"I'm 31 years old, only on my71st country, and I really don't want to die just yet."
I am in Zambia, at the edge of the world's largest waterfall (twice the height of the Niagara Falls), contemplating if I should really be taking this plunge into the world's ultimate infinity pool (no, not the pool at Marina Bay Sands).
Swimming with the devil, I'm told, doesn't often result in a pleasant outcome.
At the edge of the Victoria falls, where the mighty Zambezi river ends, is a small rock pool, roughly 15m wide, an oasis of calm amidst the thunderous sound of the river crashing over the falls. Swim too far to your right, over you go. Swim too slowly, and the current carries you toward the rushing rapids of the Zambezi, sweeping you right over the edge.
I take a deep breath, block out the tension slowly building in me, and I jump.
Somehow, I manage to secure myself a decent spot where the current is less strong. Even so, I'm struggling not to get swept away as the rapids pound upon my back, threatening to push me toward a direction which could prove fatal. I grit my teeth and man up for a photo.
I can't believe it, I'm actually swimming with the devil...... (continued later)
Is The Devil’s Pool Actually Safe?
Everyone want's to know this, so I'll tackle this question straight up.
Yes, it's generally safe enough not withstanding some "risks". As far as I know, no one has actually "gone over" the falls.
Getting to the Pool
- A short swim, say about 50 meters near the edge of the falls is required before you reach the pool. The current is weak here, but it exists, no doubt about it.
- The guide will help you if you're a weak swimmer, but you shouldn't be a non-swimmer for this activity even if the guide allows it.
- This is the Zambezi River, so crocodiles are in that same river. Generally though, I've never read about anyone encountering a crocodile.
- The rocks on the surface are slippery and those in the water could be sharp. I'd recommend wearing Crocs (the foot wear). I was in a group of just two, the other guy chose to go in barefoot and let's just say it made his swim less enjoyable than mine.
In The Devil's Pool
- You should be a decent swimmer (no Olympic standards required).
- Don't be one of those photo-whores attempting things like walking on the edge or trying too hard to get a photo that will impress the ladies back home.
- There is a safety guy (the black dude in my photos) who's job is to prevent you going over the edge or helping you out if you're having trouble against the current.
- It's pretty obvious where the calm part of the pool is and where the rough part is that you should avoid.
- If your group is large, it could be less safe as there's no way the safety guy can look out for everyone especially if there are "show offs" in your group.
Getting out of the Pool
- This is the time where you need to swim against the current. I'm a pretty decent swimmer but I struggled somewhat trying to swim away from the ledge. It's like a swimming on a treadmill.
Where Is/Getting To The Devil's Pool?
Singapore Airlines has a direct flight to Johannesburg.
From there catch a fight via South African Airways to either Livingstone (Zambia), or Victoria Falls Airport (Zimbabwe).
For the best VIEW of the falls, you'll need to be in Zimbabwe.
For the Devil's Pool itself, it's better (and cheaper) to be in Zambia.
Fortunately, Singaporeans can cross the border of the two countries at no cost. (visa free for us)
For everyone else, it's around $50 USD (some nationalities are denied visa, so check beforehand)
When Is The Best Time To Visit the Victoria Falls/Devil's Pool?
The Devil's Pool is accessible from the months of October to January where the water levels of the Zambezi are lower.
In the months of February to September, the waters of the Zambezi are too strong and too high to be safe for swimming.
October and November are the safest months to swim in the Devil's Pool because the water levels get higher as it approaches January.
Do You Have To Jump In?
Nope, you can lower yourself gingerly into the water. Many older folks do that, nothing to be embarrassed about.
The Devils pool is more a mental, rather than physical challenge. Getting over your fear of entering the pool is the main thing. Again, I would highly suggest you are a competent swimmer nonetheless.
Can You Get to the Devil's Pool On Your Own?
The only way to visit the Devil's Pool is by joining the Livingstone Island Tour either from Zambia or Zimbabwe. In the past, when there was less regulation, you could find "unofficial guides" or even walk to the pool yourself. Today, the "official way" is the only way.
How Much Does Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Cost?
There are 3 options when you sign up for a Livingstone Island Tour; Breakfast (the cheapest), Lunch (expensive) or High Tea.
Last I checked; the current prices are:
Breakfast $100 USD
High Tea$140 USD
What’s Included in the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Tour Price?
The Livingstone Island tour includes the following:
- Transport to Livingstone Island
- A brief tour of Livingstone Island
- Swimming in Devil’s Pool & Towels
- Two guides. One for safety, the other for photos
- Depending on what you booked, breakfast, lunch, or high tea.
However, to get yourself one of these packages, you have to sign up in ADVANCE. Maybe even two months in advance. Apparently, there are TWO "official tours". The one above (with food) which is booked in advance, another "official tour" (for impromptu visitors) which costs more money, but all you get is a can of coke (instead of a good breakfast).
Should I Do The Devil's Pool from Zambia or Zimbabwe?
If you are lucky enough to book the advance breakfast package for $100 USD, there isn't much of a difference. However, if you're one of those impromptu (non advance) bookings, you should get your Devil's Pool tour from Zambia for sure.
The entrance for the Devil's pool is in Zambia. This means, if you miss the "official tour" and you want to go for the "other official tour", you'll save on transport. Signing up for the tour straight National Park entrance at the Zambian side costs you $75 USD. If you were to sign up for the exact same tour from the Zimbabwe side, it would cost you $140 USD!
Answers To Other Random Questions You May Have
- While The Livingstone Island Tour seems to be about 3 hrs, the truth is, you'll have just 10-15 mins of swimming in the Devil's pool itself; 20mins if your just has 2 people like mine did.
- You'll have to hand over your hand-phone or camera to the "photo guy", and he'll be the one who determines how your photos turn out. I was a bit disappointed with my photos, but well, the experience was worth every cent of my tour price.
- While you're not likely to come across crocodiles (though they are present in the river), there will be fish nibbling at your feet or legs which can be annoying or painful in some instances.
My back is getting a little tired trying to hold off the mighty Zambezi River.
The roar of the rapids and the thunderous sound of water hitting the base of the falls is deafening.
The safety guy signals to me. It's my turn to swim to the edge. I kick off, I am a decent swimmer; this isn't so bad after all. In 5 pulls, I find myself at the edge of the falls. This is truly a moment to savor.
I smile for photos. Next, I lean over the edge for a better look at the water crashing below me. This is an amazing experience, easily one of the most exhilarating experiences among the 71 countries I've already visited. I then start to enjoy myself. The thrill, the achievement; I actually swam with the devil and lived!
And suddenly, my guide tells me, "Are you ready to to go?"
I glance at my watch, 20mins are up, and I am $100 USD poorer.
But I am happy. I am finally here. I am literally Living Life On The Edge.
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