THE ZAMBEZI BY SUP BY NADIA ALMUTI

Words by Nadia Almuti and Photos by Chantelle Melzer

I’d seen the rapids of the Zambezi in whitewater films and iconic photos and dreamed of someday paddling that river. When I got a call from my friend Paul Teasdale inviting me to SUP the Zambezi I knew this was something I had to say yes to! He and a crew had been organizing a cause called Stand Up 4 Rhinos to raise money for the Care for Wild Rhino sanctuary and awareness of rhino poaching. This was a cause I felt very passionate about and a river I’d always wanted to paddle. I immediately called my friend Brittany Parker and said we have to go.

The main mission of the paddle was not to be the first to SUP the Zambezi but to help raise $10,000 for the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary located in Mpumalanga, South Africa (https://www.careforwild.co.za/). The Sanctuary helps provide care and rehabilitation to a large and growing number of rhinos orphaned due to poaching. It is the Sanctuary’s goal to provide care and rehabilitate these animals with the hope that they can someday be released back into the wild. 

My first concerns about the Zambezi were about crocodiles and hippos. Expressing my concerns to my friend Paul he said I didn’t have anything to worry about and we wouldn’t be seeing any. After lots of planning and traveling, Brittany and I were in Victoria Falls meeting up with the rest of the Stand Up 4 Rhinos crew. Our team consisted of Paul Teasdale, Shane Raw, Bertrand Van Der Berg, Philip Claassens, Leon Pieters, Andrew Kellett, Brittany Parker, our talented photographer Chantelle Melzer, and myself.

We were filled with excitement and nervousness the first day as we hiked the long steep trail down into the Zambezi gorge with the help of porters. We were going to warm up on rapids 19 to 24 on the Zambezi. As we paddled down our nervousness eased. The water was huge, deep, and warm. The rapids were filled with huge fun waves and boils. As we paddled into our first large pool we were warned to bunch together due to the crocodiles that live in the flat water. I was shocked! I yelled at Paul “I thought you said we didn’t have to worry about crocs?” He yelled back “no worries just don’t swim in the flat water.” As we paddled on we could see crocs sunbathing on shore and hoped not to see them in the water.

The first couple days were filled with lots of swims in the huge rapids and laughter! We progressed to rapids 11 to 19 and the whitewater got harder. We got out to scout many of the rapids, trying to pick the best lines. This was definitely some of the most pushy and challenging whitewater I had ever tried to SUP.

Our last days on the river we attained up to the base of Victoria Falls and then paddled down rapids 1 through 10, the largest section. We were in awe of the beauty of Victoria Falls. The mist coming off the falls creating rainbows in the sunlight above us. We were all silent as we left the falls paddling towards the first rapid of the day deep in thought of what we had ahead of us.

Andrew Kellett sensing the nervousness in the group gathered us up and spoke to us about why we were there. There was no pressure to run all the rapids and that they could all be portaged if needed. The reason we were all there was our love of rhinos and of paddling. The groups’ spirts raised we paddled down through the section each choosing to paddle or portage as we got out to scout. Some of the rapids were so large, that the entire group portaged the rapid.

The team’s goals were a success. We raised a significant amount of money for a great cause, made new friends we will cherish forever, and paddled an incredible river.

If you would like to donate or learn how to help the rhinos at the Care For Wild Sanctuary visit this site: www.careforwild.co.za/donate