Stay at some of the best luxury safari camps in Zimbabwe and explore the legendary Zambezi River on this extravagant 2-week expedition through the heart of Hwange and Victoria Falls National Parks.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is often referred to as “Africa’s adventure capital.” Here, the mighty Zambezi River tumbles 360 feet into Batoka Gorge, a spectacular basalt chasm below the falls that’s home to some of the best Class V whitewater rafting in the world. But experiencing the wonders of the Zambezi and spending several nights under the stars in well-appointed riverside beach camps is just a small part of this extraordinary journey. Head out on game drives, walking safaris, or a river cruise in search of Africa’s Big Five game animals in Victoria Falls National Park. Then hop on a plane to Hwange National Park, home to one of the largest elephant populations in the world. Nestled on private safari concessions in these natural reserves, stay at three of the best luxury lodges in Zimbabwe. All offer elegant and timeless accommodations, private suites, pools, on-site chefs, and private verandas with endless views of the expansive savannah, you’ll feel like royalty throughout the trip. If you’ve always dreamed of indulging in a luxury safari and thrive on adventure, this “Ultimate Africa” itinerary has it all.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Zambezi rafting & Africa luxury safari adventure is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
Soon after you land at Victoria Falls International Airport, an OARS representative will meet you and transport you to The Elephant Camp, located in Victoria Falls National Park. Alternatively, you can make arrangements for a representative to meet you at the airport in Livingstone, Zambia (additional fee applies).
Upon arrival at the lodge, your trip leader will greet you for a welcome toast and trip briefing. Then, settle into your private suite with sweeping views of the savanna and the mist of Victoria Falls hanging above the Zambezi in the distance. After a group dinner with your fellow travelers, the evening is yours to relax and unwind after traveling across the world. (D)
After breakfast, we’ll meet up with professional guides who will escort us to Wild Horizons Elephant Sanctuary and Orphanage, an elephant rehabilitation center adjacent to the lodge. At this animal rescue center, you’ll be able to get up close with rescued elephants.
Later in the day, we’ll head to Victoria Falls for a walking tour and/or a helicopter ride over this spectacular natural wonder (available at an additional cost).
Back at The Elephant Lodge, we’ll gather in the main lodge for another delicious chef-prepared meal and perhaps a sundowner by the fire pit. (B, L, D)
Days 3 – 4
Today, our adventure takes us to Canoe Camp along the Upper Zambezi. This portable riverside camp has spacious canvas tents, cots with duvets, a large riverside dining area, flush toilets, and even a hot shower.
Upon arrival, we’ll do an orientation and meet the rest of the crew. This river-based African safari utilizes boats that are more akin to inflatable kayaks than canoes. Easy to paddle and very stable, our two-person “kayaks” are an ideal vessel to explore the Upper Zambezi and its network of coves and shoots.
As we maneuver downstream, the low-stress rapids provide a bit of excitement, but the wildlife is the main highlight of this adventure. It will be the dry season when many animals typically come down to the river to drink. Elephants, zebras, bushbuck, kudu, Cape buffalo, ubiquitous baboons, impala, and giraffes are all common sightings. The bird life is an ornithologist’s dream come true, and we might even get a glimpse of a lion, leopard, or rare wild dog. In some places, the river gets up to a mile wide and channels around sandbanks and reed islands. These are the best places to find hippos and crocodiles.
At dusk, we’ll gather around and sit high on the bank overlooking the river. We’ll hear the deep, low-decibel grumbles and burps of the hippos as they call out to announce their nighttime grazing rituals. A few waking lions might be heard, as well. The bush will be alive with sound as night falls and we inch closer to the fire.
Overnighting on the banks of the Zambezi, you should be ready for anything. Trips in the past have been woken up early by large herds of elephants crossing the river and coming right through camp. (B, L, D)
Days 5 – 6
Old Drift Lodge
After a few days in the bush, we will paddle our inflatable boats right to Old Drift Lodge. During our stay at this opulent lodge, you’ll be able to choose from a menu of activities each day. All-inclusive options include morning or afternoon game drives, a walking safari, and a riverboat cruise, all in Victoria Falls National Park.
There are also a number of additional activities available at an added cost, like the chance to plunge into the Devil’s Pools and peer over the edge of Victoria Falls or an exciting canopy tour. Those who prefer to slow down and rejuvenate for a day can book private spa treatments in the comfort of your suite.
