The mighty Zambezi is Africa’s 4th largest river and springs up in the north-west of Zambia and flows east to Mozambique. It is a lifeline for thousands of animals and people alike and creates some of the most spectacular natural formations the world over.
As its waters pulse through 6 countries it has formed gorges, damns, waterfalls, and wetlands. There are nature reserves and forests along the way and people travel from far and wide to see one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls.
Here is a look at some of the exhilarating and truly spectacular sights you can behold along the mammoth Zambezi River.
Below Victoria Falls you will be blown away by some of the most thrilling rapids in the world. The Batoka Gorge houses a section of the Zambezi that includes 24 treacherous rapids ranging from Grade 3 to Grade 5. With names like The Gnashing Jaws of Death and The Devil’s Toilet Bowl, you are guaranteed to be in for the ride of your life.
Rafting is dependent on the rainy seasons and should be attempted during the medium wet season (generally over winter) from June to August. This will allow for milder temperatures than the scorching summers and a generous amount of water but not too much to make it too dangerous.
If you fancy yourself a thrill seeker this should shoot straight to the top of your to-do list. At the very edge of the Victoria Falls, on the brink of a 108m plummet down to earth, is a plunge pool that defies all logic. Daredevils take a plunge into the 3m deep crevice and swim up the very edge of the falls, peering over the edge.
The pool is also subject to closure if water levels rise too high. October and November are advisable for good water levels and a chance to stare the devil in the eyes. The Angel Pool/Angel’s Armchair is a second option for those less brave. The pool is only 4-feet deep and you cannot swim or dive here. You do however still get up close and personal with the edge of the falls.
If the idea of a stock-standard safari seems a bit overdone, why not take to the water and experience Africa’s abundant wildlife from a different vantage point. These multi-day adventures will bring you into the belly of the beast and adventurers will experience elephants bathing the waters, crocs chopping on some antelope, and hippos wading the shallows.
These trips are available in both the upper and lower parts of the river. Both offering unique experiences year-round as the season change and animal behavior shifts along with the changing currents.
If you prefer to stay dry but still enjoy the river in all its splendor, opt for one of the multiple river cruises available along these waters. Boat sizes vary and there is something for everyone. Relaxed sunset cruises, party boats, 15 seater vessels, or 3 story behemoths. With hippos grunting as you pass and fish eagles calling in the distance, these cruises let you experience nature in a non-intrusive and intimate way.
Few things match the beauty of the bright orange skies of African sunsets and these cruises take full advantage of these stunning displays. Cruises are available year-round and happen during sunrise, lunch, and sunset.
This is the world’s largest man-made lake, and many have compared the spectacle to overlooking the ocean. The lake is formed by the incoming Zambezi river from the west on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The river is dammed up by the Kariba Dam wall and water collects in the Kariba Gorge.
Houseboats are extremely popular and offer luxury accommodation on this expansive body of water. Fishermen also tackle the waters in search of Tiger Fish, a prized gamefish that is notoriously difficult to snag. Game reserves along the lake shores are also highly recommended as scores of animals venture to these waters when the African sun starts to beat down.
As the river nears the end of its 2700km journey, it splits open into the Zambezi delta, one of the most biodiverse areas of the whole Zambezi. The delta spans over more than 200km of Mozambiquan coastline and creates floodplains, mangrove forests, and swamps. These unique habitats are home to a massive array of endemic and migratory birds and birdwatching and photographic safaris are a must-do here.
The mangrove forests are a critical life source for endangered creatures like the dugong, sea turtles, and water birds. Buffalo numbers have increased tenfold in the region thanks to various anti-poaching campaigns. The rest of the big 5 are also protected in the area. The delta is a true spectacle of nature both in the water and on dry land.
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