If you follow any travellers on Instagram then you have likely seen various shots of people dangling over the edge of the world-famous Victoria Falls and wondered, “Is it an optical illusion? Is it Photoshop?”
Well rest assured, the photos are very real! Well mostly…
What is the Devil’s Pool?
Devil’s Pool is a naturally occurring pool of water that sits directly on the edge of the Victoria Falls, on Livingstone Island, Zambia. The Victoria Falls, traditionally named Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “the Smoke that thunders”, are 108-metre high waterfalls located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The Devil’s Pool is accessible only by boat because it is located on an island, Livingston Island. Getting to the area of the Island known as the Devil’s Pool requires some swimming. Though the swim is quite short, the first part of it goes across a current which varies in strength depending on time of the year.
How do you get to the Pool?
The Devil’s Pool is part of a larger excursion called Livingstone Island tour. The tour starts with a boat ride along the Zambezi River landing you on Livingstone Island. Life jackets are provided.
Upon landing, you are greeted with a traditional fermented drink made from ground corn (maize meal) called mahue. Changing rooms are also available on the island if you are not already in your swimsuit, then you are escorted onto a guided tour of the island. After the guided tour, the adventure begins: a swim in Devil’s Pool!
It is not mandatory to make the swim, you are more than welcome to sit on the island and explore or observe others. The tour ends with a meal under a beautiful canopy, on the Island.
For those daring enough to make the swim, there are two parts to getting that Instagram ready shot. First, you must make the first (and more nerve wrecking) swim up current. This is a very short swim, less than a minute, but as I said earlier, the current is strong so if you hesitate, it might feel a little longer.
The second half is more of a doggy paddle down current, again, less than a minute. There is no rope to hold onto, though there is a rope towards the edge of fall meant to catch you should your swimming skills fail you.
There were three guides with us: two guided us to the pool and assisted us while we were in the water, while one was on the land taking pictures and videos. While photography is included as part of the tour, it must be on your own camera or phone.
How is the Picture Taken?
So how is the picture taken? There are two ways that these pictures are taken, the first is by swimming right up to the edge of the falls into the Devil’s Pool as I did, the guide will hold on to your feet, while he is lodged between two rocks for stability, and all pictures are taken cutting off the guide so it really looks like you are free falling over the edge. The guides are very good at making you feel comfortable and help you work your way towards letting go off the ledge.
So how is the picture taken? There are two ways that these pictures are taken, the first is by swimming right up to the edge of the falls into the Devil’s Pool as I did, the guide will hold on to your feet, while he is lodged between two rocks for stability, and all pictures are taken cutting off the guide so it really looks like you are free falling over the edge. The guides are very good at making you feel comfortable and help you work your way towards letting go off the ledge
The second way is at the Angel’s Pool. Located by the plaque of David Livingstone, is a very small and shallow pool (more like a puddle), where, from the right angle, it appears as though you are much closer to the falls than you actually are. If you can not swim, let the guides know and they can point you to this pool that offers comfort and safety while still experiencing the amazing view and thunderous roars of the falls. No swimming is required for the Angel’s Pool.
On my left, just above my left shoulder you can see a group of people at the Devil’s Pool
On my right, the water just below my right shoulder is the Angel’s Pool.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit the Devil’s Pool is during the drier months: mid-August to mid-January. The water levels are much lower, and the currents are not as strong.
Is this activity safe?
Since the tour was established in the early 90s, there have been no fatalities at the Devil’s Pool. The staff are very knowledgeable, strong swimmers and make sure to put your safety first. Most injuries associated with this activity are minor i.e. from slipping on the wet rocks and scraping your skin. There are no guarantees in life, but I never felt unsafe at any point during this activity.
Just to the side of the falls, there is a rock that protrudes upward which you hold onto and balance on while taking pictures. It keeps you from falling over the edge. You would actually have to make an effort to go over this rock in order to fall over. From what I could tell, the rock was very sturdy.
Can You Get to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls on Your Own?
No, you can not get to the Devil’s Pool on your own. You can get to the Launch Site on your own if you want to save money on the transportation provided, but there is no way to onto Livingstone Island on your own. There is only one company operating this tour, Tongabezi, though there are many options to get you to the Launch Site.
What is included in the tour?
The tour includes:
- Transportation to/from the Launch Site (located in Livingstone Zambia);
- A boat ride from the Launch Site to Livingstone Island;
- A welcome drink – mahue;
- A brief tour of Livingstone Island;
- Swimming in Devil’s Pool or Angel’s Pool;
- Food and drinks – breakfast, lunch, or high tea, depending on which option you have selected. Alcohol is not an option during breakfast, but wine and beer are available with the lunch and high tea tours; and
- Photography – using your own camera or phone.
Did this post leave you itching to hang over the edge of a 108-metre high waterfall? Have you already crossed this activity off your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!
For more on the Devil’s Pool, check out my blog post, Guide to Devil’s Pool.