Rupert FitzMaurice and Justin Matterson descend the length of the Zambezi, dodging hippos and fending off crocs

By chance, some friends staying in The Explorers Club and I got chatting of adventures over some Chamonix Sauvignon Blanc Reserve at New Year. Kiki told me of two intrepid explorers she knew who descended the Zambezi River – source to sea – and I mentioned I had been to a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in 1997 where Rupert and Justin delivered their story. I still had the invitation to prove it! Well, I immediately contacted Rupert to get some info on the journey. So here we have a little pictorial snippet to whet the whistle before we get a little of the story down 3,540 kms of wild river.
Rupert has, as he put it, “hung up my expedition hat and long distance paddle for now as I have two small boys and a very long suffering wife, who wouldn’t thank me for heading off…”.  That’s quite a relief, so it leaves some other rivers that we can attack.  I am looking forward to the story to come…


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

warren willisreply
February 08, 2010 at 01:02 PM

Im half way down the zambezi on a source to sea decent. am curious as to wether you managed to get through angola alright as i had lots of hassles, including getting passport confiscated!

February 08, 2010 at 01:02 PM
– In reply to: warren willis

Hi Warren, I have forwarded your email onto Rupert but he did it 13 years ago so a little out of touch I think. If he thinks of anything I am sure he will get back to you directly. Good luck – very envious! Regards Jo

February 09, 2010 at 01:02 PM

Hi Warren,
As Jo said, I paddled the river back in 1996, so I am very out of touch.
However we had even more trouble than you with Angola. About 3 weeks before we headed off we got reports that any white person found in that area of Angola would be killed. This was apparently linked to a mercenary group of ex SA soldiers agreeing to support the government. All very messy, so in the end we were forced to miss out Angola altogether. We paddled to the border (portaging all those fish traps!), then we rejoined the river on it’s return to Zambia.
A guy called Mike Boon paddled the whole river in 2003 and I know he had delays in Angola, before being given the all clear.
Best of luck with the trip and I hope you have an amazing and wonderful experience .
Go well

A hungry croc tastes Rupert’s canoe in Caboro Bassa « Explorers Club Franschhoek Blogreply
February 09, 2010 at 04:02 PM

[…] of two men in two boats, on a great adventure down one of the most thrilling rivers in Africa. The photos appear on a blog below and Rupert has sent this story along to accompany the photos. Yesterday I […]

July 03, 2010 at 03:07 PM
– In reply to: A hungry croc tastes Rupert’s canoe in Caboro Bassa « Explorers Club Franschhoek Blog

I have been looking into this journey as well and as yet am unable to find anyone who has completed the full journey. They are a number of claimants, Mike Boon is one of them but he rafted the rapids below the Vic Falls while his boat was transported to Matetsi mouth. Most expeditions have missed out Angola due to the unrest (now ended).
If anyone knows of an individual or expedition that have completed an unsupported full decent can they please let me know. That is ‘to travel with the same boat from the source (being the point that the river erupts from the ground) to the sea without the aid of vehicles and traversing all of the river either boat or by foot (while carrying or pulling the said boat).
So far I am unable to find anyone who has done this (must include all of the lower batoka gorge).
If anyone has done it or knows of someone that has please advise or

ali edwards rodgersreply
November 27, 2010 at 01:11 AM

I was just curious as to whether the Rupert Fitzmaurice mentioned here is a very old friend from England. He moved to Lesotho aroung 1979 from Little Tew, Oxfordshire. He’s be about 52 now. Thanks!

Rupert FitzMauricereply
November 28, 2010 at 04:11 AM
– In reply to: ali edwards rodgers

Hi Ali,
I’m sorry to disappoint you but we are two different people with the same name. I hope you manage to track him down.
Best of luck

henry cooksonreply
June 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM

Rupert/ Warren/ Justin
I am looking to get in touch but strugging to find your contact details on the the web!
Warren we met briefly in Windsor, a couple of years ago with Tim Cook who organised the Row Zambizi project (I did not end up working on the project).
Basically looking for a kayak guide for a trip in Botswana / Southern Africa this summer.
Henry (

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