“I acknowledge that I am aware of an appreciate the real dangers and risks that are associated with visiting Livingstone Island on the Zambezi River arising inter alia from slippery rock surfaces, river currents, flash floods and the presence of wild and dangerous animals, reptiles, and insects and the real risk of suffering bodily harm, injury and even death.” As we waited for our boat at the dock of the Royal Livingstone Hotel each of us signed a waiver, as you do when participating in any risky activity. We were all aware that the risk of swimming at Devil’s Pool was a little higher than many other adrenaline activities, but that’s half the thrill of it, right?
We were whisked off down the Zambezi River, the breeze a relief from the humid morning air. We were glad for a break from the rain and all thankful we were still permitted to visit Devil’s Pool. We were told trips to the pool would be closing that week due to the increasingly heavy rains and the fast rising waters. We would be one of the final groups of the season to visit.
The ride to Livingstone Island, named after explorer, David Livingstone, was just long enough for us to all begin fretting about what lay ahead. The trail through the bush was short and narrow, leading us out to the edge of the great Victoria Falls. We kicked off our shoes, ditched our towels, then one by one faced the river.
Our guide entered the water first, and after giving us instructions to swim across the top of the falls he headed across the river. One by one, we followed. Myself and a friend were the last to cross. I was confident in my strength as a swimmer but she had a badly injured knee from our riverboarding and white water rafting adventure the day before. Unable to kick to propel herself through the currents I offered to tow her. I had gotten my lifeguard certifications before, it may have been in a calm swimming pool five years prior, but surely swimming for your life so not to go over the edge of a massive waterfall wouldn’t be too different. I kept my cool despite noticing the current was pushing us closer to the edge than comfortable as I examined the thin rope stretching across the top of the falls, judging if it would actually hold us, just in case.
We made it across without incident. My blood was pumping and I relaxed slightly as we headed on our next swim. This one was much shorter and there were enough rocks and shallow patches to get across safely and easily.
In the middle of the river, at the very edge of Victoria Falls, a rock ledge sticks up, often visible in the dry season, forming a natural pool. A calm spot, protected from the rushing waters and pulling currents. This is Devil’s Pool, our destination.
We climbed into the pool as a guide stood at the edge coaxing us. We took turns slowly climbing down from the rocks we were standing on and back into the water. You could feel the tension as each person swam to the rock ledge, putting total faith that it would be there. The water was too high now to see it. From our little pool in Zambia we stared across the gorge at Zimbabwe where tourists were snapping photos of the falls, the odd person noticing and pointing at the group of people, surely crazy for swimming atop the waterfall.
As we all settled in and took a seat in our patch of calm water a second guide collected a couple cameras to snap photos of us all. He then danced along the edge jumping around, balancing so carefully at the edge of the falls. A dare devil at Devil’s Pool. The entertainment was great but watching him was stressful, if he had slipped there was nothing to safe him.
One girl let out a squeal and splashed the water. If sitting at the edge of a waterfall wasn’t excitement enough, there are fish that favour nibbling on toes, giving you an unexpected surprise from time to time. The best part came next.
The guide motioned for me to roll over onto my stomach. My heart was in my throat as I struggled to keep a solid grasp on the rock ledge while I shifted position. A strong hand grabbed my left ankle first, then my right. I let go.
White water rafting. Bungy Jumping. Skydiving. Cn Tower EdgeWalk. Nothing compared.
I gripped my GoPro so not to drop it over the edge but immediately gave up on trying to take a selfie. I could feel the spray from the falls hitting my face as I was slowly pushed across the top of the ledge. I could feel the force of the water rushing over, unnoticeable when safely inside the pool. I could feel the force of the water rushing between my ankles and the hands of the guide. This guide who I had only know for thirty minutes. This guide who had no harness, no ropes. It was in this guide that I put more trust than I had ever put on another single person as he held me over the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Nothing compares to that moment.
Before I knew it I was back safe and sound in the pool. My heart had never beat so hard and I couldn’t stop smiling.
After each of us had had our terrifying turn at the top of the ledge we returned to Livingstone Island where we were served an absolutely delicious breakfast while exchanged photos and waited for our pulses to steady. It was then time to head back to shore. Spirits were high, adrenaline was higher, and we all came away with a great story to tell.
If you love a rush and crave a little danger from time to time then Devil’s Pool is the place to go. This isn’t an experience for the faint of heart, but for the adventurous ones this mission is a must-do. Nothing compares.