Would you dare swim in natural pool overlooking the edge of one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls? I have (and lived to tell the story), and it was one of the most surreal, thrilling, exhilarating, and EPIC experiences I have ever had. I think it’s safe to say that the Devil’s Pool is the ultimate infinity pool – made more incredible by the fact that it is natural.
Located near the edge of the Victoria Falls on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side, this is something for thrill seekers willing to swim in, lean over the edge, and peer over the brim of the largest curtain of falling water in the world. This experience is every bit as incredible as it looks, and worthy of its fame. If you would like to know how to have this experience for yourself, read below to get all my tips and recommendations.
WHAT TO EXPECT
What to bring. To be honest, you don’t need to bring too many things. Wear a swimsuit and some swim shoes, bring some sunblock, non DEET insect repellant, your preferred camera + equipment, your passport (if you decide to visit the Zimbabwe side), some cash (around $100 USD to be safe), and some courage! It might also be helpful to bring a change of clothes or something that dries easily since you’ll be wet after the swim.
You’ll have to swim across the Zambezi. Before arriving at the actual pool where the falls are, you will have to swim a short distance across the Zambezi (no more than 5/10 minutes) from Livingston Island to the Devil’s Pool. The first part of the swim is against the current, while the second part is down current which makes it a bit easier. You will also be escorted by at least 2 guides whose main focus is to ensure that everyone is safe. If you’re a weak swimmer, you have the option of walking across the river while holding hands with the guide in waist deep water. However, if you don’t know how to swim at all I would not advise you participate in this activity at all. It’s just not worth the risk.
There’s fish in the water. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t realize this beforehand, but there are fish (think catfish, not cute colorful fish like Nemo) swimming in the pool that bite and nibble at your legs while you’re in the river. The last thing you need is something that startles you while you’re swimming at the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world, so just a head’s up. They aren’t aggressive or strong enough for you to be concerned about your safety, but it is enough to scare you a bit if you don’t know to expect them.
Photography. If you can, I highly recommend you bring a waterproof case/camera, waterproof phone, or Go Pro. The falls are nicknamed The Smoke That Thunders (locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya) because of the amount of water spraying in the air surrounding it. Since you’ll have to swim across the river, you don’t want to have equipment that is too bulky, however, you can still bring whichever camera equipment you typically use and rely on because one of the guides accompanying the group will carry it for you. While one guide is with you in the pool making sure you are safe and enjoying yourself, the other guide will be capturing all your photos and videos for you – by balancing on the edge of the pool! I’m not sure what kind of training this guide has been through, but he manages to get amazing photos and videos of you from various angles while also holding onto everyone else’s camera equipment. All the photos in this post were taken by my guide! I think he did an amazing job considering I didn’t coach him at all. Note that the use of drones is not permitted without a license and you will not be allowed to fly one (it could actually get confiscated).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is it Safe? This is usually the first question people ask after finding out about the Devil’s Pool and for me, the answer is yes. I’m able bodied, a decent swimmer, and was able to fully enjoy swimming in the pool without feeling like I was ever in danger. However, I am also someone who loves adventure and has done things like skydiving in the past – so this was an activity right up my alley. As with everything else in life, you will have to decide for yourself if you are willing to take the very real and significant risks that come with this kind of activity (you have to sign a waiver before participating). Beyond falling over the edge of the pool to your death, there is the very rare (but real) chance that crocs or hippos could be in the waters. But after speaking to my guides, I was told that there have never been any deaths or casualties on record at Devil’s Pool during the Livingstone Island tour, which I believe is the only official tour operating at the pool. But you get to decide for yourself.
Is it scary? You are literally at what feels like the edge of the world and the only thing stopping you from the drop is a rock formation – of course it’s scary! But for me, it was scary in a very liberating and exhilarating way. My adventurous sister that I went with was pretty terrified the entire time, but pushed through and did it! More than anything the challenge of the Devil’s Pool is more psychological than it is physical.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONT’D
Can I go independently? No, there is no way to access the Devil’s Pool on your own. And why would you want to??? The only way to visit the pool is as part of the Livingstone Island tour, operated Tongabezi Hotel which departs from the Royal Livingstone Hotel.
Zambia vs. Zimbabwe. While you can only access the Devil’s Pool from the Zambia side, the view of Victoria Falls is better from the Zimbabwe side. I was not personally able to get to the Zimbabwe side for a lack of time, but if you are interested make sure to get a multiple entry visa upon arrival to Zambia and then get a single entry visa to Zimbabwe. This is of course dependent on your nationality and the passport you travel on.
When is the best time to go? The Devil’s Pool is not open year round, so if you’re hoping to visit you’ll have to time it according to the season. It typically opens from August to January when the water levels of the river are much less (making it safer to swim in the river). October and November tend to best within that time frame (I went in late November and it was incredible) and give you the best odds of the water levels being low. However, mother nature has a mind of her own, so this can change. The pool is closed from February to June when the rains cause higher water levels that make swimming in the Zambezi unsafe.
PRICE + HOW TO BOOK
How to Book. As I mentioned above, the Devil’s Pool is part of the Livingstone Island tour which is run exclusively by Tongabezi Lodge. But you don’t have to stay with them to be able to book the experience; you can book it through whichever hotel, hostel, tour company, or any travel agency you prefer Ithey will all have to go through Tongabezi). I believe the price remains consistent across the board. However, no matter who you book with just make sure to reserve at least a week or more in advance. There are limited spaces and as you can imagine, it regularly sells out.
Price. The price for the Devil’s Pool depends on the time slot that you book and you’ll have the option to choose between variety of time slots for the breakfast ($100 USD), lunch ($170 USD) or hight tea ($140 USD) packages. Each tour regardless of time includes:
– At least 2 guides that accompany the entire group (one oversees the safety of the group, the other captures photos/videos)
– A jetty boat ride from Royal Livingstone Hotel to Livingstone Island
– Access to the Devil’s Pool and towels
– Drinks (alcoholic included) and a gourmet spread.
When I went, there was only availability for the High Tea in the late afternoon, which made for a beautiful sunset. However, if I could do it all over again I would have fought for a breakfast slot because that is the only time when you can experience the pools when the rainbows are vibrant and visible. You must choose one of these tours that include a meal. There is no tour available without a meal and visit to Livingstone Island. For the cheapest way to swim in Devil’s Pool, we recommend one of the breakfast tours, of course. Its also the cheapest time slot, so I would highly recommend you try for that time if you can.
OTHER WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THE FALLS
While I personally was not able to do them, there are several other ways to experiences Victoria Falls if you’re not able or interested in going to the Devil’s Pool. You can take a hike on any one of the many hiking trails, or do other adventurous activities like bungee jump off The Victoria Falls Bridge (at a height of 364 feet/111 meters), gorge-swinging, zip-lining, abseiling and white-water rafting. Taking a helicopter ride above the falls is also sure to grant you some serious views.