Victoria Falls is Africa’s most awesome natural landmark. It is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It is formed by the mile-wide Zambezi as it crashes into a 105m/345ft-deep precipice on the Zambia–Zimbabwe border. Flowing at up to 500,000 cubic metres/110 million gallons per minute, it kicks up a 500m/1,640ft-high rainbow-tinted spray alluded to in its local name Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that Thunders).
Victoria Falls is a stunning spectacle however you view it. Whether it’s from the bottom of the gorge, from spray-doused Knife Edge Bridge, or from the comfort of a plane or chopper. But when it comes to a breath-taking immersive experience, nothing is quite so full-on as a dip in Devil’s Pool. This oddly becalmed 3m/10ft-deep natural pool stands right on the edge of the abyss, separated from the raging white water by the narrowest of rock lips.
Known by locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders,” it was first seen by Western eyes in 1855 when British explorer David Livingstone came upon it and named it after his queen. Reflecting on the experience of seeing Victoria Falls for the first time, he wrote, “Scenes so lovely must be gazed upon by angels in their flight.” The cataract still has that power to strike awe. It spans about a mile the entire width of the Zambezi River and drops a distance about twice the height of Niagara into a narrow gorge in one seemingly continuous sheet, forcing mist to rise high into the sky. Not only can you see it, but you can hear it (from about a mile away), feel it, smell it, and taste it.
Where is it?
The Victoria Falls straddles Zimbabwe to the west and Zambia to the east. You can access it from either country, via the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Livingstone in Zambia. Both have good air connections. Zimbabwe has historically been the more popular entry point.
How do I get there?
There are national park entrances on both sides of the falls, easily accessible from the towns of either Livingstone or Victoria Falls.
Which side is better?
To see the Victoria Falls, go to Zimbabwe, but to feel the falls, go to Zambia. The Zambia side at high flow (February to June) is an exhilaratingly visceral experience; visitors walking on the other side of the narrow gorge can feel the spray (get drenched or rent a poncho). In the dry season, because the falls are at an incline, portions of land stay dry, which opens up other opportunities.
The Zimbabwe side tends to offer the more picturesque views because the viewpoints are farther, offering perspective. If you go in the height of the dry season, say, in November, the water volume is at a low point and the falls can feel a little underwhelming.
Devil’s Pool is a natural pool of water that’s situated atop of Victoria Falls, renowned for being among the largest waterfalls in the world. Right on the edge of this massive waterfall, a calm pool of water forms. This is known as the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls. And daring visitors can actually swim in this pool straddling the edge of Victoria Falls!
Devil’s Pool is a death-defying feat that even the most casual of thrill seekers must add to their travel bucket list.
When visiting Devil’s Pool, it’s even possible to lean over the edge of Africa’s Victoria Falls. This breath-taking experience in Devil’s Pool is every bit as mind-boggling as it looks. Visitors can literally get right up to the edge of what amounts to more than a 100-meter waterfall drop.
Devil’s Pool Safety
Safety can be subjective. And Devil’s Pool is certainly not without some significant risks that adventure-seekers should be aware of. In Devil’s Pool itself, there is a rock lip that protrudes upward which keeps you from falling over the edge. Under the low water conditions that you’re permitted to enter Devil’s Pool, you would have to make a concerted effort to actually go up and over that rock that’s naturally keeping you in. This rock lip is thick and sturdy.
Before getting to Devil’s Pool Zambia, you must take a short swim in the Zambezi River right above Victoria Falls, from Livingston Island to Devil’s Pool. Many people don’t realize this.
You cross a portion of the Zambezi River by swimming partially up-current for the first half of the swim. For the latter half, you transition to swimming across and down current. There are guides that will instruct you. The current isn’t strong at all, but there is a current nonetheless. This swim through the Zambezi takes place in what we estimate to be about 50 to 100 meters from the edge of Victoria Falls.
Weaker swimmers are accommodated by wading through the water. Here, the water is about stomach-deep, depending on the water levels. Guides assist by holding hands, only if needed.
Most Devil’s Pool accidents have been from people slipping on wet rocks, causing minor injuries. Be careful on these rocks! Don’t let your guard down just because you’re not right on the edge of the waterfall.
As if the threat of falling off this enormous waterfall wasn’t enough, you also must consider the risk of running into a hippo or crocodile in Devil’s Pool. Yes, there are also hippos and crocodiles in the waters atop Victoria Falls. Guides do check for crocodiles before entering the water. Finding dangerous wildlife here is not outside the realm of possibility. Some hippos can be spotted during the short boat ride to Devil’s Pool.
So is Devil’s Pool completely safe? No, of course not. Just look at it. You’re hanging off the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world and sharing the water with nearby crocs and hippos! As with anything in life, there are definitely risks involved. You must weigh out the risks for yourself based on your personal comfort level. Everyone considering a dip in Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls will need to assess the risks to decide for themselves.
Best times to visit Devils Pool.
Visits to Devil’s Pool are restricted to boat tours to Livingstone Island operated by Tongabezi Safaris. These leave five times daily in season (June to December). The 1.5-hour ‘Livingstone Breezer’ tours leave at 7:30am, 9am and 10:30am. There is also a 2.5-hour Lunch Tour that departs at 12:30pm and a 2-hour High Tea tour at 3:30pm. The riverine scenery is most photogenic in the early morning or late afternoon, which ties in with the 7:30am and 3:30pm departures. Swimming is perhaps more pleasant in the heat of the day, which links with tours departing at 9am, 10:30am and 12:30pm.
Credits: Roamingaroundtheworld.com, safaribookings.com, Wikipedia.
Photo credits: Oddviser, Spirited pursuit, History view, roamingaroundtheworld.com and Viator.