In the evenings, we will gather for traditional chef-prepared African dishes prepared on-site and enjoy a sundowner around the fire pit to discuss upcoming plans for the next day. (B, L, D)
Days 7 – 9
Hwange National Park Luxury Safari
This morning, we’ll take a short flight to Hwange National Park. Upon arrival at the airstrip, our talented safari guides will meet us for a game drive that will end at the decadent Somalisa Acacia Camp.
Hwange National Park is known as one of the most biodiverse game parks in all of Africa. Home to more than 40,000 elephants—one of the largest populations on the continent—as well as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hippos, Cape buffalo, and many other species, this park offers an incredible and crowd-free African safari experience.
From Somalisa, we’ll set out each day on a 4×4 wildlife safari or bush walk led by professional guides in search of Africa’s Big Five and other resident wildlife like white rhino, zebra, giraffes, and the rare and endangered roan antelope.
In the evening, we’ll return to our elegant and timeless bush camp. Retreat to your private deck for a reflective moment, sip a gin and tonic in the inviting lounge area or take a refreshing dip in the pool—all offering a front-row seat to the evening wildlife show that will unfold before us in the vast open savannah. We’ll join together each night for decadent chef-prepared meals and delightful conversation around the fireplace. (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we’ll head out on our last game drive in Hwange National Park before heading to the airstrip to fly back to Victoria Falls.
Tonight, we’ll stay at the Batonka Guest Lodge, a quaint hotel in town to prepare for our Zambezi River rafting adventure the following morning. This is a great opportunity to do some souvenir shopping and check out the nightlife in this bustling tourist mecca and Unesco World Heritage Site.
Days 11 – 12
Today, we begin our journey into the Batoka Gorge below Victoria Falls, hiking down a steep trail to meet our waiting rafts. The gorge provides a magnificent backdrop for our safety briefing before we don our high-float PFDs and practice our paddling techniques in the warm water of the river.
Our epic journey begins with “Morning Glory,” a real eye-opener, before one of the biggest commercially run rapids in the world, Class V “Stairway to Heaven.” This is a day of unparalleled fun, with rapids such as “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Midnight Diner,” which features one of the biggest waves you will see on any river. Later, we meet “The Gnashing Jaws Of Death,” a boisterous wave train.
As the canyon walls soar above us, the whitewater thrills continue with rapids like “Creamy White Buttocks” and “The Mother.” There’s nearly a rapid every mile on the upper stretch of the Zambezi, culminating with “Oblivion,” one of the most famous and exhilarating commercially-run rapids in the world. It isn’t the first wave that gets you or the second, but the third crashing wave that normally has all the photographers poised, ready to capture your big moment.
After we challenge more than 20 rapids on our first day, we’ll reach our first riverside camp, complete with tents, a dining area, and a spacious beach. Here, we meet up with the rest of our gear and baggage boaters, who will join us for the remainder of the trip downstream.
Once settled in camp, your guides will prepare a feast upon which you can celebrate your first day on the river. Relax, watch the sun disappear behind the basalt cliffs, and enjoy your first night under the stars.
After breakfast on the second day, we’ll get back on the boats. As we float further downstream, the river begins to widen, but that doesn’t mean that the rapids get any smaller. On this stretch, we’ll conquer “Open and Closed Season” and Class V “Chimamba” before our big finale through “Upper Moemba,” one of two waterfalls we’ll encounter on the final day of whitewater. The group will portage over the second waterfall as the guides line the rafts down a 30-foot vertical cliff into an eddy below.
We’ll stop at a glorious beach camp for the night within sight of the magnificent Lower Moemba Falls. Here, we can sit back and enjoy the beauty of this majestic section of the river while recounting the day’s events. (B, L, D)
On our last river day, we float to the take-out and hike out of the gorge to our waiting shuttle vehicles that will transfer us back to the Batonka Guest Lodge. Tonight, we will rendezvous for a farewell dinner and celebrate the incredible scenery and experiences of running Africa’s most famous stretch of whitewater.
Today, we’ll say goodbye to Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, and the mighty Zambezi River. As we transfer to the airport for flights home or onward, we’ll reflect on this unique and adventurous part of the world and the remarkable people we’ve met along the way.
You’re welcome to depart at any time on the final day. We will transfer you to Victoria Falls or Livingstone for return flights home.
Meeting Time & Place
Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe or Livingstone Airport, Zambia
Arrive any time on day 1
Any time day 14 for returning flights
Dates & Prices
• Mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Pre- and post-trip accommodation and meals
- Single supplement fee
- Zimbabwe Visitor’s Visa
- Airport taxes and fees
- Airport arrival & departure transfers on dates outside the itinerary
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
On the Zambezi, guides use paddle rafts with oar assist, as well as paddle rafts to challenge some of the best whitewater in the world. Helmets are required on both.
