Question time with Victoria Lister

What made Scope decide to do a White Water Rafting Challenge back in 1999?

We were trying to think of a new, tough challenge for our loyal army of supporters! We’d done lots of bike rides and treks, across deserts and up mountains. Something in water seemed the next logical step. Our research showed that the toughest challenge we could offer (that didn’t need specialist skills) was white water rafting down the Zambezi River.

What made you use The Ultimate Travel Company for this event?

The Ultimate Travel Company (Ultimate Challenges) were one of the first Tour Operators to organise challenge events back in 1996.  Scope and Ultimate Challenges were pioneers of many of the challenge events that are still going strong today, including Kilimanjaro, Peru, Nepal and were the first Tour Operator to set up the Zambezi White Water Rafting challenge in 1999.  We trusted them, their organisation skills were out of this world, and they understood (and still do) the needs of charities, the fundraisers, participants and everyone involved.

How many participants did you take? We took 3 groups of 30.

How much did the challenge raise for Scope? Around £180,000 I think..

rafting lower Moemba compressed

Casting your memory back, how did you find the challenge?

It was exhilarating! We were in Africa , a place I really love and we saw some amazing wildlife; we canoed past herds of elephants, dodging hippos in the water and rafted alongside baboons and vervet monkeys.  I also found it tough and definitely a challenge. It was extremely hot and the rafting was exhausting and scary as hell.  I loved every second of it.

What was the best bit? Well, all of the above, plus the buzz of surviving the rapids! It was well worth the panic I experienced approaching them! After a long, hard day paddling we would camp overnight on the riverbanks, sleeping under the stars with an oar stuck in the sand and a mosquito net flung over the top. We’d lay in the dark listening to the crew singing African songs, and watch the night sky. Amazing.

What was the scariest bit?

Ha-ha! The rapids most definitely. I can’t lie, I was scared stiff! I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro twice, cycled across Israel and Jordan and trekked the Inca trail in snow blizzards, but this was by far the toughest challenge for me. I had to dig deep when it came to the Grade Five rapids – of which there were many. They were just enormous, thunderously loud and it was a real team effort to paddle through them and not capsize. I got nicknamed ‘Victoria Falls’ by everyone as I fell out of the raft so often….


How fit do you need to be to take on this challenge?

The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy it. You really do need good upper body strength. On the rafts and canoes you may be sitting down, but you are paddling for hours on end and it is really hot. There is a long, very steep walk down into the gorge to begin rafting and there are several rapids too dangerous to navigate where we had to ‘porter’ (carry) the heavy rafts over rocky ground. You must be able to swim and, very importantly, be confident in the water. Falling into a rapid can mean a long, disorientating swim under water…!

Would you recommend it to other charities?

Absolutely. It’s a real challenge and your participants will certainly feel they are in safe hands with The Ultimate Travel Company and will have earned their sponsorship money. Plus, Africa is a fantastic backdrop to any adventure. Good luck!

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