Rafting the Zambezi River rapids

In October 2010, I embarked on a hair-raising adventure on the Zambezi River – white water rafting…

Looking for an extreme adrenaline-pumping adventure that I could take the wife and kids on, I settled on 24 of the world’s most revered, and rated most difficult, white water rapids.

Down the Devil’s toilet bowl

Paul Erskine and the family with their two guides

The family and I with our two guides

Starting from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, the river plunges into the gorge and tumultuous rapids mark the 200m descent to the finishing point.

The names of some of the bigger rapids give away the intensity of the challenge – Stairway to Heaven, Devil’s Toilet Bowl, The Washing Machine, Terminator, Commercial Suicide, Judgement Day, Gnashing Jaws of Death, Oblivion, and The Last Straw, to name just a few…

Over two days, my wife, myself and the three kids navigated the mighty Zambezi’s grade five rapids, feeling the rush of non-stop adrenaline with no time to think.

Your brain just shuts down, it all happens so fast – you almost can’t remember doing it. Good thing I got the DVD!

But really, it’s the best rush.

The white water overwhelms the boat

The white water overwhelms the boat

The fear factor

The Zambezi River definitely has a fear factor to it, knowing that you’re in crocodile-infested waters.

Apparently a few months before our trip, a kid had fallen out of the boat on rapid 12 or 13 (known as The Mother), and swum to the side as you’re told to do…but was never seen again. You don’t read about these incidents, but the element of danger is definitely there.

This was at the forefront of my mind when my wife fell out of the boat on rapid 13 – my worst experience of the whole trip.

My best experience was seeing my kids living in the moment, and getting to the top of the gorge. It was one of the hardest challenges of the trip – nearly 400m climbing out of the gorge at the end, with a 70˚ ascent.

Respect the river

The Zambezi River

The Zambezi River

Along with my wife and kids, I was jubilant to make it to the other side of the Zambezi, and what was going through my mind when they reached the end was, Thank God it’s over and we came out of it free from crocodile attacks!

Even though I have an awesome DVD of the experience, the most memorable parts of the trip weren’t filmed – the sheer beauty of the Zambezi River and its surroundings, and the respect that I learnt for nature and the power of the Zambezi River.

A word of advice

My one piece of gear that I couldn’t have gone without is quite obviously my life jacket! Other advice for aspiring white water rafters is to choose the right company to guide you and try go in a private group – it’s more fulfilling.

And just remember you’re doing it for the fun. Make sure you buy the DVD!


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