Zambezi River - Rapid Guide

The Zambezi River has a fearsome reputation, which in most cases is unfounded. It is possible to run this river without flipping a raft, but it is a powerful large volume river that can present some challenging and fun whitewater. This breakdown of the rapids gives you an idea of what you may encounter on your trip.

The Boiling Pot

A wonderful place to look at Victoria Falls from. Rafts or kayaks must be carried up here, but the view makes the effort well worthwhile.

The Wall, Rapid 1

A large cushion wave as the Zambezi River goes into a large wall. I relatively simple move by paddling your raft across the wavetrain heading for the wall. Your guide is likely to train you well in the art of "high siding" in case you approach the wall, this will stop you flipping.

The Bridge, Rapid 2

Some fantastic waves coming off the left wall and a large hole on the right side of the river. In a raft, no problems. Watch the bungy jumpers above you!

Morning Glory, Rapid 4

The first big rapid of the day. Depending on water levels you will have the option of running left, right or the "Dragons Back" disecting two large holes. A brilliant rapid to start the day ending in a large crashing wave at the bottom of the rapid.

Stairway to Heaven, Rapid 5

Our first Grade 5 rapid. On the right side of the river is a large pourover. We line up with waves just to the left of this. Running too far left will send us into the "catchers mitt" a large crashing wave. Running 5 is like dropping off a 2 storey building and is one of the greatest river running rushes anywhere in the world.

The Devils Toilet Bowl, Rapid 6

A straight forward run through two large waves, both of which must be run straight. This takes us into a very scenic section of the river through a stunning gorge.

Gullivers Travels, Rapid 7

The longest of all the rapids on the Zambezi. Initially we paddle right of indicator rock, and then onto "The Green Highway" where we set up to paddle through Directors Wave and away from The Crease a large hole in the centre of the river. Here we paddle down into Land Of The Giants for an amazing finale to this Grade 5 rapid.

The Midnight Diner, Rapid 8

An awesome Zambezi big water rapid. Three potential lines. On the right side is a fun technical run with large bouncy waves. In the middle, a run known as "the Muncher" where the raft will run a large wave, or to the left of centre into "Star Trek" for a big hit!

Commercial Suicide, Rapid 9

All clients and guides walk this Grade 6 rapid. This is a ferocious rapid, with many hidden dangers and is not commercially viable.

The Gnashing Jaws Of Death, Rapid 10

Nowhere near as sacry as the name! A series of waves which buffet the raft in what is a relatively straight forward rapid. At this point, can be lunch, camp or the start of your trip.

Creamy White Buttocks, Rapid 11

A stunning rapid. At high flows Creamy White Buttocks or The Overland Truck Eater is a tubing wave where kayakers and surfers can surf it's green face. At lower flows two large waves will crash over your raft from the right side. Spectacular photos here!

The 3 Ugly Sisters, Rapids 12A, 12B and 12C

Relatively sraight forward series of rapids. 12 B can be the hardest at certain flows when a large green wave forms. It can get chunkier toward the river left side of the rapid. These 3 rapids lead into ...

The Mother, Rapid 13

This rapid is classic big water Zambezi. Caused by a constriction in water flow, the first and 4th waves in The Mother are massive. The first wave is a peaking crest of 2 converging waves. A clean wash out into a large flat pool.

The Washing Machine, Rapid 15

A series of waves leading down into a large hole. This is best avoided and can easily be, with strong paddling normally down the right side of the rapid.

Terminator I & II, Rapids 16A & 16B

These rapids are mush bigger in high water. In the traditional low water runs they are fairly straight forward. 16 A involves running left or right of the island, whilst 16B is a wave train which can be quite large at high levels.

Double Trouble, Rapid 17

A similar rapid to The Washing Machine. Two large holes situated in the middle of the river. These can be safely run at medium to high flows. When the river drops lower they should be avoided on river left or right.

Oblivion, Rapid 18

The world famous rapid. This tends to be at its best in low flows September - November. It consists of three large waves, of which the third is the biggest (and best!) Many rafts flip here although it is VERY easy not to.

Morning Shave, Rapid 23

After camping at Bobo Camp, this is the perfect wake up call. On centre left of the rapid, there is an easy wavetrain to wet you down.

Morning Shower, Rapid 24

This rapid takes in a right hand bend in the river with the waves and river pushing hard to the left. Keep right for an awesome ride through the tail waves.

Closed Season

From here, rapids are not numbered, just named, but they get bigger. Closed Season at high flows has a massive porover in the middle of the river. Stay left for a clean run through the rapid.

Open Season

One of the biggest rapids on the Zambezi. Grade 5 fun. There is a large hole on the river left and some rocks towards the middle of the river. At higher flows the hole is not as much of an issue, so you can run the centre line, but when the river drops the raft line is hard left to centre dissecting the two pinnacle rocks mid stream.

Narrows 1

Not so much a rapid, but a place to watch out for large boils (aerated water) coming off the walls. At high flows this rapid can be walked, and traditionally clients would hold on through here to avoid a swim.

Narrows 2

Excellent narrowing of the river (obviously!) to make a brilliant section of waves running for more than 500 metres.

Narrows 3

Large left hand bend. Stick to the river right as large pourover on the river left. Excellent wave train down the right side of the island.

Narrows 4

A technical rock garden featuring "Beer Eddy" As the name suggests if your guide goes in here, it will be his or her round!

Chamamba

Prior to this rapid you will have a tail wind (rare on the Zambezi) and the river goes through a narrow entrance. This feeds into two large waves on river left and into a flat pool before the main horseshow drop. This should be fun left and care should be taken to paddle away from the wall.

Upper Moemba

A large Grade 5 "sneak run" The largest rapid so far on the river. It occurs on a left bend but you run the hard right channel. Worth getting out to "scout and inspect" this rapid. The run is to paddle hard towards the left side of the channel and for your guide to run each of the 4 massive waves with alternate from left and right, very straight.

Lower Moemba

A Grade 6 certain portage (carrying rafts around the rapid) In fact at medium to high flows rafts can be lined over the drop. This can be impressive watching guides run fully loaded rafts over the drop.

Damsite (Chabango Falls)

Another certain portage around two large waterfalls. This is the damsite which is going ahead and although there is no concrete in place at this time, we recommend experiencing this amazing river, before it is too late. Please support International Rivers and their efforts to stop dams.

Ghostrider

The biggest and best rapid on the Zambezi River. Class 5 big water at its best. Three enormous waves where rafts disappear behind only to re-appear on top of the wave. The move is to run from centre to the right running all the waves square! This rapid is worth the journey!

Deep Throat

The entire Zambezi squeezes through a 6 metre wide gap. This rapid is normally walked in rafts due to the large boils making a swim unpleasant.

Other small rapids exist for the next 3 days to Matetsi Rier Mouth.