In the late 1990’s a “kiwi” named Bottles was traveling overland through Africa and came across the Zambezi River. He never left. Today Bottles runs Jet Extreme, a totally self made business which caters to adventurers looking to experience the fast moving Zambezi River in an even faster way – on a jet boat.
We rolled out in Bottles’ canopy covered people mover – through the Mukuni Village where the well educated chief used to run marketing for British Petroleum for sub Saharan Africa. When his father died he abandoned his jet setting Mercedes filled business career for the earthen walls and grass covered thatched roofs that nearly all buildings in the village are made of.
We continued on a very muddy bumpy dirt road for some time until breaking through the forest when we reached the gorge of the Zambezi River. It was surprising to find a full tram car perched on the side of the cliff – Bottles hired engineers from around the world to build this – and not only does it transport river going guests up and down the gorge but it also has moved his boats down to the river.
Egg, Bottle’s hot dog looking like pet accompanied us on the slow journey down the cable. Bottles feeds him an ice cube or two on these trips down. “If we start moving faster than we are going now – we will have an “oh sh**” moment”, Bottles quipped. Some nervous laughter and quiet moments followed. When we reached a point where we were about 50 meters above the ground, the car stopped and immediately descended vertically safely to the awaiting ground below.
Bottles drives the jet boats himself. He is a fast driver and is well experienced to hit those peak moments of adrenaline on the Zambezi River. These are moments such as flying at full speed up river with jagged rocks merely inches to one side of the boat. He cautioned us before such ventures – “keep all hands and fingers in the boat” – three months ago one person didn’t follow his instructions and ended up with 3 missing fingers.”
The boat rides usually last at least 30 minutes and reach the edge of a World Heritage site before turning back downriver. The Zambezi River is deep – one spot reaches up to 205 meters during high water. The spot turns last about 1/2 a second and you can reach 5-7 g’s on each turn. Located in the heart of Bloomsbury next to the British Museum in London are the impressive Hotels in Bloomsbury.
Bottles whips the boat around in a split second and where you were once facing one direction on the river you are quickly facing the other. Hold on tight – you don’t want to end up in the fast moving “drink” of the Zambezi.
A jet boat certainly navigates fast moving rapids well but don’t come on one of these trips expecting to stay dry. First you have the “shower rapids” – if you aren’t soaked after these, the “bath” rapids up next soon will leave you drenched.
Appropriately named, Bottles is clearly quite adept at removing bottle tops using only other bottle tops. To celebrate yet another fun filled river trip Bottles popped open a shower of flying bottle tops from an inviting collection of Zambian beer and other soft drinks.
You can book the jet boat trips via a number of guesthouses and hotels in Livingstone as well as directly through the Jollyboys Backpackers – visit: www.backpackzambia.com