Victoria Falls – Zambia
Known as the “adventure capital” of Africa, Victoria Falls (and its national park) is often considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Since I’d seen Iguaçu Falls a couple of times, I had never really cared about visiting Vic Falls (which I had read wasn’t as impressive), but as more and more people mentioned how amazing it was, and since it happens to be a hub for different Africa itineraries, and since we could get cheaper flights to Livingstone (Zambia) than Victoria Falls Town (Zimbabwe) we figured we’d stop by. The falls are shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe, with the latter taking 75% of the area of the falls. Because of this, people often skip visiting the Zambian side of the falls, opting for the ‘bigger bang’ in Zimbabwe. We were going to do the exact same thing – until I read about the Devil’s Pool, which can only be accessed from Zambia’s side.
The Devil’s Pool is a natural pool that happens to be right on the edge of the top of a waterfall. Consequently, it’s quite a rush to swim in it because you’re literally on the edge of a cliff. It’s on Livingstone Island, a private area within Victoria Falls owned by a resort, so you can only go to the Devil’s Pool with their private tour company – which they charge $65USD per person for the privilege (on top of the $20USD park entry fee).
Not wanting to spend $180USD between us just to go swimming in a natural pool, we started looking into how to get there without a tour. We found very little information online and only a couple sites mentioning that you didn’t have to go to Livingstone Island to get to the Devil’s Pool, and that you could hire a guide within the park who would take you for much, much less. SOLD.
How to NOT visit the Devil’s Pool in Victoria Falls
When we got to the park, however, we learned that you absolutely could not reach the Devil’s Pool without entering Livingstone Island, and that you absolutely could not step foot on Livingstone Island without paying for that ridiculous tour. Apparently the guides we had read about were ‘illegal’ guides, and so it wasn’t safe to go with them, not to mention that they wouldn’t be able to take us to the Devil’s Pool anyway, and would likely try and cheat us and take us somewhere totally different. Taking that with a pinch of salt, we skipped the paid tour and wandered into the park.
Our cab driver had spoken to one of the curio shop vendors after we told him what we were trying to do. And that guy waited until we entered the park and walked us over to another guy who didn’t have any shoes on named Felix, who said he could take us as far as Livingstone Island, but unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to cross in as it was private property. He explained that some people go later in the afternoon (around 5P.M., which is an hour before sunset) and the rangers who guard the border of Livingstone island will often let them in for $50 per person (a $15 discount per person), but that still seemed super expensive to us. $100 for a swim? No thanks.
Felix was up front about the fact that we couldn’t go to the Devil’s Pool, but said he could take us to another similar natural occurring pool (he called it a Jacuzzi) on the edge of the falls. He wanted $35 per person, and after some very weak bargaining on our part, we agreed on $40 total (really we should have paid $10-$20).
We set off with Felix, a native of the area, who hopped from rock to rock with ease. He told us that he often fished in the rivers so he knew the area very well. Jordan and I wondered if we were going to get robbed and left in the middle of nowhere.
After stopping in several spots and learning a bit more about the area, he started leading us to this Jacuzzi he had mentioned – the main reason we were there. We had to take our shoes off and wade in the river, which was filled with plankton and was extremely slippery – Jordan and I looked at each other and we knew that we were both thinking the same thing – we’re going to die.
Melodramatic? Maybe – but since we had read about someone dying at Victoria Falls on a trip with an illegal guide, it wasn’t a totally inappropriate thought. That, and when Felix let go of my hand to help Jordan, I slipped on the rock and almost face planted into the river.
Eventually we got to this pool of stagnant water on the edge of the cliff. Luckily, we passed right by it (Jordan and I both were worried that this great ‘Jacuzzi’ he kept telling us about was going to be an utter disappointment and that we had just wasted $80).
Felix led us right to the edge of the cliff and pointed down to a little nook that wasn’t immediately obvious. True to his word, there was a little whirl pool with rushing water and a mini waterfall, leading off to the big fall that went right off the cliff. It really did look like a Jacuzzi, with the rocks almost forming (albeit very slippery) seats, perfect for us to perch on and look over the falls. We grinned and climbed right in (carefully).
We took a selfie, blown away by the sheer awesomeness of this private little pool on the edge of a waterfall. It doesn’t look that impressive, does it?
But then you zoom out and you can see the waterfall pouring from our little pool over the side of the cliff. So what? Big deal.
And then you zoom out entirely and you can see the magnificence of exactly where we were hanging out. HOLY CRAP WE’RE ON THE EDGE OF A FREAKING WATERFALL!!
We had the place all to ourselves, our own private devil’s pool. Felix was awesome – he clambered over the rocks to a viewpoint and hung out under the shade of a tree taking tons of pictures for us, while we splashed and paddled and laughed and grinned. He didn’t rush us, so we just hung out there enjoying it and soaking it all in until we felt we were good to go.
He walked us back to the main trail, where we parted ways. Jordan and I thanked him for sharing this secret place with us that only locals seemed to know about. We felt like we hit the jackpot. We never made it to the Devil’s Pool but we still felt like where we got to go was way cooler than it could ever have been.
We then headed down to the “Boiling Pot”, which is the area where the waters swirl due to the resistance of the rock causing a backflow, exactly the same as you see with boiling water in a hot pot.
After a brief stop to check out the swirling waters, we headed back up and left the park, still giddy from the epic waterfall swim we had just done.