Tuesday, 14 February 2012 9:20 AM
From white water to white knuckle thrills, chasing the buzz or being chased by Hippos, Zambia promises to be the ride of your life.
Even before you touch down in Livingstone, it’s easy to see Zambia is a pretty special country. The views from the plane window are out of this world.
The dusty plateau that rolls all the way to the horizon is broken only by huge mushroom clouds of spray rising from the Victoria Falls. A massive crack in the land conceals the grumbling monster falls down below, affectionately named ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ by the locals, and boy does it.
It is custom for those who make their livelihoods on the banks of the Zambezi River to pray to the water god, the ‘Nyami Nyami’, half dragon, half serpent. But be warned, when you visit the Zambezi you may find yourself praying to the Nyami Nyami yourself for another reason entirely (i.e for safe passage down its raging rapids or maybe for protection from a territorial hippo!).
As unlikely as it may seem, Livingstone is the ideal destination for any extreme adventure, thrill seeking lunatics…. I mean, enthusiasts!
To prove my point: if the terrifying 111m bungee off a bridge spanning the raging falls (pictured left) isn’t enough to quell your thirst for thrills you could try the grade five white water rapids starting with rapid 10- the ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death’. Child’s play you say? Well, perhaps swimming in the aptly named ‘Devil’s Pools’, to peer over the edge of the falls or maybe being chased down the river in a canoe by a crocodile or two is more your thing?
As a starting point visiting the Falls themselves is a pretty exciting adventure, especially if you manage to see an unfortunate Hippo take a wrong turn and go over the top! My only advice would be to wear either as little as possible or the biggest rain mac you can find, because you are going to get wet. Soaked in fact. To the bone.
The views of the falls (pictured below) and the rainbows that bounce off the spray more than make up for it but forget any attempt to capture them on film unless you have a waterproof camera.
One thing you might want to capture on film is the terrifying bungee off the bridge that joins the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of the Falls. Now it may not hold the record for the tallest bungee, (don’t worry at 111m it is more than high enough) but it has got to win the award for the most spectacular backdrop with the thundering falls behind and the raging rapids below.
I’m sure many a traveller has stood on the platform looking down and contemplated whether their mothers would be comforted by their smiling face in the jump souvenir video if they didn’t make it.
Given the recent snapage incident that may be a perfectly justifiable consideration, they don’t call it an extreme sport for nothing. But hey, that’s only the bungee; there is a rope swing and a zip line too so plenty of other options available if you still want to stick two fingers up to death.
Personally, if you want an adrenaline rush that lasts a little longer than five seconds, I’d recommend the white water rafting (pictured below). Depending on the time of year you can either ride grade three or grade four/five rapids.
Dummy’s guide to rafting: grade three is a fun tumble down a beautiful canyon with some paddling involved; grade four involves some serious arm work to keep you and your boat on top of the water rather than in it, and grade five means paddle all you want, you have no hope of staying dry. Even if by some miracle you did stay in the boat you would have peed your pants anyway in fear (I heard this helps repel the crocs, so don’t worry!).
The instructors appear to opt for damage control rather than safety plan. They tell you there is no point in paddling and instead shout ‘GET DOWN’ as you plummet face first into a eight foot wall of white water. At this command you have to abandon your paddle, throw yourself into the boat and cling to the ‘O.S.’ line for your life (I don’t need to spell out what that stands for).
Praying to the Nyami at this point probably wouldn’t hurt either. They let you practice this at least once before you start so it’s all perfectly safe.
Which rapid will be your favourite I wonder? ‘The Muncher’, the ‘Devil’s Toilet Bowl’ or perhaps ‘Overland Truck Eater’? Nothing more needs to be said really.
If this all sounds a little too much you could always take a pleasant stroll through the beautiful African bush in search of elephants and giraffes on a walking safari.
Watch out for those hungry animals though, especially if you haven’t heard the ‘American tourist attempts to feed meatball sandwich to a lion’ horror story. Not your thing after all? Try the water safari instead.
However, be warned, a little canoeing experience might be beneficial as we found out the hard way when being chased by a mummy hippo. You may have some cutesy idea of hippos being a cuddly animal but they in fact kill more humans in Africa than Lions and by a long way. And although it’s interesting to learn new hippo facts, (another would be they are extremely territorial and that they can’t actually swim but instead run along the riverbed) it would perhaps be better to learn these in the comfort of your home rather than from personal experience!
Finally an activity with universal appeal has to be the sunset cruise, which doubles as a booze cruise on selected nights (some would argue an improvement) and allows you to sail down the Zambezi in a much more civilised manner while watching the elephants and hippos bathe at sundown.
Those who like to stay firmly on the side of caution can get up close and personal with the elephants while eating BBQ nosh, and for others who have spent their Livingstone trip throwing themselves, quite literally, into the never-ending list of extreme adventure activities on offer; it’s the perfect peaceful end to the day.
If you’re really so extreme that you can’t stand the thought of even one moment of peace and quiet, don’t panic – the booze cruise version has some pretty mental African karaoke and a ‘drink the bar dry, get your trip free’ policy. So whatever your preference, happy hippo hunting guys!
By Krisi Smith
You can book those activities mentioned in the article either at Jollyboys Backpackers in Livingstone, The WaterfrontZambezi (where all the activities start from) or through STA travel if you want to book it before you are there.
You can book either the individual activities or you can book a whole weekend with them all and camping accommodation too.
The costs are approximately:
Rafting: £90 full day
Sunset Cruise: £28
Walking Safari: £80 half day
Bungee: £70 (or all three activities including the rope swing and zip wire for around £90).
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