How do I decide where I’m going to travel? Sometimes it is out of convenience, for instance I am traveling from Arizona to Florida next month because I have to go to weddings. (One of the perils of being in your late 20’s is that sometimes I feel like my entire life is planned around weddings.) Other times, it’s a goal trip. I went to Antarctica because my friend wanted to visit all seven continents, and that was the one she had left, so I went too. My travel plans are usually a bit more random when I am left to plan them myself. In August 2019 I went to Southern Africa, because I wanted to visit the Devil’s Pool, and then I planned the rest of the trip around that.
For those who don’t know, the Devil’s Pool is a small pool of water at the top of Victoria Falls in Zambia. During the dry season, you can safely go swimming in the pool, right on the edge of one of the most spectacular water falls in the world. It is advertised as a thrilling experience, which allows the daredevils of the world have an experience that they can’t have anywhere else. AND I WAS EXCITED!
I knew there was a drawback of visiting at that time, Victoria Falls would not be able to be seen in all its splendor. Compared to the peak season, Victoria Falls is reduced down to a trickle during dry season. I thought it would be worth it though, because I would be able to experience a natural infinity pool, located above a waterfall two and a half times as tall as Niagara Falls.
When visiting the Devil’s Pool you have to go with a tour company. Victoria Falls Guide, the company that runs the tour, also runs other daredevil experiences, including white water rafting and bungie jumping. The tour I chose was the Devil’s Swim and Livingstone Island Tour. This experience included a walking tour of Livingstone Island, a couple of photo opportunities along the way, a swim in the Devil’s Pool, and breakfast. It is important to note that if you’re staying in Zimbabwe, you will need a Zambian visa, because the entire tour takes place in Zambia. There was also a storage container to keep your valuables, that the tour guide, who stays with you the entire time, has the key to.
We started by being picked up at the hotel, and bussed to the place where we checked in. There were around twenty of us, and we were separated into smaller groups. We then got in boats, to travel over to Livingstone Island. One group went directly to the Devil’s Pool, while my group started with the tour of the island. I didn’t learn a lot on the tour, nor did I get to see a lot. I was instead rushed around. The reality is that there are just too many people trying to do this activity to allow enough time to accommodate a full island tour as well as the swim. Most people would have booked without the island tour, so I’m not really sure why they offer it. Maybe so that the people who back out of the swim still have something to do? There was one really fascinating part of the tour, and that is that nearly everywhere that we walked on the tour would be underwater during the peak season. That part was so unbelievable to me, since I grew up on an area where our rivers and waterfalls are pretty consistent all year.
After our “tour” we made our way to the pool. There were approximately eight people who went into the pool with me. We first crossed the Zambezi River, walking very carefully through the cold, waist deep water, while holding hands. Once we got to the deeper water, we had to swim in a single file line. The swimming part isn’t too strenuous, so if you’re not a great swimmer you can still do it. If you can not swim in water that is over your head however, you would not be able to do it. We then got to a bit of land within the river, where we waited for the group before us to finish up. Once they had exited the pool, we entered. Again, I WAS SO EXCITED!
Here is where the letdown came in. I got to do exactly what was advertised, I sat on the edge of Victoria Falls, and the tour guide took my picture. It was very safe, there was another guide in the water with us, who held me in place during the more risky maneuvers, and the photographer cropped him out of the photos whenever possible. We went first as your immediate party, so my mom and I got pictures taken together, and then they had us separate for solo pictures. Honestly, the pictures are incredible, all 230 of them.
The experience really wasn’t that great. The incredible views I thought I would see were replaced with only seeing the man holding my camera, who would yell at me to, “look at the camera” every time I tried to look around. As soon as my photos were taken, I was shuffled back to the waiting area.
I really believe that travel, and life, are about the experiences. I often feel as though I can’t blog about experiences I’ve had because I actually FORGOT to take pictures. Having photographic proof that I was there means nothing if I didn’t get to experience anything. With this tour, I truly feel that I could have been put in front of a green screen, and told to pose, and I would have had nearly the same experience. It may even have had been better because I would have been warm.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I wish there was someone out there who had told me the reality of this tour, because I could have said that I didn’t have a camera. I don’t know what they would have done, but I assume that I would have been able to look around without anyone yelling photo directions at me. Sure, I wouldn’t have been able to show you these amazing pictures, but it would have been better for me.
This was a negative start of my Southern Africa trip, but it did not set the tone for the trip. I had an incredible time, and I can’t wait to share more about it. I just hope that anyone who wants to take a plunge in the Devil’s Pool can use this to evaluate if it is worth $100 USD. It is possible that I expected too much, making it impossible to satisfy me. For what it is worth, my mom had fun, but she had no expectations going in, and probably wouldn’t have considered going if I hadn’t chosen to.