If someone ever said to you ‘I want to go and swim at the top of an enormous waterfall’ you might be a little bit concerned – that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!
However, for a few months each year at one particular waterfall, it becomes a wondrous and splendorous opportunity that (probably) won’t end badly.
Livingstone Island was opened in 1992 to allow people to have picnics on the edge of the falls. Over time, a unique place with natural rock walls was discovered, and during the dry season the water levels drop enough that it becomes safe to actually enter this kind of natural infinity pool, offering a truly once in a lifetime kind of experience.
There is only one tour operator licensed to run these tours, and the number of people allowed on Livingstone Island at any one time is highly regulated to ensure the safety of participants and the preservation of the island. It is worth noting that accidents with unlicensed tour operators have happened over the years, so if you are offered this tour by touts on the street, they are best avoided at all costs.
We organised our tour directly with Tongabezi, opting for a morning session so as to enjoy the falls before the sun became too scorching. At around 6.30am we headed off, got a briefing and after a quick speedboat ride, we found ourselves on Livingstone Island!
After stripping down to our bathers (which for me was honestly the most terrifying part) and handing our phones to the ‘photographer’ – AKA the dude with the dry bag – we slipped into the shallows and awaited further direction.
Our small group of six was guided by the wonderful David, who at each point of the swim would explain to us the safe way to cross the currents, where to avoid rocks and basically give us a crash course in how to safely get to the entrance to the pool.
Once at the entry point, we waited patiently on some larger rocks until it was our turn to slip back into the water of the Zambezi and make it successfully into the Devil’s Pool.
I was SO excited. This had been on my bucket list for such a long time, and it was finally happening! I couldn’t wait to take the plunge and look out from the edge of Victoria Falls – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
I went first into the water, using my feet to push off from the rocks as hard as I could and quickly swimming to David who was waiting on the edge of the fall. There is actually an opening in the pool about two metres left of where David is sitting, so you really do have to move quickly when crossing the current!
But guess what?
I did it!
Just look at the grin on this little face – I was so fricking stoked with life.
I had wanted to have this experience for so long and I was finally having it! It felt seriously surreal. As an added bonus, the views were incredible! It felt like the rainbows were too magical to be real.
After David had made sure that I wasn’t going to go over the edge, Dan followed suit and joined me in the pool.
This led to a rather hilarious couples photo in which David looks seriously unimpressed, but the shutter just clicked at the wrong time!
After a little while it was time to climb out of the pool and swim back to the safety of dry land. We were meant to go straight to breakfast, but a little detour was in order – there was no way that I was going to miss out on such a spectacular sight!
Visiting in the wet season may mean seeing the falls in a more thunderous state, but for a once in a lifetime, bucket list worthy kind of experience, I’d highly recommend visiting from late September through to mid January and taking a swim in the Devil’s Pool.
Getting to Livingstone: This airport isn’t the most well connected in the world, you will need to get yourself to either Windhoek, Joburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, Lusaka or Addis Ababa
Tongabezi: One night in a river cottage starts at $655 USD – which includes all meals, drinks, laundry and numerous activities. Click here for more information about Tongabezi Lodge.
Livingstone Island & Devil’s Pool Trip: These tours are not included in your Tongabezi stay and start at $105 USD per person including breakfast
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Only go with a licensed operator!