Tongabezi and the Devils Pool

Tongabezi - Victoria Falls

We woke up this morning to the sound of Hippos grunting and snorting in the river just in front of our room. 

Hippos in the river

No sign off the monkeys so we headed off for breakfast on the deck overlooking the Zambezi. There was a lovely buffet or a full cooked meal. We settled for some juice, coffee and a muffin. 

Breakfast by the Zambezi River

After breakfast it was back to the Dog House for a bit R&R before getting our gear together, especially our swimmers for today we are going to Livingstone Island at the Victoria Falls. From there we will swim across the Zambezi river, to the falls, jump into and swim in the Devils Pool. After that, if we are still alive and kicking, it’s lunch on the island and then back to Tongabezi for a relaxing afternoon. It was planned that we would be picked up at 11:45 and taken to a hotel near the falls.

On the dot our driver arrived and we were on our way. It’s about a 40 minute ride but there is always something to slow the trip down, our first encounter was a herd of cows being herded from one side of the road to the other.

Herding the cows on the road to Victoria Falls

Just a little further on we came across a herd of elephants just on the side of the road looking as though they wanted to cross.

A small herd of Elephants heading for the road

A short distance away from the elephants was a small bridge over the river. Now if you are in a vehicle you are pretty safe unless you really upset the elephant and he charges you,  but if you are on foot then you don’t want to be anywhere near the elephant. Unfortunately there were about 30 people, some on foot, some on bicycles, some with carts stuck on the bridge, and according to our guide would probably be there for some time until the elephants moved on.

We had no such problem and it didn’t take us long to reach our destination, the Royal Livingstone Hotel near the falls. Now coming from the beauty and privacy of Tongabezi to the over the top colonial grandeur of the Livingstone is a bit hard to take. What with the perfectly manicured lawns and hotel porters, in green pith helmets, long green shorts and knee high white socks Kelly and I in our dusty boots and t-shirts and shorts felt completely out of place. Overall it was a bit like a Disneyworld version of colonialism.

Anyhow, we weren't going to be distracted and headed down to the waters edge to meet our Devil’s Pool guide, whose name was Alpha & Omega, very cool name.

Our guide, Alpha & Omega

If you don't believe me check out the name on his badge in the image of him. His nickname was “Mr Youtube” because of the number of times he shows up in YouTube videos of the Devil’s Pool.

"Scenes so lovely Angels must have gazed upon in their flight." The top of the gorge, that moment of truth before the abyss, has inspired the men who walk the earth for aeons. In our lifetime it is the sentiments of Scottish Explorer Dr David Livingstone that is most associated with this very special spot.

We signed our life away, yet again, with a couple of disclaimer forms, got our life vests and headed for the boat and our ride to Livingstone Island. There were only 5 of us going over and our boat driver, for the short 5 minute ride, was Prince Harry! If you don’t believe me check out the name on his badge in the image of him.

Our boat driver, Prince Harry

After a great boat ride, zipping around rocks and seeing the mist rise up from the falls gorge we landed on Livingstone Island.

Livingstone Island is so named because it was the site from which the Scottish explorer David Livingstone first viewed the Victoria Falls, it’s a small island in the middle of the Zambezi River, and extends all the way to the edge of the falls.

We followed Alpha & Omega up into the island where we were offered some refreshing white drinks called Mageu, it’s a traditional South African drink, non-alcoholic, made from fermented Mealie pap and shown the bush toilet with the best view in the world! From there we proceeded to the Livingstone memorial and the edge of the falls themselves.

If you are afraid of heights don’t go to the edge of the Victoria Falls, cause it’s a bloody long way down, but what a spectacular sight. I got as close to the edge as I could without my heart stopping and looked down into a double rainbow caused by the light refracting through the mist of the falls.

Yours truly at the edge of the falls

Now you might think, well that doesn’t look like much water but on the other side of the island where will go swimming it’s raging very fast. If you come in the wet season, you don’t actually see anything because there is so much mist that the gorge and the falls are obscured, plus you get really wet. If you come at the time we did, you still get to see some pretty magnificent falls but you also get to see the gorge itself.

After checking out the gorge, Alpha tells us that it’s time to go swimming. The other couple we came over with are hesitant to go jump in the pool so it’s just Kelly and I. We get to a point close to the river and the pool, and follow Alpha into the river. It’s a pretty easy swim of a couple minutes to get over to the rock area near the pool, but the adrenalin is starting to pump because the roar of the falls and the spray is overwhelming.

If you don’t know the Devil’s Pool is a naturally formed pool near the edge of the falls only accessible via Livingstone Island. When the river flow is at a safe level, usually during the months of September and December, people can swim as close as possible to the edge of the falls within the pool without continuing over the edge and falling into the gorge; this is possible due to a natural rock wall just below the water and at the very edge of the falls that stops their progress despite the current. Even so, an average of one person per year dies while swimming in Devil's Pool.

But this is what we have come for, so we clamber out of the river onto the rocks and get our first close up look at the pool. 

 First look at the pool

That is right at the edge! Alpha gives us a few tips about where to jump and starts counting down, I’m first and as soon as he hits 0 I jump into the pool. Alpha’s assistant is there, standing on the bloody edge, waiting to help me up onto the ledge so I can sit and watch Kelly jump in. A couple of seconds later Kelly is in too and we are both safe and sound, splashing around in pool on the edge of Victoria Falls, who have thought! 

On the edge of the falls

Alpha encourages both of us to get out and have another jump, at this time we see a group of visitors on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, waving, staring and taking pictures of us. We wave back and happily jump in again.

After about ten minutes in the pool, being suitable impressed by Alpha doing a full summersault dive into the pool, we head back across the river to dry off before lunch. There is a large tent set up on the track back to where we landed and we enjoy a well earned lunch with some Americans and English visitors to Victoria Island. All too soon we are saying farewell to Alpha and Prince Harry and heading back to Tongabezi. Once back all we want to do is relax a bit so we head for the bar first and then the pool.

Relaxing in the Tongabezi pool

Now the pool at the lodge may not be on the edge of the falls but it does have a big rock ledge about 5 metres above it that the bar staff said you could jump off. Being in an adventurous mood I climbed up the path to the rock and jumped yet again. Kelly does have a video of it that I’ll post when I can.

We finished our day with Sundowners watching the sun set over the Zambezi, followed by dinner upstairs in the lodge room by the wharf.

Sunset over the Zambezi River

Tomorrow it’s off to Zimbabwe to see the falls from the other side, catch a plane from the Victoria Falls airport to Johannesburg and then a connecting flight to Windhoek in Namibia.

There are links to two photographers, who's works are featured in the lodge, that I thought were very impressive;