Only the Devil would swim in an infinity-like pool at the top of a 360 ft (108 m) waterfall, and when he invites you to come over for a pool party, you should probably say no, but, hey, it’s the Devil, and he is pretty persuasive, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself there. That’s where I found myself, the Devil’s Pool, swimming at the edge of a waterfall.
Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is considered one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. It’s 5,604 ft (1,708 m) wide and 360 ft (108 m) tall, and is constantly adorned with rainbows and mist. It is a long sheet of falling water over a basalt plateau fed by the Zambezi river. It’s majesty is reinforced by its thunderous roar that you can hear miles away, but that’s not the first thing that will alert you to its presence, it’s the mist. On a sunny day, the mist can be scene more than 30 miles (48 km) away.
The Zambezi river stretches to 1.25 miles (2 km) wide before it crashes over the edge creating the falls. It’s the fourth-longest river in Africa, and flows through or on the border of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique before it empties into the Indian Ocean. Victoria Falls is not the only falls this river creates, it also creates the Chavuma Falls and the Ngonye Falls.
There are two islands in the river above the falls that remain year round, and the most notable one is Livingstone Island, the island where in 1855 David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer, was the first European to view the falls. He gave them their name, Victoria Falls, named in honor of Queen Victoria. But, the falls also go by a more apt name given by the indigenous people, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to “the smoke that thunders.”
In order to get to Devil’s Pool I had to start at the luxurious Royal Livingstone Hotel, where it’s not uncommon to see Zebra’s grazing in the grass next to a beautiful pool surrounded by lounge chairs. From there I took a boat to Livingstone Island through the turbulent Zambezi, towards the falls. Behind me, in the more serene area of the river, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and other animals reside.
Once on Livingstone Island, I could walk up to the edge of the plateau, look down the gorge, and see the curtain of waterfalls. The rainforest on the other side, thriving because of the immense mist from the falls, set a lovely green garnishment to the rocky canyon. It’s this spot where Livingstone said of the falls, “….so lovely, it must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
It was the dry season, so I could see more of the rock face the water normally slides down. In fact, the island and the Devil’s Pool are only accessible in the dry season. It’s the only time the water current and levels permits safe access. From the island, I had to swim across the river, to a rock that I would scale and jump off of into the Devil’s Pool. The current at this point wasn’t too strong, and they fixed a rope to help get us to the middle of the river. A rocky bottom lurked beneath the water though, which made the traverse more difficult.
Once I jumped into the Devil’s Pool, the water current, pushed me to the edge of the waterfall. Fortunately, there is an underwater slippery rocky lip that stood in the way from me being swept over the edge, where over 500 million liters of water cascades every minute. I was able to lay on that ledge while my guide held my feet and look over the falls.
Following the swim, the group I was with and I were treated to a lovely breakfast on Livingstone island before we took the boat back to the mainland. There is one designated bathroom on the island with a sign that reads, “the loo with a view,” and that’s because the bathroom only has three walls with the other open to the river.
Most people who interact with waterfalls usually see them from below, or maybe from a bridge that overlooks them, or even from a path that goes behind them, but rarely, can you experience a waterfall, and live, by swimming at its edge. The insanity of it is probably why it’s called “The Devil’s Pool.”
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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller