I was the last to jump. The other five were cheering as I strode confidently to the edge, but then the fear kicked in. The jump wasn’t big, but if you get it wrong, you could be swept over the 108-metre drop of the Victoria Falls straight into the to the crocodile-infested Zambezi below.
On the upside . . . it’s probably an aesthetically pleasing way to die.
Welcome to the story of my trip to the Devil’s Pool in Zambia and your guide.
Livingstone, Victoria Falls & The Devil’s Pool
As you are reading this, you are probably already fully aware that the Devil’s Pool is a small natural swimming pool that sits at the edge of the Victoria Falls in Zambia, in fact, you are probably doing some research as you are pretty sure you want to swim in Devil’s pool yourself but just want to know a little more before you take the jump.
Well you have come to the right place. In this post I’ll put your mind at ease and by the end you’ll be ready to take a leap of faith and swim with the devil.
But first, a little bit a how to get to the Victoria Falls from Lusaka and a bit of information about the town of Livingstone.
Feeling lazy? Feel free to skip ahead
Where to stay for Devil’s Pool?
Getting to Livingstone from Lusaka
What to do in Livingstone
The Victoria Falls
5 Facts about Victoria Falls
Devil’s Pool FAQs
Getting to Devil’s Pool from Livingstone
The wrap – what you need to know in 7 steps
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The best place to stay to visit Devil’s Pool
You have two main options if you want to stay close to the Victoria Falls. As Devil’s Pool itself is in Zambia, I’d recommend staying in Livingstone. It is the closest town Devil’s Pool on the Zambian side of the border, with the distance from Livingstone to the Victoria Falls being just a little over 7 miles.
But, just to make things a little confusing, there is also a town named Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side of the Zambia Zimbabwe border. Although Zimbabwe is probably the best place to view the Victoria Falls, just bear in mind you’ll need to cross the border and pay for a visa to Zambia to enjoy the hike to the pool. The cost of a day visa for Zambia is currently $50.
Getting From Lusaka to Livingstone
I was heading to Livingstone as part of a larger overland journey through East Africa having started in Nairobi, Kenya.
As I was on a tight budget I had decided to take a bus from Lusaka to Livingstone. The trip is a little under 500 kms and takes around 7 hours. It is also possible to get a regional flight from Lusaka airport to Livingstone with ProFlight Zambia.
Now, you probably have very valid safety concerns about domestic African airlines, but I have done a little research and it seems the company is pretty legit. They have no accidents in their history and have recently been removed from the EU “do not fly with this company” list.
The list probably has a more official sounding name than that, but that is effectively what it is. And besides, sketchy bus or sketchy flight, there’s probably not much difference when it comes to safety.
Oh, and in case you forgot, you’re reading an article about jumping into a pool at the top of the largest waterfall in the world, I guess safety doesn’t come first. Anyway, where was I?
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Lusaka bus station
Lusaka bus station is quite a crazy place (as all African bus stations seem to be) but it was quite straightforward to find out where to go and book a bus once you block out the mayhem.
I bought my ticket bus ticket to Livingstone from Mazhandu Family Bus Services. You can find them located in a sky blue little hut and have a clearly displayed timetable for the Lusaka to Livingstone bus route.
The bus fare from Lusaka to Livingstone is around $22 but you can’t book more than 24hours in advance.
The team was very helpful when buying, and pointing me to where the bus departs from.
With the bus ticket, I had allocated seating, so there was no rush, and the bus itself was surprisingly comfortable. All I had to do was sit back, relax and enjoy the next seven hours.
Amazingly, the bus even left on time, almost unheard when running on Africa time!
My Accommodation in Livingstone
I had booked to stay at the Jollyboys Backpackers. I had been recommended it by some other travellers I met earlier in my trip and I wasn’t disappointed.
There is a nice swimming pool, a bar, restaurant and garden with mango trees. All this was very well received after the 28-hour slog of an overland journey, I didn’t want to ever leave this little oasis!
Find out more about Jollyboys Backpackers on Hostelworld
Things to do in Livingstone Zambia
As you’d expect from a place so close to the Victoria Falls, it is a little bit touristy, but it still holds on to its authentic small-town vibe. It felt a little more affluent than the African other towns I had visited, but again, that’s probably due to the tourism.
