Living on the Edge: Swimming at Devil's Pool, Victoria Falls

Life on the Edge Devil's Pool Victoria Falls Zambia
••• Leap of Faith, Devil's Pool. Yvette Cardozo/ Getty Images

Located on the border of Zambia and ZimbabweVictoria Falls deserves a place on everybody's Southern Africa bucket list. After all, it stretches for more than a mile, creating the world's largest sheet of falling water. It is a spectacle of deafening noise and rainbow-colored mists, and with spray that reaches some 1,000 feet into the air it is easy to see why the Kololo people once christened it Mosi-oa-Tunya or "The Smoke That Thunders".

There are several incredible viewpoints from which to witness the Falls' splendor - but for the ultimate high-octane experience, consider a dip in the Devil's Pool.

On the Edge of the World

Devil's Pool is a natural rock pool located next to Livingstone Island on the lip of Victoria Falls. During the dry season, the pool is shallow enough to allow visitors to swim safely to the edge, where they are protected from the 330 foot/ 100 meter drop by a wall of submerged rock. Under the supervision of a local guide, it is even possible to stare over the edge of the abyss into the boiling pot of froth and spray below. This is the closest that you can get to the Falls, and an unforgettable way to experience the sheer power of one of the world's Seven Natural Wonders

Getting To Devil's Pool

Devil's Pool can only be accessed from the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. The easiest way to get there is to join one of the Livingstone Island tours arranged by local operator Tongabezi Lodge.

After a short boat ride to the island, your tour guide will help you to navigate over a series of rocks and shallow sections of rapidly moving water to the edge of the pool. Once there, entering the pool requires a leap of faith from an overhanging rock. You'll need to trust that you won't be swept over the edge; but once you're in, the water is warm and the view is incomparable.

 

Swimming at Devil's Pool is only possible during the dry season, when the river level falls and the flow of water is not as strong. The pool is therefore generally only open from mid-August to mid-January, during which time Tongabezi Lodge runs five tours per day. It is possible to book in advance via their website, or through recommended operators in Zambia and Zimbabwe including Safari Par Excellence and Wild Horizons. The lodge's twin-engine boat has space for up to 16 visitors. Excursions include a tour of Livingstone Island and an insight into its history from ancient sacrificial site to present-day World Heritage Site. 

There are three tours to choose from: the Breezer tour, which lasts 1.5 hours and includes breakfast; the Lunch tour, which lasts 2.5 hours and includes a three-course meal; and the High Tea tour, which lasts two hours and includes a selection of rolls, cakes and scones. The tours are priced at $105, $170 and $145 per person respectively. 

Is it Dangerous?

Jumping into the water just feet away from the edge of the world's largest waterfall may seem crazy, and undoubtedly experiencing Devil's Pool is not for the faint-hearted. Even in low season the currents are strong, and it's best to be confident of your swimming abilities.

However, with a little bit of caution and a professional guide to look after you, Devil's Pool is perfectly safe. There have never been any casualties, and there's a safety line to hold onto en route to the pool itself. However, adrenalin junkies need not worry about the experience being tame - it's still incredibly thrilling. 

Other Ways to Experience the Falls

Another pool known as Angels' Armchair remains open for longer, offering an alternative for visitors that travel to the Falls when Devil's Pool is closed. There are also plenty of other, equally adventurous ways to spend time at Victoria Falls. The Victoria Falls Bridge is home to one of the world's most scenic bungee jumps at a height of 364 feet/ 111 meters.  Other death-defying activities include gorge-swinging, ziplining, abseiling and white-water rafting.

For those that prefer a more sedate approach to life, you can take spectacular photos of the Falls from the tourist viewpoints. 

This article was updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on March 12th 2018.