Livingstone - Tour day 7 - Whitewater rafting down the Zambezi!

Livingstone Travel Blog

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Simba and the intrepid group

It was a rare treat for us to know that we were going to sleep in the same place two nights in a row, and so didn’t need to pack up our tent for once!  We had decided as a group to do some white water rafting down the Zambezi today (there’s a phrase you don’t get to say every day!) and after debating for a while whether to go for the half day or full day, we elected to go for a full day's worth.  The other option I had pondered was the bungee jump from the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe which looked just spectacular as we went under it, however rafting was well and truly worth a full day!

Brekky was provided by the rafting people at the Waterfront campsite, and was absolutely delicious. While chowing down we were amused by the indemnity form they provide which indicates that perhaps we should have our legal rep review it (sadly we didn’t bring our legal rep with us to Zambia J)

A safety demo was then led by Simba (with very  cool dreadlocks) and was entertainment in itself.

Starting point for the rafting, you can bungee off that bridge if you want to....
He described ‘short swimmers’ (people fallen out near the boat), ‘long swimmers’ (people fallen out far from the boat), the ‘oh shit’ line around the raft.  So once we had all ‘saftened up’ they provided us with helmets and a paddle and loaded us in to a truck.  Before commencing, there was a long walk downhill in which to contemplate the decision made, wading through water, climbing over scary rocks but eventually we arrived.

If the white-water rafting didn't seem imposing enough already just looking at the rapids, they then give the rapids nice, inviting names like "The Devil's Toilet Bowl" and "The Gnashing Jaws of Death" which just drops your confidence that little bit further :) 

We had perfect numbers on the tour to fill our raft, and were very happy that Bennie could come along with us after the group lobbied on his behalf back at camp (I think usually if guides want to come they have to pay for their own spot, but we weren't having any of that!).

One of the rapids we weren't allowed to go down

Fortunately Bennie had managed to acquire us the cool guide that led the safety demo, Simba, and he most definitely knew what he was doing.  All day we were watching rafts flip and get caught up in rapids as we powered through on a perfect line. It was also very amusing how his dreadlocks stuck out the holes in the side of his helmet J

Now that's not to say it was easy :)  We started out with a 10 minute lesson on how to paddle, which seemed a little disproportionate to what would be needed looking at the class 4 and 5 rapids ahead (that's basically as hard as rapids get we're told...and believe after going through them!) Essentially we were just learning how to co-ordinate our movements for ‘forward’, ‘backward’, ‘left’, ‘right’ and, of course, ‘get down’!

It was actually the first rapid of the day that caused us the most trouble, for this one you have to go across it, rather than with it, and our group struggled to get the right line.

Explorer Laura
It didn't help that poor Pete and Maddie were launched out of the boat on our second attempt.

We then proceeded to lose Bennie and Claire briefly as well, so that then left only 4 of us to get through!! Luckily we made it…just…and recovered Maddie and Pete from someone else’s boat, they described it being quite scary while they were under the boat/water, Pete lost his sunglasses to the Zambezi…I wonder how many other glasses are in there!  During the that first rapid, Laura had dug herself in to the boat so tightly she had very sore bruises on her leg.

After that our little raft did pretty well, managing to not flip all day!  Laura and I even managed to stay dry which we consider to be an impressive achievement with our distinct lack of rafting experience :)  Apparently the guide usually purposely flips everyone at some point in the day, but on the rapid he was going to do it, the safety boat went over first!  Nick and Claire both toppled out at various stages, with Nick going on what was called a ‘freebie’ rapid i.

Tour guide Simba leads the group photo
e. an easy one.

Simba spun us stories in the calm times as well, and seemed to have an obsession with Japanese tourists.  He described how there was a group with 4 Japanese and 2 Australians and Simba had managed to get the Japanese to understand that they should just do everything the Australians do. Unfortunately when the two Aussies toppled in to the water, all the Japanese jumped too!  Who knows if it’s true, but it’s funny J

There was some confusion as past a big nyami-nyami symbol with all the souvenir vendors had insisted dated back to the stone age and was a symbol of good luck.  Simba said it was painted on for a B-grade American movie J

At the end of the river all the tourists are loaded in to a cable car to go back up the slope.

We stumble downhill to the Zambezi
  It seems a little unfair as all the guides and helpers had to walk up hill carrying the rafts!  We did notice earlier in the day that had we elected to choose the half-day option, we also would have had to walk up the hill, good choice us!

It was an incredible day, at the end of which your arms are just dead to the world! The beers provided for the jeep-ride home were very much appreciated, we just relaxed and watched the small villages pass by (after a brief stop to pick up Laura’s hat!) We highly recommend this to anyone, we did the rafting with "Saf Par" tours which I would highly recommend, very professional rafting.  If you can try to get Simba, he's an excellent rafting guide, is very entertaining as you go down the river and has cool hair to boot :)

Zambian-Simba says:
Hi there, the story about the Japanese is true!
I'm glad that you enjoyed your time on the Mighty Zambezi, can't belive it is almost 4 years ago.
Posted on: Jan 02, 2012
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Simba and the intrepid group
Simba and the intrepid group
Starting point for the rafting, yo…
Starting point for the rafting, y…
One of the rapids we werent allow…
One of the rapids we weren't allo…
Explorer Laura
Explorer Laura
Tour guide Simba leads the group p…
Tour guide Simba leads the group …
We stumble downhill to the Zambezi
We stumble downhill to the Zambezi
The first rapid beckons
The first rapid beckons
About rapid 9 - we had to walk aro…
About rapid 9 - we had to walk ar…
Love this photo - 3 sets of legs i…
Love this photo - 3 sets of legs …
Thats Petes leg!
That's Pete's leg!
Lost Clair in this one, shes what…
Lost Clair in this one, she's wha…
Or maybe she became a long swimmer…
Or maybe she became a long swimme…
Laura was a bit tired after our da…
Laura was a bit tired after our d…
photo by: sarahsan