Livingstone Craft Market
On my first day in Livingstone I visited the craft market. While it was great to see all the local art and crafts, it was quite an intense experience.
As I wandered there was pretty much constant harassment – the traders told me how poor they are and how they needed me to buy something so they could afford the bus home.
They are very good at it and it really pulled at my heartstrings, making me feel really guilty. I ended up caving in and buying a carved giraffe statue that was made by a local trader.
Well . . . he told me he made it but it looks suspiciously similar to the ones on all the other stalls, just with a different name carved on the bottom.
It’s almost like they get the same stock and just carve their own name on it, but they wouldn’t do that, would they?
Little did I realise that by doing this I now had a bag, a signal to others that I had money to spend and the calling definitely stepped up a notch.
If you can deal with it and are in a patient mood the craft market is worth a visit, but, if you are having a bad day (or are hungover) I’d stay away.
Many of the hostels work with local orphanages and at Jollyboys I signed up to join in a football game, Jollyboys vs. The Kids.
It was a really humbling experience, seeing the work that people do is amazing and it is an opportunity to also donate a little something and have some fun with the kids.
The Livingstone Museum
Dating back to 1934, the David Livingstone Museum has a wide range of prehistoric artifacts and, as you’d presume (see what I did there) a lot of information about David Livingstone, his life and ultimate death. It is also where you will find the David Livingstone statue.
I spent a couple of hours wandering around the museum and I highly recommend spending some time inside to learn a little more about the man behind the name you will encounter everywhere in this region of Africa.
The Museum is open every day from 9am until 4pm (check ahead on holidays as it may differ) and the cost to enter for adults is 25 Zambian Kwacha (about $2.20) and children 10 Zambian Kwacha (about 80 cents).
Hostel arranged adventure activities
There are loads of adventure activities to do in Livingstone including bungee jumping from the iconic Zambezi Bridge, whitewater rafting, game drives into the local wildlife parks, running with cheetahs, walking with lions, microlight or helicopter ride over the falls and loads more.
I was in Livingstone for a total of five days, before I made the trip to Devil’s Pool and I was worried I’d be bored but this wasn’t the case.
Check out my recommendations of things to do when visiting Livingstone
Mosi Oa Tunya National Park
The Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park is the park that surrounds the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side. It is open every day from 6am – 6pm and has an entrance fee of $20.
The park has several clearly marked paths that guide you around the park to various viewpoints to see the falls. In truth, when I first set eyes on them I was a little disappointed. You see, I was visiting towards the end of the dry season when the water was at its lowest. The falls weren’t in full flow and definitely did not look like the images I’d been looking at to build anticipation.
That’s not to say they were not impressive, they were beautiful but it was difficult to get a good view from the Zambian side. It’s kind of like visiting Niagara Falls in the USA, to see the best views you have to go to the Canadian side.
It is possible to cross the border for a day to see the Victoria Falls from both sides, but you will have to pay for a Zimbabwe day visa which is $30.
Read pros and cons: Viewing the Victorica Falls Zambia Vs Zimbabwe
However, I did find out you can’t visit the Devil’s Pool when the falls are raging as it’s too dangerous, so I got over my disappointment pretty quickly.
5 Facts about The Victoria Falls and Devil’s Pool
How big are is the Victoria Falls?
They are not the highest or widest in the world, however, with a combined width of an astonishing 1708 metres (just over 1 mile) and 108 metres in height (354 feet of twice as high as Niagara Falls), it becomes the world’s largest falling sheet of water.
Victoria Falls original name
The original name of the Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translate to “The Smoke That Thunders” and I love that more and more people are starting to use the traditional name again.
Who discovered Victoria Falls?
Well, they were obviously discovered way back by the indigenous population. In fact archaeologists have dated artefacts found in the area to more than 3-million years old.
However, most people when thinking of this question are really asking when did the West first hear of the Victoria Falls. David Livingstone became the first European to set eyes on Victoria Falls in 1855 during his exploration of the Zambezi and quickly naming it after The Queen of the UK at the time.
