The Zambezi River runs between Zimbabwe and Zambia and is the fourth longest river in Africa. It’s rushing waters create the beautiful Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Victoria Falls area offers all kinds of activities, particularly ones for the thrill seeker in search of an adrenaline rush. The area offers bungee jumping, river rafting, zip lining and more. Most of these activities are done from the Zimbabwe side, with the exception of one, the natural pools at the top of the falls. Devil’s or Angel’s Pool can only be reached through Livingstone Island via Zambia.
What Is It?
Due to erosion over the years, rock pools have formed near the edge of the falls and during the drier months, a barrier is formed, allowing for a swim. The falls basically become one gorgeous and somewhat terrifying infinity pool. Tours can be arranged from either side, but there is only one company, Tongabezi, that is authorized to access Livingstone Island.
Livingstone Island is a protected area and only 18 guests are allowed on the island at any given time, with a maximum of 80 guests per day. It’s best to book in advance, if visiting either Devil or Angel’s pool is on your must-do list. I booked my tour through Wild Horizons, the day of, and was lucky enough to get the last spot.
When to Visit?
I booked my tour for Angel’s Pool. Angel’s Pool is somewhat smaller than the more famous Devil’s Pool, but offers a similar experience and the same great views. The pool you visit is completely dependent on the time of year you are visiting.
Devil’s Pool is generally open from August to December and Angel’s Pool from July to August and January to February. Angel’s Pool is open during the rainy season when water levels are higher and Devil’s Pool when water levels are lower. During the drier months of the year, when the water levels drop in the Zambezi River, it is even possible to walk along the edge of the falls.
A shuttle was arranged from my hotel to the Royal Livingstone Hotel, where the tours to Livingstone Island depart. I met our guides and we took a quick boat ride from the dock to the island. Once on the island, I changed into swimwear, took off my shoes, and stored the rest of my personal belongings in a locker. We then began our walking tour of the island while in route to the pool.
The walk was barefoot through muddy, marshy areas and I was really wishing I had thought to bring a cheap pair of flip-flops with me. I think the thought of stepping on a snake scared me more than the idea of sitting at the top of the falls at this point. It ended up being a very short walk though and I was able to learn a lot about the history of Livingstone Island along the way. The island was named after David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer. It is said that the island is where he first laid eyes on the falls and named them after Queen Victoria. Livingstone Island became open to the public in 1992 and began providing picnics and river experiences.
Upon nearing the edge of Victoria Falls, we waded through water about a foot deep. Our guide carefully pointed out which rocks to step on as we followed him and made our way across the river. The activity doesn’t require you to be in top shape but if you have a health condition that effects your balance, it might be a good idea to hang back at this point. The rocks are extremely slippery and the current is strong.
We made a couple of stops along the way where our guide positioned us for photos. He got tons of great shots and video for us. I definitely recommend bringing a waterproof casing for your phone. Local tribes refer to the falls as Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “the smoke that thunders” and it’s easy to understand why. The falls are so massive and powerful that the spray from them rises up and creates clouds of mist so heavy that you can barely see though it. The spray, combined with the wind, create what seems like a rainstorm and everything with you will get very wet.
As we stopped for photos near the edge, I realized just how high up I was. I looked down upon the roughly 100 meter high waterfall and began to panic a little inside. I know I was told I was going to the edge of the falls, but for some reason I didn’t think it was literally the actual edge. I tried not to look down as I sat on a small rock, just feet from the water flowing over. Up until this point, I had never considered myself to have a fear of heights, but this took heights to a whole new level.
After some photo ops, we continued through the river, holding hands and pushing our way through the current. I was told to slowly go down to a rock in the middle of the river, closer to the edge. Our other guide had positioned himself at the very edge and was calling me to move even closer. The only thing between him and the edge was a rope and this is when I decided I had gone far enough.
It had been raining in the days beforehand and the water level and current was just a little too much for me. I definitely don’t regret going though and I would even do it again. It was an exhilarating and once in a lifetime experience. Seeing Victoria Falls from the top, gives one a whole new perspective. It makes you realized just how large and powerful the river actually is. The views from the top are absolutely beautiful.
What Does It Cost?
Even if you aren’t the extreme adventure type, I still recommend booking a trip to Livingstone Island. It, alone, is worth a visit. The island has a small structure containing a kitchen, a tented dining area and the famous lou with a view, an outhouse with river views. I booked the tour that including high tea, so after returning from Angel’s Pool, we changed into dry clothes and had a seat in the cute outdoor dining area.
Our chef was the best. She was so sweet and made some amazing little treats for us, including small sandwiches and pastries. They were delicious. I was so glad we paid a little extra for this part of the tour. A visit to either Angel’s or Devil’s Pool costs $105 USD for the swim and island tour. There are additional options for breakfast, lunch or high tea. The option with high tea, which I chose, is $145 USD.