The Big Six: The six most memorable rapids on the Zambezi


The rapids of the Batoka gorge are Mother Nature’s version of a roller coaster. Prepare for steep drops, flips, and to be whisked around by whopper waves. This exhilarating experience leaves rafters euphoric and hungry for more. However, when you are being churned around in white water and swept along the Zambezi, it is hard to tell whether you are on the “Stairway to Heaven” or in the “Washing Machine”. Equally breath-taking but with different obstacles to tackle, these are some of the rapids that have adrenaline junkies from across the globe addicted to our rafting adventures. We have compiled a list of eight rapids that will be running through your mind long after they have spat you out.

#5: The Stairway to Heaven

This grade 5 rapid is one of the biggest in the world, and may be more aptly referred to as the “Stairway to Hell” due to the steep plummet your raft will take before being thrust through churning waters at the bottom. This crafty rapid will have you thinking that you are heading towards smooth sailing because the intensity of the drop conceals the raging water below, while the horizon looks peaceful and inviting. A few moments later, your heart is in your throat and you feel as though you are in the midst of a war of water as waves build and crash around you. This rapid is non-stop turmoil and at the base is a massive standing wave, named the “Catcher Mitt”, ready to hurl you out and on to the next one.

Grade 5 #7: Gulliver’s Travels True to its name, this rapid is bound to take you on the journey of a lifetime. Much like Gulliver’s travels, this rapid is long and complex, and requires careful (as careful as you can be when flying through white water) navigation of features such as “Indicator rock” which helpfully alerts you to turn right to avoid being flipped into the roaring waves, and “Land of the Giants” (when you are cowering below a tsunami sized wave you will quickly realise how this name came to be). “Patella’s gap is to be anxiously avoided, because this is where artist Larry Norton shattered his knee cap in the 1980’s.

Grade 5 #9: Commercial suicide This is the only grade six rapid you will encounter, and it is the un-runnable rapid. This rapid an incredible spectacle. It is impossible to tell which direction the enormous and furious waves are crashing from. Whether it was rage or love, Mother Nature poured a lot of powerful emotion into the creation of this awe-inspiring rapid.

Grade 6 #15: The Washing Machine An ominous black rock lurks in the middle of this rapid, causing the water to churn into a frenzy of agitated waves, resembling the inside of a washing machine that’s gone into overdrive. This rapid will snatch you up, spin you around and squirt you out, cleaner than you have ever been.

Grade 5 #16: The terminator This rapid is a genuine traffic stopper. a solid wall of water builds up and crashes back on itself, bringing rafts to an abrupt halt before tossing them over, scattering paddles and rafters across the Zambezi.

Grade 4 #18: Oblivion This is the most photographic rapid on the river and it has caused more rafts to somersault than any other on the planet. This rapid comprises of three waves, and the star of the show stands at an impressive 4-5 meters. If you don’t capsize, then it is possible to surf the wave for up to 45 seconds. Rafters who do abruptly disembark are quickly flushed to safety.

This is only six of the daring rapids to be found on the Zambezi, it’s up to you to come and discover the rest. All our raft guides are professionals who can navigate the river better than their own homes, making this experience not only the most fun you will ever have, but also extremely safe. Do yourself a favour and come white water rafting in Victoria Falls, just one trip and you will be hooked.

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