However, a map of Southern Africa produced in 1715, by explorer Nicolas de Fer, has the falls marked in the correct position. But let’s be honest, De Fer’s Falls sounds a bit crap.
Livingstone has his own Island
I can only assume he would have felt a little self-concious naming the Falls after himself but he left a little bit of glory for himself. Livingstone Island is the small island that David Livingstone had landed on when first saw the falls. It’s pretty lucky really, is the island wasn’t there he’d probably have gone right over the edge.
The Victoria Falls Bridge
The iconic Victoria Falls Bridge was officially opened in 1905. At a height of 128 metres (420 feet) and span of 198 (650 feet), it truly was a magnificent of engineering at the time and now makes an amazing bungee jump.
Devil’s Pool FAQs
When is the best time to visit Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls?
During the drier months of the year, the Zambezi River drops quite substantially, and from mid August to mid January, it is possible to walk along the lip of the falls. This can only be done from the Zambian side.
If you just want to see the falls, the best time to go is spring/early summer when the water is at its most ferocious, however, if you want to visit Devil’s Pool between September to January when the water is low.
How many Deaths have there been at Devil’s Pool?
Sorry to disappoint, but the answer is zero. Well, zero officially recorded. Not so scary anymore huh? You may have heard stories about a guide being swept over once. However, it turns out the guide wasn’t actually an official guide and it actually happebned at a different point of the falls, not Devil’s Pool.
Can I hike to Devil´s Pool on my own
No, you have to book a Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls tour.
Where can I book a tour?
I was able to book an official guide in the park itself and hike to the falls. However, it is also possible to book a Livingstone Island Tour from many travel agents and accommodation receptions. These will often include a swim in Devil’s Pool
Is Devil´s Pool safe?
Everything in life carries an element of risk, but as long as you are sensible, careful and can swim then yes, it’s safe.
Do I need to be able to swim?
Yes, there is a short swimming section to get to the pool, more on that coming up!
How hard is it to hike to Devil’s Pool?
Not very hard. The hike isn’t long but there is some hopping, skipping and jumping. It wasn’t very strenuous, but a good sense of balance probably helps.
My visit to Devil’s Pool
It was an early start to get to Devil’s Pool; I had met another guy at the hostel who was going to take the jump with me. We agreed that should the worst happen to one of us, we would deliver a message to our families personally – that he died in a stupid, way but it was worth it.
Getting a bus with the locals
To save money we took the local minibus to the falls, which is always an adventure. There isn’t a specific time it leaves, they wait until the bus is full . . . let a few more people on . . . chuck in a few chickens for fun and then go.
By this point in my journey, I was very used to this method of transport and how it all works. I think the reason African people are so chatty is they pack everyone on so tightly, it feels more uncomfortable if you don’t spark up a conversation.
I got chatting to a chap in a Denver Bronco’s shirt. Turns out he runs one of the local stalls selling tourist souvenirs at the entrance to the Victoria Falls.
When we arrived we had a quick look at Bronco’s man’s stall out of courtesy and then met up with our Devil’s Pool group; there were six of us.
If you would rather not go for the authentic minibus experience, you could also get a taxi which would be around $10. But where’ the fun in that?
The hike to Devil’s Pool
The meeting point is at the main entrance and after a worryingly brief safety chat, we were on our way.
The hike over the falls was pretty epic. It starts on the normal paths but then you veer off toward the river.
Lots of other tourists who were on day trips were watching our little posse inquisitively as we left the marked path that all the signs tell you to stay on and approached the river.
This turned quickly into a mixture of concern and confusion as we started to wade in, their faces saying ‘can they do that? They’ll surely die’.
The hike starts off with a bit of rock hopping over small channels. Fortunately, the African sun had ensured the rocks were dry and grippy as about seven metres to our left was a fall to certain oblivion. But it wasn’t long before we reached our first tricky bit.
Apparently, nearby there is a local power station which siphons off a lot of the water from this area of the river; however, when we were passing our guide explained that they were cleaning the turbine so there was more water than usual.
The result? We had to cross about a 30m section of concrete, about the width of a balance beam, with a couple of inches of water rushing over our ankles.
