Africa · Travel

A Dip in the Devil’s Pool – Victoria Falls

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If someone built a hotel, with an infinity pool that truly overlooked The Victoria Falls, it would be on every traveller’s bucket list. In Zambia, Mother Nature has gone one better creating an infinity pool on the edge of Victoria Falls! Daring tourists travel from across the world to take a dip in the scarily named Devil’s Pool, and we eagerly joined our tour back in November 2018. Join us as we take a dip in the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls.

The Victoria Falls

The mighty Zambezi River flows through Zambia in wide, hippo filled meanders. As it approaches the border with Zimbabwe, the current begins to speed up, eddies and whirlpools become small rapids and a distant roar is heard. Water thunders over the Victoria Falls in dramatic fashion, even in low season, into the gorge below. The famous sheets of water make this one of the world’s largest, and most famous waterfalls, as well as a jewel in Southern Africa’s tourism crown.

After the rains, the force is immense and the spray can be seen for a great distance. Standing on the Zimbabwean side, you are drenched in a matter of minutes and even visitors to the bridge, that is further back, come away soggy. However, when the water level is low, it is possible to see it from a unique and totally memorable perspective; The Devil’s Pool.

The Devil’s Pool as seen from the Zimbabwean side. Can you spot the brave/crazy tourists waiting for their turn?

What is the Devil’s Pool?

It sounds terrifying! Why on earth would you jump into something called the Devil’s Pool!?

Could I BE more chilled out!?

I get it, it sounds crazy, but it is actually the calmest area of the Victoria Falls. The rock formations surrounding the Devil’s Pool, and the natural “armchair” shape create a 3m deep pool with a gentle current. It rises to a lip that sticks slightly out over the falls giving visitors an astonishing view of the 103m drop beyond.

Our Devil’s Pool Tour

Zimbabwe to Zambia

Our hotel, The Victoria Falls Hotel, was set on the Zimbabwean side of the falls so we were picked up nice and early. The minivan took us across the bridge that serves as the border crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Our tourist visa allowed us to cross freely between the two nations. The transport took us up the road a little, through Livingstone and to the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

Royal Livingstone by Anantara

Although these tours are run by Tongabezi Lodge, they take advantage of the Royal Livingstone’s position further downstream. The hotel has stunning grounds, which I totally failed to take photos of (sorry)! Zebras and other animals wander the area and yet, they still have a perfectly manicured lawn that runs down to the river.

The Zambezi River

We all donned our lifejackets before hopping into the boat. It very quickly gathered speed and we zoomed downriver, making sure to skim over the eddies and currents. The river, at the point it cascades over the Victoria Falls is a whopping 1700m (5500ft) wide so crisscrossing it put it in perspective. We slalomed between small islands as the boat captain scanned the water for hippos and crocodiles. 

Livingstone Island

Livingstone Island is one of the two islands that are large enough to split the flow of the falls throughout the year. At high water, it looks tiny but in early November it is fully exposed, including this river channel which is reduced to a stream with high sides.

The island, which looked so small from the river, opened up in front of us and it was strangely easy to forget the swiftly flowing river to either side.
On arrival, we were all given a nice non-alcoholic welcome drink.
Maybe a stiffer drink would have helped calm our nerves after seeing this sign!

Dr Livingstone, I Presume

This monument to Livingstone is the only permanent structure on Livingstone Island

Livingstone Island was named for Dr David Livingstone. This Scottish explorer first came across Victoria Falls in 1855. Members of the Makolo tribe took him in their canoes, down the Zambezi to see Mosi oa Tunya (the smoke that thunders). He, in the way British explorers tended to, renamed the waterfall. He labelled them Victoria Falls after the Queen of Great Britain. His gushing words, about the gushing waters, brought the falls to the attention of European interests and by 1900, settlements were already established for business and tourism alike.

“The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of colour and form…no one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” – Dr David Livingstone.

This Way to Victoria Falls

We hiked a small distance along a path that emerged into an open rocky expanse. It was only then that it became clear that this island ended at the Victoria Falls. It might seem stupid to say, but it was a weird and wonderful moment!

We walked across the irregular rocks and with slightly wobbly knees, edged towards the waterfall line. From here, the famous double rainbow came into view and it took my breath away. The earlier in the day you arrive, the clearer this beautiful bonus will be.

