Recently, I went on an adventure through southern Africa. The last stop of the trip was in Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls to be specific. There is a lot to do in Victoria Falls, and white water rafting is the most adventurous!
1. Don’t let the safety briefing in advance scare you off
As with flying, the crew will give you a briefing about safety. What to wear, what to look out for, and especially what to do in certain situations.
The situations they discuss almost all include you falling in the river. Some even speak of finding yourself underwater, stuck in a whirlpool (without jets, urgh), or stuck under the boat itself.
For me, it all sounded really scary. It played through my head to just call it quits and go home for the day. Lucky I powered through the fear. Because once you’ve done your first rapid, you feel you can take it all one.
And yes, you will fall in the water. No, it’s not scary at all.
2. Bring decent shoes to walk on the rocks, but that can still get wet
To get to the boats, you will have to walk down the gorge. From the top where you get your safety briefing to the Zambezi river where the boats are waiting for you, it’s a 120m descent. It takes you a while to get down. So make sure to bring decent shoes.
However, once you’re down at the bottom, you will get in the boats and start your day. The shoes you are wearing are almost certainly becoming wet. I had a pair of running shoes on. They helped with the decent (and climb back up) and they survived to get wet without a sweat.
3. Eat enough energetic food in advance
You will start your day of early. So make sure to eat breakfast properly. Food that will give you energy for the day. Because not only is it hard walking up and down the gorge, you will be peddling. Intense peddling!
4. Bring sunscreen and remember to apply it on a more quiet stretch of water
This tip especially is one I wish I knew before going in the Zambezi. There will be a lot of sun, so protecting you is important. Applying the sunscreen before you jump in your boat is a good idea. Give your bottle to your guide so he can keep it safe for you. If there is a stretch that is quiet for a while, ask him to give your bottle. Re-apply and give it back again.
A plus point for bringing waterproof sunscreen, since you will get wet!
5. Don’t panic if you fall out
They will tell you this one during the safety briefing too. Whatever happens, don’t panic. Your life-jacket is made to bring you back to the surface easily, so don’t fight it if you find yourself in the water.
At one rapid the entire boat flipped. All eight of us went in the water. There were a couple of seconds that I was under water. It even got dark because of the boat passing above me. However, I didn’t panic, and because of my life-jacket, I soon surfaced again.
I took a breather and just enjoyed flowing with the river. Yes, I did get some more splashes in my face. But that’s all part of the game. Just try to enjoy. Soon enough, okay it took a bit of swimming, I was back at the boat. Ready for the next rapid.
6. Remember to have a good time
It’s all very exciting at the start. It’s okay and normal to be nervous. Just make sure to ease into it a bit. Make sure you enjoy the water and the rapids at some point. Stay alert when going into the rapids, don’t get too courageous. But don’t do the entire trip in fear, it’s too much fun for that!
7. Don’t bring anything valuable with you
Don’t bring anything valuable with you. I’m thinking about cameras and smartphones, but also jewelry and glasses. Everything that you can lose, leave it at your lodge. One of the guides joked that the Zambezi river is one of the richest rivers. It has a lot of gold and technology on the bottom.
It’s a shame you can’t bring your camera and smartphone for photos. Most companies do offer photos they make during your trip for a fee. I rafted with Wild Horizons, who ask 30 dollars for a USB-stick with the photos. A bit much in my opinion. That’s also the reason the photos in the article are from Unsplash, and not by me.
Have you ever gone white water rafting? What are your tips? Let me know in the comments!
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