Mid November is the perfect time for low water, and best wildlife viewing on the upper and lower river. It would be highly unusual for the river to start coming up by the end of November. The season I spent there it started raining in Mid December, but water levels really never came up until mid January.
In my opinion, 1 through 4 are just sort of warm up rapids compared to 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13 and 18, which are the big classic Zambezi drops. If you put in at #4, you still get one hell of a trip.
It's been a while since I guided there, but at the time Sobek operated on the Zambia side launching at #1, Shearwater operated on the Zim side, launching above #4. Sobek always tried to sell their "longer" trip as better, but it was mostly just based on lack of good access from the Zambia side.
From what I hear, most activity is on the Zambia side now, given the messed up political situtation in Zim.
If I were to go back there, I'd go on a canoe safari at Mana Pools in mid November. The multi-day rafting trip in the Batoka Gorge is also extremely cool, and well worth doing.
Originally Posted by stroganoff
I've always wanted to raft the Zambezi. I am in the process of planning a bucket list Africa trip that also includes a Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti safari and a trip to Cape Town. Given the cost of the ticket and travel time I want to pack it all into one trip, if possible.
From what I've read there is a limited time slot sometime between August and the holidays where you can start from Rapid 1, and sometimes the rains start earlier and you end up having to start further down river and missing the best rapids.
My question is in unusual years where the rainfall is heavier and/or starts earlier, how early can the Low Water trips be canceled? If I were to plan the trip for the last week of November, is it possible that I may get skunked?
I've sent this question to a few operators only to receive several "Yes Sir/Madam, the prince of Nigeria is working on your inquiry" sort of responses. One did reply that sometimes they cannot offer Low Water trips even through August in some years, but failed to answer my question about November
Thanks all in advance