I wondered if anyone could see us from the Zimbabwean side, through the haze

Along the Line

It was time to ditch the clothes and take to the water. There is a line strung between Livingstone Island and the outcrop that creates the Devil’s Pool. To reach the pool we had to follow this rope, ensuring we didn’t cross it. I thought that at five foot tall, I may be swimming most of it, but it was less than a minute of swimming, meaning the rest was just wading through the water or picking my way over submerged rocks. The river was a little nippy but refreshing in the heat of the Zambian sun.

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Taking a Dip in the Devil’s Pool

From the high rock that we gathered on, we were instructed to descend into the deep area of water and swim directly in one direction to ensure we were out of any currents. In our small groups, we took turns to swim over to the best spot for photos and gazing over the edge. Tourists used to be allowed to dive into the pool but we were told that this was no longer allowed. We both jumped in with a yelp. If you aren’t so confident, there is a route down the rocks instead.

There was a definite thrill as we made our way across the pool, but the current didn’t seem too strong so the adrenaline just morphed into excitement. The power of the water crashing to either side blew spray up towards us, and it felt utterly surreal to be in a gentle stream that was headed in the same direction as the surging river.

There are small fish in the pool that enjoy having a little nibble on your feet. Don’t freak out and just enjoy the free foot spa as you enjoy the crazy scenery!

On the Edge

The guides are immensely confident and clearly have their routines down to the letter. One chap took our GoPro and directed our photoshoot while the others hung onto our ankles to ensure we didn’t get silly and go over the edge into oblivion.

(I hesitate to share these as we were not at our physical best but here they are, so look away now if you are of a nervous disposition).

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Lunch on Livingstone Island

After swimming/paddling our way back across to Livingstone Island, we wandered back to a nice open-sided cabin. We were all given a drink and a light lunch of a tasty bagel. Our tour was a “morning breezer tour” but later in the day, there is the chance to take a tour with a multi-course lunch or an afternoon tea.

Ours wasn’t a meal to linger over as we were soon encouraged to grab our belongings and join the boat ride back to the Royal Livingstone.

Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls

Tours

Tours to Livingstone Island run from June to December, exclusively run by Tongabezi. Swimming in the Devil’s Pool is only available when the water is low enough to be safe, this is generally from mid-August to the end of December. But do check conditions before you book if you definitely want to swim. You must be eight or older to visit Livingstone Island and over twelve to enter Devil’s Pool.

Timings

There are five tours a day;

07:30 – Breezer $110

09:00 – Breezer $110

10:30 – Breezer $110

12:30 – Lunch $175

15:30 – Afternoon Tea $150

If you are staying on the Zimbabwean side of the falls, and have the combination visa, you are able to visit the Zambian side to visit the Devil’s Pool. The border formalities do add a little time to the journey so bear this in mind when you are planning your tour time if you don’t like to get up too early.

Packing for The Devil’s Pool

Things to pack:

  • Clothes – Yes, you might be swimming but not for the entire tour. We packed some undies to change into once the wet portion was finished. 
  • Sun cream – Protect your skin and make sure you bring some to reapply once you have been swimming. 
  • Sunglasses – It can be quite bright and so to enjoy the view, bring your sunnies.
  • Shoes – The rocks are rough so make sure they have a decent sole.
  • Swimming Gear – If you are swimming, you’ll need to bring something to wear! We suggest some study swimwear, it would be awful to watch your strappy bikini bottoms whoosh over the edge of the falls!

Things you don’t need to pack:

  • Drinks and Food – These are provided on the island.
  • Towel – Thankfully, there is the chance to dry off and the towels are supplied meaning you don’t have to heft yours around during the tour.
Safety

Since the launch of these tours, there have been no serious injuries on Livingstone Island or in the Devil’s Pool. The small instances there have been, have all been related to slipping on the rocks. Listen to guides and follow their guidance. They are great at what they do, and absolutely have your best interests at heart. 

Accommodation

There is no shortage of beautiful hotels in the area surrounding Victoria Falls. We were lucky enough to stay at two amazing hotels, Tongabezi Lodge and Victoria Falls Hotel. Follow these links to see full reviews.

Final Thoughts on Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls.

They call this kind of activity “soft adventure”. This means there is a fabulous adrenaline rush but less risk involved. It is a wonderfully accessible adventure, allowing people from all over the globe, and at all levels of fitness to take part. It is the most exciting way to see Victoria Falls and should truly be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Some thought we were mad, some thought it looked epic, some were just thoroughly confused about the desire to look over a ridiculous chasm: we look back with wistful, misty rainbow memories of a dip in the Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls.

Rosie xx


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