Today we swim…like we never have, we’re headed to swim in Devil’s Pool, on the very edge of the mighty Victoria Falls! We arise early and soon have bidden two of our kids farewell as Nicky, myself and Sarah head across the river and to Zambia for the ultimate in crazy adventure. Here’s hoping we make it back…thankfully the kids have a few dollars to sustain them. Our plan is to walk to the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia from Zimbabwe, as it's cheaper and hopefully faster than bringing a car through customs. It feels strange walking across a border - and is definitely a first for us.
We are through the Zim border in minutes. Painless. And then we get to enjoy the amazing walk across the bridge that spans the canyon. It's a slightly scary feeling both because this bridge was built in 1905, over a hundred years ago, and because there's a sign than warns that only one car at a time is allowed. The river roars in the canyon way below, an epic sight from this vantage point.
It's quite a walk to reach the Zambia border but finally we arrive there. Eish! Two buses have arrived and there is a long line of people waiting to enter. Oh well, we are still early, it's only 7:45am and we only have to be at our meeting point at 10. So we wait. We are well entertained by the antics of the baboons which are all over the area. They obviously get food because they are very aggressive and often cause people to scuttle away from them. After about 30 minutes we reach the front of the line. Nicky and Sarah are stamped and just before the border official takes my passport he decides it's time for a break, and promptly heads out of the building. We are left staring at an empty cubicle. Patience…patience.
We were planning to walk, what we think is 5km to the hotel, but succumb to the offer of R50 for a taxi ride. As it turns out, once we are dropped off, its only about 1km. Oh well, at least we arrived feeling important. We step back in time and arrive in the colonial era. We are at the Royal Livingstone hotel. A regal hotel with opulent buildings flows across lush green grass to the Zambezi River. We seat ourselves on the deck and soak in the splendour of this place.
“Welcome everyone," says Captain Harry as we board the boat to Livingstone Island. We've been told there are many parts to our adventure - not just the swim in the pool, and this is our first part. Soon we are gliding expertly along the river towards the "smoke that thunders”. A plume of spray rises ahead of us signaling the huge drop of the mighty Vic Falls. It seems crazy that we are on a boat heading towards this spot.
We arrive at Livingstone Island, so named because this is where David Livingstone first viewed Vic Falls from. “Ok everyone,” says Nyama, our guide, “follow me to the view site.” The day is warming up quickly. It's just 10:30 and it's already well over 30 degrees. But all of this is meaningless when we look at the view before us. A yawning gap opens before us and is painted by the stunning colors of a massive rainbow that crowns the spray rising from the falls. The cameras whirr as we try to condense this immense vista into a single scene. Impossible.
“Right everyone,” Nyama says as we stand on the edge of the water. “This is where we swim. We swim out towards the middle,” he says pointing towards the river that flows directly over the falls, “and then we go left.” I'm sure he's joking. But he isn't and soon we have plunged into the very welcome coolness of the Zambezi and are swimming towards the falls which plummet hundreds of meters down, just meters ahead of us.
It gets shallower and we're instructed to stand and link hands as we move in a chain through the water. I'm wondering if this is for safety or so that if one gets swept over we all go leaving no witnesses. However, we are soon on another rocky outcrop. Before us is the famed Devil’s Pool. It's a small rock enclave right on the very edge of the Victoria Falls. I am convinced there is no other country in the world that would ever allow a tourist attraction to be made out of such a crazy spot. This is why I love Africa.
“You climb in here,” Nyama says “and then swim to the edge.” And this is the edge. The very edge. There is nothing between this edge and hundreds of meters of waterfall. My heart is racing. It's an incredible adrenalin high. I'm swimming on the edge of a waterfall - not just any waterfall, but Vic Falls. I reach the edge. “Climb up here,” Nyama says beckoning me to join him on the ledge that is the final barrier between me and oblivion. A small film of water flows over this ledge before plummeting into the abyss.
Soon all three of us are perched on the very edge of Vic Falls. It's exhilarating. I'm relaxed and pumped. I'm floating and flying. It's epic…until…
“Eish!” I yelp as I fling my leg up into the air…which is not really a good idea when you're perched on the edge of an abyss. But I can't help it. Something is biting my feet. This river is infested with crocs and other beasts. “What was that?” I ask now somewhat concerned. “Heh heh,” laughs Nyama, “you have found the baby crocodile.” Well who said this wouldn't be fun! It turns out it's hungry little fish - just like in a foot spa, but I don't want that here.
Far on the other side visitors in Zim look at us - as we did yesterday - in shock. The view from there is stunning. But seeing people right on the edge of the waterfall defies all reason. Yet here we are, enjoying the thrill of swimming in the mighty Zambezi on the edge of Victori Falls.
Mention must be made of the photographer. While our hearts are thumping at the craziness of this entire experience - what he does is beyond crazy. He runs up and down the edge carrying various cameras taking photos from every conceivable angle. He literally is standing on the water that cascades over the falls, millimeters from the edge. Crazy, but not only does this add to the drama of the moment but it results in incredible photos.
Leaving the pool, firmly resolving to do it again, we swim back to the island. The epicness of the experience is not yet over. Set under a canvas tent is a beautiful white tablecloth covered table. “What can I offer you to drink?” our host asks as we arrive. And soon we are sipping juice and tucking into exquisitely presented poached eggs and bacon, accompanied by warm scones and bran muffins. And all this on an island in the Zambezi River on the edge of Victoria Falls.
“This is the best scone I've ever had,” Sarah says as my teeth bite through the warm, crisp outside into the soft middle. She's right. This entire breakfast is truly superb…no, this entire experience is more than that - it's without doubt a BL (Bucket List) must..for anyone who loves a little adventure in life!
Book your final bucket list experience at Devil's Pool here ;-)