This was part of an 18 day overland safari that saw me and 39 strangers-turned-friends visit 6 African countries. The trip was organised by Green Ranger Safaris and is an annual trip. (2018 safari from August 14 to September 1st)
Blog posts every Tuesday and Friday for information on this trip.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
“Rapid number 8!”, Henry, our rafting guide announced. “The name of this rapid is ‘The midnight dinner’ and we have three routes. Route No. 1 presents a 95% chance of capsizing the raft, No. 2, a 50% chance and No. 3 a 5% chance. So, Team Zambezi, do you want to go hard, medium or soft?”
Almost immediately, as if to block any doubts from creeping in, we all shouted, “Hard!”
We had not capsized from rapid 1 to 7 and were really thirsty for some adrenaline. Little did I know that this thirst would indeed be sufficiently quenched by the waters of the Zambezi.
It happened so fast. The rapid was strong and angry. I was holding the helpline one second and the next, I was out of the raft, thrown out mercilessly. Our raft had capsized from the back.
I remember struggling to come up for air, but each time I managed, a rapid would soon consume me. I panicked; but not the kind of panic that leaves room for screaming for help. It was the debilitating type, and after a couple of seconds I went blank mentally, almost as if in preparation for whatever fate had in store. I breathed in water and drank it, while being carried quickly downstream.
A kayaker came to my rescue after what felt like eternity; but this is where the drama really began. “Hold here”, he said while pointing to a piece of plastic on his kayak. I obliged. “Are you okay?” He asked. I spat out water in response. “Okay, I need you to put your legs up here”, he continued.
I was still utterly confused about my state of life and this guy wanted me to position my body in an almost up-side-down manner, while still in the water! I ignored him but he insisted and again, I obliged.
As soon as my legs were up, he looked ahead and as if on seeing something, said, “If I capsize, let go of me, okay?” Before I could respond, Puff!
Another raging rapid and I was on my own once again, panicking, struggling to breath, to live.
He followed me and rescued me to the nearest raft where I lay quietly and really thought about the last couple of minutes and life in general.
I would soon be returned to my raft to share my experiences with my five team-mates.
At rapid No. 10, (The Gnashing jaws of Death), we capsized again, but this time I was trapped under the raft, straining to get the help line while catching small gasps of air when the rapid waves allowed. It was dark and uncomfortable, a prison within the waves. I eventually gave up and got out from underneath it, and again, was swept away.
In the calm water, rafting in the Zambezi was a surreal experience. Surrounded by rocks of the Batoka Gorge, about 111m high on both sides, it really did feel like a dream. The beauty and peace was awe-inspiring.
In the rough patches, it was as thrilling as it was life changing.
I’m a trained and certified aquatics lifesaver and have rafted in River Sagana (Kenya) before; but the rapids of the Zambezi have neither recognition, nor respect for your skills and/or experience.
QUICK FUN FACTS
1. The Zambezi River is acclaimed as the “wildest one-day whitewater run in the World” and is highly regarded as one of the top ten paddling rivers on the planet!
2. You have to be prepared to get soaked and you might be swallowing some Zambezi River water. They say it’s safe, well I’m still here!
3. Each rapid has a name, and your guide will tell you exactly how it will be run, what to expect, and rate your chances of flipping. They have pretty interesting names like “Gnashing Jaws of Death”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Devil’s Toilet Boil” and so on.
4. There are baby crocodiles on the banks. We spotted 2 at different points. (More reason why you have to sign the indemnity form?)
5. Out of about 10 teams, with global representation, only 1, ourselves, chose the toughest route at rapid 8. Would I do it again? Probably.
6. You have to be fit to climb in and out of the gorge, it’s steep and it can be very hot. Most people find climbing in and/or out of the gorge to be the most strenuous part of the day!
7. There’s a package for rafting at night. I would like to meet one person that has done this. I have many questions for you.
8. It cost 170 USD for half day rafting+lunch and 180 USD for full day+lunch (Rate for 2017, but the prices are dependent on when you go and where you book from. Check out Victoria falls waterfront lodge
Until next time,
CONTACT GREEN RANGER SAFARIS:
Green Ranger Safaris: +254 721 955 202/ firstname.lastname@example.org