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The Zambezi River runs between the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia and is the fourth-longest river in Africa. Its rushing waters create the beautiful Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders. The Victoria Falls area offers many activities, particularly ones for the thrill seeker in search of an adrenaline rush.
There’s bungee jumping, river rafting, zip-lining, and more. Most of these activities are done from the Zimbabwean side of the falls with the exception of the natural pools located at the very top of the waterfall. The pools, called Devil’s and Angel’s Pool, are a one-of-a-kind activity that can only be reached through Livingstone Island, located in Zambia.
What Is Angel’s Pool?
Angel’s Pool is a natural rock pool that sits at the top of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls. The small rock pool is the result of thousands of years of erosion that has created a barrier at the edge of the falls and formed an infinity pool of sorts. There are actually two swimmable pools at the top of Victoria Falls, the other being Devil’s Pool. Despite their names, one isn’t any tamer than the other. The pool that you visit will be determined by the water levels (more on that later).
Angel’s Pool is definitely an activity for the thrill-seeker. Before it was known as Victoria Falls, the waterfall was called “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or “The Smoke That Thunders” by the local Kalolo-Lozi tribe. Upon approaching the falls, it is easy to understand why. Victoria Falls is neither the tallest nor the widest waterfall but wins the title of largest based upon its combined width and height and the sheer volume of water falling over its edge.
The waterfall is so powerful that you can feel it. It is 1,708 m (5,604 ft) wide and 108 m (354 ft) and when the river is at its highest, approximately 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons) of water flow over the edge per second. Angel’s Pool sits about one meter (3 ft) back from its drop.
Where is Angel’s Pool
There are two islands within the Zambezi river that are large enough to divide the flowing waters: Boaruka Island, located near the western bank, and Livingstone Island, which is near the middle. Angel’s Pool is located on the island of Livingstone. Livingstone Island is named after David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer.
Livingstone Island was the point from where he was first shown “Mosi-oi-Tunya” by the local people. He later renamed it, “Victoria Falls”, after Queen Victoria. While most of Victoria Falls is seen from the Zimbabwean side of the border, Livingstone Island is only accessible through Zambia and must be visited as a guided tour.
When to Visit 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 that you will tour is completely dependent on current water levels. Devil’s Pool is open during the drier months of the year, generally from mid-August to mid-January, when the water levels are low.
Angel’s Pool is open when Devil’s Pool is not or until water levels have risen to a point where both pools are unsafe. Angel’s Pool operates during the rainy season until mid-March/mid-June when the water levels are at their highest.
How to Visit Angel’s Pool
The only way to visit Angel’s Pool is to book an official tour. In 1992, Livingstone Island opened to the public and began providing picnics and river experiences. In order to preserve the island’s natural beauty and limit human impact on the World Heritage Site, a limit was placed on the number of visitors per day. The total daily limit is 120 guests (five tours, each with a maximum of 24 people).
The tours fill up quickly and it is best to make a reservation in advance. Tongabezi of the Tongabezi Lodge is responsible for operating Livingstone Island. Tours can be booked through them or directly through one of their licensed tour operators such as Wild Horizons. Although Livingstone Island must be accessed through the Zambian side, tour pickups can be arranged from the Zimbabwean side as well. A shuttle can be arranged to bring you from your hotel to the boat dock.
Each tour lasts about 2 hours 30 min and includes boat transfers to/from the island, a guided tour, and a meal prepared on the island (breakfast, lunch, or high-tea). Livingstone Island has its owns chef and serves delicious five-star meals in an outdoor tented dining area.
While on Livingstone, a guide is with you at all times. The island has never had an incident and has a 100% safety record. At the time of this post, the tour cost starts at $110 and goes up to $175 USD depending on which meal service you choose.
My Experience at Angel’s Pool
The launch site for Livingstone Island is located behind the Royal Livingstone Hotel. A shuttle was arranged and dropped us off at the hotel where we met our guides and waited for the rest of the tour to arrive. After everyone was checked in, we boarded a small boat and took a quick ride (8 min) from the dock to the island. Upon arrival on the island, we were given the opportunity to change into swimwear and store our personal belongings in a locker.
The first part of the experience consisted of a walking tour while en route to Angel’s Pool. Our guide was knowledgeable and provided a detailed history of the island from ancient times to the present. The walk was fairly short but went through muddy and marshy waters. I recommend bringing a good pair of water shoes. You likely won’t want to be barefoot and flip flops are too slippery. We made a few stops for pictures at various points along the way.
Our guide was really helpful with photos and video. You will definitely want a waterproof casing for your phone or a GoPro. The falls are so powerful that the spray rises up and creates a cloud of mist so heavy that you can barely see through it. The spray, combined with the wind, creates what seems like a rainstorm and everything with you will get extremely wet.
As we got closer to the falls edge, I began to realize just how high up I was. Up until this point, I had never considered myself to have a fear of heights, but this took heights to a whole new level. In order to reach Angel’s Pool, we had to wade through water that hit just below the knee. 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 affects your balance, you may not be able to go all the way to the pool. The rocks are extremely slippery and the current is strong.
It had been raining heavily in the days beforehand and the high water levels were fairly high. I’m sure I would have been fine but I started to panic a little and wasn’t able to make it all the way down to the pool. However, I definitely don’t regret going and I would even do it again. It was an exhilarating experience. Seeing Victoria Falls from above gives one a whole new perspective. It makes you realize just how large and powerful the river actually is. Plus, the views are gorgeous!
Things to Do in Livingstone
If you are staying on the Zambian side of the border, make sure you explore the town of Livingstone (not to be confused with the island). Livingstone has cute cafes, craft markets, and additional views of Victoria Falls.
Knife Edge Bridge
The Knife Edge Bridge offers a view of the eastern cataract and the main gorge of Victoria Falls. A walk across the bridge will leave you soaked so make sure to rent a raincoat and bring a pair of flip flops.
Royal Livingstone Express
Take a ride on the 1922 and 1924 Royal Livingstone Express trains. The four-hour-long train ride passes through Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and makes a stop at the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Mukani Park Curio Market
Visit the Mukani Park Curio Market for locally made crafts, clothing, and leather goods. Everything is priced somewhat high to start, so don’t be afraid to bargain but do remember that a lot of work goes into making these items and this is how the vendors support themselves. Make sure you are still paying a fair price. I found a beautiful chess board with hand-carved animal playing pieces that I absolutely love.