Paddle rafts with oar assist are considered the most agile boat in whitewater. The guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew of 4 – 8 guests paddle up front for added horsepower.
Paddle rafts are the sportiest of crafts on the Zambezi. Everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success.
On the Zambezi Canoe Safari, the “canoes” you’ll use are akin to inflatable kayaks. Easy to paddle and very stable, the large, inflatable kayaks are an ideal vessel to explore the Upper Zambezi and its network of coves and shoots.
The Ultimate Africa: Zambezi Rafting & Luxury Safari includes 7 nights of impeccable accommodations at three different safari camps in prime wildlife viewing regions, 2 nights at a quaint hotel in Victoria Falls, as well as 4 nights of comfortable catered camping on the Zambezi.
Luxury Safari Camps
Elephant Camp (Nights 1 & 2)
Rated one of the best luxury lodges in Zimbabwe, Elephant Camp is near Victoria Falls and offers a unique view of the mist from the falls rising from the depths of Batoka Gorge in the distance. Guests enjoy deluxe and spacious safari tents with inside/outside showers, soaker tubs, plunge pools, private bar, flush toilets, and even WiFi. There is also a central dining area and lounge area with exquisite views where guests will indulge in world-class meals.
Old Drift Lodge (Nights 5 & 6)
Voted one of the “Top ten small hotels in Africa,” Old Drift Lodge is a luxurious and delightful safari lodge located in a private concession in Victoria Falls National Park on the banks of the Zambezi River. The spacious canvas ensuite rooms are accentuated by a private viewing deck, an indoor and outdoor shower, a private plunge pool, and a bath with a view of the river. The entire lodge exudes an old-world charm with modern amenities.
Somalisa Camp (Nights 7 – 9)
Situated in the heart of Hwange National Park, the award-winning Somalisa Camp offers the quintessential luxury bush camp experience. The small, intimate tented camp is elegantly furnished, and every ensuite guest tent has an outdoor shower, wood-burning fireplace, and private viewing deck. The pool, sitting room, and dining areas are tucked under a soaring canopy of trees, with a clear view of the golden savannah plains.
Batonka Guest Lodge (Nights 10 & 13)
A peaceful getaway, Batonka Guest Lodge is an easy walking distance to the bustling heart of the town of Victoria Falls. All rooms are air-conditioned and have ensuite bathrooms and a private balcony/patio. Facilities include indoor and outdoor dining, a bar, a comfortable lounge, and a swimming pool.
Camp Life on the Zambezi
Canoe Camp (Nights 3 & 4)
This portable riverside camp has wall tents, cots with duvets, a large riverside dining area, flush toilets, and even a hot shower.
Zambezi Rafting (Nights 11 & 12)
At our first camp, the tents will already be set up, however, you will be responsible for setting up your tent subsequent evenings. While you’re settling in camp, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
While on the river, your guides will prepare all meals. You can expect warm breakfasts, delicious picnic lunches, and hearty and delicious dinners, all complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods.
Meals & Dietary Restrictions
All meals from dinner on night 1 to breakfast on day 14 are included. We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
The Zambezi River is at its best during the dry season (between August and early November) when water levels are dropping. To complement this, these months also represent the best weather window for trips to the region. Expect it to be hot during the day. Down in the Batoka Gorge, it often ranges from 95-105°F but can get even hotter. The water temperature is a comfortable 75°F and provides welcome relief from the heat. It does cool down a little in the evenings, but nothing worth worrying about. Generally, it’s quite comfortable just sleeping under the stars!
Average temperatures in Hwange National Park are similar, and days in the park are typically warm and breezy. Rain is always possible, especially in November as the region transitions to the wet season.
Average Temperatures & Rainfall for Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe:
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Rainfall|
Average Temperatures & Rainfall for Hwange National Park:
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Rainfall|
The Zambezi River offers Class IV-V whitewater. We recommend people considering this trip be experienced, strong paddlers. You may find yourself swimming a Class IV-V rapid, which can be an overwhelming experience. Our guides may determine it’s in the group’s best interest to portage some rapids, depending on water levels and individual abilities.
On the Upper Zambezi, the flows are more mellow with small riffles and low-stress rapids that are fun to paddle but don’t distract from wildlife viewing opportunities.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
An $1000/person non-refundable deposit is required at the time of reservation. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more before the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|90 or more days before your trip||Deposit of $1000/person|
|89 to 0 days before your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter R.O.A.M. Adventures, Inc. reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
Our Zambezi River trips are run by an affiliate company and arranged through O.A.R.S. International, Inc.
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