

    Last edited by Gerome; 03-27-2008 at 07:14 PM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks. That's kind of what I was looking for. Good to know it's drop and pool. I can at least use that as a way to try to calm her down a bit. I've rafted most of the bigger rivers in the U.S., and I'm not real worried about falling out. I've seen some vids, and I was mostly just curious what it's like. Those vids were awesome though. I'm going to imagine that's the Zambezi with some pretty high flows.

    We'll be there in Mid-September. Sounds like I'd get to run most of the rapids.

    Now, gotta figure out a way to convince the fiancee that I'm not going to die and leave her stranded in Africa. I've never seen her worry much, but it's pretty clear that the thought of me rafting this river is freaking her out.

    Here's the article that probably got her worked up. They cite 30 deaths a year, even though it sounds like most are probably from people falling out of canoes on the lower Zambezi. http://www.askmen.com/fashion/travel...l_top_ten.html
    Last edited by Dean Youngblood; 03-27-2008 at 10:17 PM.

  6. #6
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    In case you didn't see, right inside that link you posted it says this about the Zambezi-

    Death toll: About 30 per year (mainly from crocodiles).

    So brah, the whitewater is fine, tell your girly you'll probably just get eaten by a croc instead.

  7. #7
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    Haha, yes I saw that. I'm not sure I can convince her of the disconnect considering it's in an article about the rafting.

    I think getting eaten by a croc would be a better way to go out than drowning. I'd at least make the papers back home.

  8. #8
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    the wicked liquid video is on the Zambezi ...great carnage especialy when the raft folds up

  9. #9
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    I saw two crocodiles in the whitewater section. Both maybe 2 feet long max. I think it's the hippos and crocs lower down more than flush drowning. Hippos cause the most deaths by animal in Africa.

    Heh, that's a great top 10 list. Running of the Bulls was rad, and not as bad as I thought, only 15 deaths since 1924. I bet there are more deaths caused by tourists jumping from water fountains expecting to be caught by the crowds.
    I wanted to do Baja 1000 with an old car, but was a poor college student that didn't have the resources to add a roll cage, fuel cell, helmet and fireproof suit.

  10. #10
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    My parents went to Africa in '99 or so; their friends bailed at the last minute - scared about disease and other 3rd world associated things - nonrefundable tickets means that me and my bro went instead.

    We ran the Zambezi with the standard tour group. Our guides were former mercenaries from the Angolan war (ours was nicknamed "AK"). Not much in the way of safety precautions - they just wanted to make sure that we could swim. We did rapids (I think) 4-22 or so. We walked around one class 6, but ran a bunch of 4s and 5s and had the option of doing a 5+ but took the easier 4+ option instead (I know nothing about rafting... this is a 10 year old memory, so forgive me if my numbers are off).

    It was lots of fun. The raft completely flipped over about twice and went vertical once, dumping everyone into the water. If you are a good swimmer it will be fine. I was a lifeguard at the time and while there were some water-swallowing moments after getting dumped, it was nothing too bad.

    My mother (50's at the time) was not a good swimmer. She should not have been on the trip, and probably came a little too close to drowning at one point. If you're comfortable in the water, a strongish swimmer, and not an idiot - you'll be fine. If you're a 50 year old woman who can swim, but is not the greatest fan of swimming I'd recommend you stay on the land.
    My dog did not bite your dog, your dog bit first, and I don't have a dog.

  11. #11
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    Watch out for the Hippos, they're pretty bitchy.


  12. #12
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    bump.i've been to niagara falls and it was nice i guess but the surroundings were super tacky and i was glad the whole thing only cost me $10 in parking. i'm gonna be in johannesburg in october and vic falls wasn't really on my radar until i found out about the zambezi rafting, which at least from the perspective of someone who doesn't whitewater, looks pretty cool. but how cool is it, is it $200 in extra airfare and $100 in visas cool?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by grapedrink View Post
    bump.i've been to niagara falls and it was nice i guess but the surroundings were super tacky and i was glad the whole thing only cost me $10 in parking. i'm gonna be in johannesburg in october and vic falls wasn't really on my radar until i found out about the zambezi rafting, which at least from the perspective of someone who doesn't whitewater, looks pretty cool. but how cool is it, is it $200 in extra airfare and $100 in visas cool?
    For me, especially if I was already in Africa, $300 to get to the Zambezi would be a no brainer slam dunk. It has occupied my dreams for a while now and I would fucking love to see it.

    That's all I have.
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  14. #14
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    Vic Falls is pretty sweet. It's facking HUGE compared to Niagra. 2x the height and 2x the width.

    If you have the cash it's worth the side trip. I was there in 98 before things got too sketchy. Zimbabwe was safe, I actually got mugged in Jo-burg.

    I bungee jumped off the bridge, that was pretty cool. Never did raft. One of the guys I travelled with did a day of rafting. I split to head down to SA to see a world cup mountain bike race.

  15. #15
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    nice, will definitely check it out then!

  16. #16
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    If I were there, I'd pay to hop on the Zambezi. Even if I didn't have a hardshell boat to paddle, I'd pay to sit in a raft and get my ass handed to me over and over again. You can die an old man telling people you went down the Zambezi.

  17. #17
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    back. rafting was awesome. went with safpar our of livingstone, really professional op, 12 hour day. flipped 3 times, was a blast. never felt in danger, it was just fun, like a rollercoaster.

    livingstone/victoria falls is super touristy though, but i guess thats to be expected. bungee seemed like a bit of a rag tag operation, not very big.. was really expensive too $120, didn't jump but did at bloukrans bridge in SA which was a really professional operation. $80 to jump the 3rd highest commercial bungee in the world is probably the best value on earth for that kind of thing.

    shirk, where'd you get mugged in joburg? spent a couple of days there, we stayed in soweto though.. didn't go downtown.

  18. #18
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    I did the bungee and the rafting when I was there in 1995 (yes I feel old) and I think you made the right choice. Weird how everything has turned out there - at the time Zimbabwe felt like a multicultural paradise compared with SA. Now, not so much I guess
    fur bearing, drunk, prancing eurosnob

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by grapedrink View Post
    shirk, where'd you get mugged in joburg? spent a couple of days there, we stayed in soweto though.. didn't go downtown.
    Between the bus/train station and the locals van transit spot. I had been living in Harare for several month prior so travelling by the little vans was the norm at the point. Had come into Joburg from Gaborone in the morning via the vans and was on my way back to the depot to catch a van to Cape Town. Walking from the bus station to the van depot five young guys surrounded me and pulled a big hunting knife. Emptied my front pockets of cash and travel wallet with passport, travellers cheques and airline tickets home. Lucky I had visa and debit card in another wallet and they didn't take my pack. I just handed over whatever they asked for, no sense getting beat over a passport and travellers cheques.

    Arno it is a shame what Zimbabwe has become. When I was there in 98 they had their first food riots and it was just the beginning of the end.

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