Located in south-central Africa, the Zambezi River and its tributaries form the fourth largest river basin in all of Africa. The Zambezi, meaning 'Great River' begins in the central African plateau and either forms the boundaries or enters the countries of Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe before finally spilling into the Indian Ocean.
The Zambezi is the geographical boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe and offers the ideal combination of unspoiled wilderness and diverse habitats that support a massive wildlife population in Mana Pools National Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zimbabwean and Zambia shorelines.
The Zambezi River is classified as a high volume, pool-drop, class V river that has long rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure area. There is little exposed rock either in the rapids or the pools below the rapids. The distance between rapids varies from 100 metres to 2 kms. The Gorge itself is approximately 400 ft deep at the put-in point and 750 ft at the take out point. The river drops about 400 ft over the 24 km covered in the one-day raft trip and the depth of the river can reach 200 ft.
River of Life
The Zambezi River is one of Africa's rivers of life. Throughout the 1653 miles (2660 km) of its course, it gives water to humans who drink it and use it for crop growing, who capture its energy for hydro-electric power, who fish for food, and who enjoy its environments for recreation. It also supports an abundant wealth of aquatic and animal life - some are unique to Africa
Nyami Nyami Spirit
The Bundu people of Zambia believe the Zambezi River has a spirit called Nyami Nyami. This spirit brings them water to grow crops and fish to eat so they call the river "the river of life." The Zambezi originates in Northwestern Zambia, formerly Rhodesia, and flows through Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and finally to Mozambique. Here it empties into the Indian Ocean 1600 miles from its headwaters.
The climate along the river is considered tropical and the rainy season lasts from October through April. The river changes at different spots along it, going from a placid flow in sandy plains to annually flooded plains to a tumbling river of falls and rapids. Perhaps the most spectacular spot along the river is in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls. These falls are two times the size of Niagara Falls at 355 feet high and 5500 feet wide!
These are among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, more than two kilometres wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that can be seen more than 20 kilometres away.
The falls are the most significant feature of the Victoria Falls National Park, and when the Zambezi is in full flood (usually February or March) they form the largest curtain of falling water in the world. During these months, over 500 million litres of water per minute go over the falls, which are 1708m wide, and drop 99m at Rainbow Falls in Zambia.
At low water in November the flow can be reduced to around 10 million litres/minute, and the river is divided into a series of braided channels that descend in many separate falls. Below the falls the river enters a narrow series of gorges which represent locations successively occupied by the falls earlier in their history.
Since the uplifting of the Makgadikgadi Pan area some two million years ago, the Zambezi River has been cutting through the basalt, exploiting weak fissures, and forming a series of retreating gorges. Seven previous waterfalls occupied the seven gorges below the present falls, and Devil's Cataract in Zimbabwe is the starting point for cutting back to a new waterfall that will eventually leave the present lip high above the river in the gorge below.
The Zambezi River is widely used by wildlife and humans alike. Hippos, crocodiles, baboons, elephants, hyenas and lions are some examples of wildlife you might find along the Zambezi. Humans use the river for transportation, irrigation, tourism and hydropower. The people who live along the river differ from country to country.
English is the official language of the area though the different tribes along the banks of the Zambezi speak more than 70 other languages. Currently the countries along the river are at odds as to how to manage the river. In the future these countries must agree to manage "the river of life" so that its people can survive and its spirit can thrive.
Victoria Falls attract many 'extreme' sports lovers; bunjee jumping off the Zambesi Bridge, white water rafting and body boarding are just a few options available.
Less adventurous visitors will enjoy walking through the National Park, where there are excellent viewing points. The spectacular views that can be obtained by taking a helicopter or light aircraft 'flight of the angels' are unforgettable!
The Zimbabwean Town of Victoria Falls in is a vibrant 'Tourist' destination with numerous shops, activities, casino and nightlife. The recent political troubles in Zimbabwe have not seriously affected life, other than making incidental expenditure remarkably cheap!
The Zambian side is much less 'touristic' and would appeal to those seeking a more natural and African environment.
Safety and Emergency on the Zambezi
"Shearwater Adventures" is the Zimbabwian company we are running our rafting trips through. During our trips they will have a certified doctor on-call 24 hours a day to advise the group if anyone becomes sick or injured. Also, available on-call 24 hours a day will be an evacuation helicopter in case of emergency.