A pool at the edge of the world called from afar. Travellers called it the Devil’s Pool and showed off their photographs of the brilliant sight every time the words “bucket list” came up in conversation.
The Devil’s Pool… an intimidating natural infinity pool at the edge of the Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River tumbles 120 metres over the precipice.
As the rains dry up, usually between August and January, the Zambezi’s levels sink and reveal a rock wall around the pool that acts as a barrier. This allows travellers to swim about in safety. Formed as a result of thousands of years of erosion, it’s considered the most dangerous pool in the world. A place where the call of the brave is strong.
I had to follow.
From Royal Chundu on the upper reaches of the Zambezi, two other guests and I were transferred to the Victoria Falls, in search of our pool on Livingstone Island. It was here that explorer, Dr David Livingstone, first witnessed the Falls in 1855.
We hopped a boat from the Royal Livingstone Hotel to the island, where hosts welcomed us with a glass of the traditional Zambian drink, “Maheu”, made from maize meal. They guided us through the trees to the edge of the Falls on the east bank, overlooking the smaller Horseshoe and Rainbow Falls (seen below).
Taking the leap
On the west bank, where the Victoria Falls and Devil’s Pool lie, our guide passed us on to a man in a wetsuit who introduced himself as Omega, Alpha Omega. The James Bond of Zambia. Together, we swam through the shallow waters of the Zambezi to the rocks around the Devil’s Pool. Alpha ambled up to the top and somersaulted in without a second’s wait. He landed centimetres from the cliff.
Suddenly the call of the pool didn’t seem as strong.
Perhaps I could just look at it from the periphery.
Take a photo.
What would Livingstone do? I wondered.
150 years ago, he’d probably have ordered Chuma and Susi, his loyal attendants, to test it out first.
I honoured the spirit of the Scotsman and urged the other travellers in before me.
Detecting my hesitation – of which I must write because too many profess to “unwavering bravery” when describing their trips to Devil’s Pool – Alpha shimmied over to me, extended a hand. I grasped it tightly and followed him into the water. It was cool and home to a school of little fish that pecked at my toes. I gave in. I let go.
We wiggled our way onto the lip of the pool, the barrier keeping us safe. And I got it. I understood. Both the need to boast of bravery once conquering the challenge and the great dichotomy of the sight, the heavenliness of the Devil’s Pool.
When To Go
The beauty of the Victoria Falls is that you can visit all year round – the dry season may not have the impact of the gushing cascade but the gorge dries up letting you see how grand it really is. And, of course, there’s that pool…
The Devil’s Pool is available for an even shorter period as the water level has to be really low to allow for safe swimming. Although variable every year this is normally from late August to early January.
If you merely want to go on a tour of the island, the season is normally from early July to early March, when the water level of the Zambezi river is low enough to allow safe access.
Good To Know
- The island guides are available to take photographs and videos of you with your camera.
- The island tour includes a meal at Livingstone Island, whether breakfast, lunch or snacks.
- The boat trip returns you to the Royal Livingstone Hotel.
- Remember to take your costume and towel or sarong, suntan lotion, cameras, comfortable shoes and a good dose of chutzpah. Other than that you don’t need much more.
- Listen to the guides at the Devil’s Pool and heed their warnings.
- Travel tip: A helicopter trip from the lodge makes for a great alternative mode of travel