The guide told us to all hold hands and slowly inch across. He explained it was for own safety, but I’m not sure if it was more a case of if one goes . . . they all go, leave no witnesses to his crazy sense of a safe crossing point.
We all managed to pass safely and about another 30 mins of rock hopping, wading and jumping all within a few metres of death we were nearly there.
The hike takes you across Livingstone Island which is a great spot to take photos. There is a plaque that marks the spot that he first set eyes on the falls and the views are spectacular.
At one point we found ourselves standing right on the edge with the spray from the falls creating rainbows that felt so close I could almost reach out and grab them.
A Swim in the Zambezi
Now, the other side of the island is the tricky bit. So before you can actually get to the pool you do have a little swim to navigate.
The guide explained to us that we would feel a slight current. “What the fu . . .” I thought. This wasn’t in the pre-flight safety briefing. I’m at the top of the world’s largest waterfall, meters from the edge and you expect me to swim where the current is?
“Now guys, you’ll need to start your swim away from the falls then when you are 10 or so metres up, turn slightly toward the island. The current will push you slightly as you swim.”
I looked around at this point wondering if I was the only one who thought this sounded like a really bad idea.
None the less we queued up and did as we were told and we all made it, although, I can definitely see why you are not allowed to access when there is more water.
To be honest, the current isn’t strong and the guide is in the water to protect you should you start to panic, I felt safe, until my mind started to wander and I started thinking about hippos and crocodiles, wondering if I would rather be eaten by a croc or go over the edge. I decided should I have to make that choice, I’d go over the edge and try and take the croc with me. Luckily nothing happened.
Note: The guides carry waterproof bags with them so you don’t have to worry about valuables getting wet.
Arriving at the edge of the falls
After our swim we had arrived. The Devil’s Pool is about three metres deep, and right on the cusp of the falls, with a natural wall to stop you from getting swept over the 100-metre drop.
First in was our guide, he pulled off a stunning somersault with distinction. Once he was in, I assume to catch us if we jumped too far, it was our turn.
One after another we held our breath and jumped in.
I cleared my mind of all thoughts and jumped. I thought the somersault would have been too easy so instead, I opted for a cannonball and boom, I was in.
The feeling was a mixture of complete exhilaration and fear, I could only equate it to a skydive I did in The Florida Keys a few years ago.
I surfaced and, much to my relief, I was still at the top of the falls and so was the rest of the group. The mini tsunami my entrance had caused didn’t sweep everyone off the edge as I feared it may.
Suddenly it was all worth it. The fear, the trepidation, the worries all washed over the falls and the exhilaration kicked in. I was in the Devil’s Pool. I had been looking forward to this moment from the second I began planning my trip and it did not disappoint.
A true bucket list moment
To be sat in a pool, staring down from the top of one of the biggest waterfalls in the world was a true bucket list moment.
In total we were in the pool for about 10 minutes, posing for pictures and being bitten by very annoying little fish before it was time to head back.
As we returned, the water had been re-diverted to the power station again so most a lot of the hike was now dry. It only took 20 minutes to get back before continuing on to the hostel to enjoy a well-deserved celebratory beer.
The Devil’s Pool is an amazing trip that I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. Even if you just do the hike and not the jump it is well worth it.
If you get to Victoria Falls early in the morning, you should be able to book the trip and do it on the same day, although I would always recommend visiting or calling ahead of time to make sure that the trips are happening and that they have space. Your hostel/hotel should be able to help you with this.
Seven top tips for visiting Devil’s Pool:
1 – Look to stay in Livingstone to avoid paying visa fees.
2 – Don’t wear flip-flops, the hike the Devil’s Pool isn’t really difficult but there are a number of long steps/jumps between rocks so best wear something sturdy on your feet.
3 – Be ready for a scary little swim (it’s not that bad really).
4 – Take a camera, you will want to look at the pictures over and over again.
5 – The hike to Devil’s Pool is actually quite straightforward, I’d almost say easy, so don’t worry too much.
6 – You have to book a tour to Devil’s Pool, you are not allowed to hike there on your own.
7 – DO IT!
So – would you like to jump with The Devil? Let me know in the comments below.
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