Rafting the Zambezi River in Zambia
Credit: John Warburton-Lee / Getty Images

Over the past decade, kayaking gods from Brad Ludden to Steve Fisher have drained their adrenal glands getting worked over on Africa's Zambezi River, the world's whitewater hot spot and host to what is considered the best rafting trip on earth. East of the grand 300-foot curtain of Victoria Falls, the muddy brown Zambezi flows through Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, snaking its way through the Batoka Gorge, where it boils up in 42 massive rapids. The zingers range from foaming Class V-plus bow-beaters, like Stairway to Heaven and Ghostrider, to sweet kayak play holes like the Tube, which curls over Rapid Number 11. But don't let the water bogart your attention – this is still southern Africa after all, so the river is home to crocodiles, hippos, giant monitor lizards, and fish eagles. Onshore, a little trekking brings you face to face with lions, baboons, zebra, and bathing elephants. Global Descents offers a 7-day rafting expedition into the Batoka Gorge, hitting all the Zambezi's wild things – animal and water – capped with evening sundowners (a.k.a. cocktails) and nights on the river's sandy banks.