How to go to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall – and why it’s every bit as amazing as I expected

How to go to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall – and why it’s every bit as amazing as I expected

Those who know me know that the one thing in nature I love more than anything else is waterfalls.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to go to Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, located on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border (note that largest refers to height multiplied by width, and is different from tallest, widest, or most powerful).

More recently, I heard about a natural phenomenon called Devil’s Pool, a natural “pool” formed on the edge of the falls only accessible during the dry season, which is roughly September through December (during the wet season, currents are too strong and people would be washed over). When I heard about this, I knew I had to go.

As I mentioned earlier, Victoria Falls is located on the Zimbabwe and Zambia border, and as such, there is one airport and city in each country that serve the falls: Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) in Zimbabwe, and Livingstone Airport (LVI) in Zambia (named after the explorer David Livingstone who “discovered” the falls and named them after Queen Victoria).

While I would recommend staying on the Zambia side regardless of if you’re going to Devil’s Pool (as there’s a little bit more to do), if you’re planning on seeing Devil’s Pool, I would definitely recommend the Zambia side, as this is where Devil’s Pool is. Using 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles plus $33 in taxes and fees, I booked an award flight from JFK to Livingstone via Johannesburg, with the first leg being a nearly 8,000-mile, 15-hour flight on South African Airways which is the longest (distance-wise) flight I’ve taken in my life.

I booked a private room at the Fawlty Towers Hostel in Livingstone for $45, though this would have been cut in half if I was with someone else as it had two beds, and the price can be lowered even further if you’re willing to share a dorm.

Unfortunately, one company holds now a monopoly on Devil’s Pool tours, and they charge accordingly, including meals with the tours in order to charge a higher price, whether you like it or not. There are five daily tours to Devil’s Pool: three morning tours for $95 at 7:30am, 8:45am, and 10:15am which include breakfast, a 12:30pm tour for $155 which includes lunch, and a 3:30pm tour for $135 which includes high tea. More information can be found here. However, the best way to book your tour is through wherever you’re staying.

Not wanting to take any risks given my afternoon flight to Johannesburg, I opted for the 7:30am tour, and was told to meet at the Royal Livingstone Hotel at 7:15am. Unless you’re willing to walk several miles very early in the morning, the best way to get there from either side is via a taxi (though if you’re coming from Zimbabwe, you’ll have to take several taxis due to the international border crossing). The night before, I arranged with a local taxi driver to have him pick me up at my hotel at 6:45am, negotiating a price of 100 Zambian kwacha (roughly $9). In Zambia, while they accept the dollar, euro, and rand, you’ll save a little money by paying in local currency, as most merchants tend to use an exchange rate of 9:1 or 10:1 to the dollar, despite it actually being more than 11:1.

My cab driver arrived promptly, and drove me to the hotel, where, after meeting the others, we hopped onto a boat to begin the journey to the edge of the falls, with the mist slowly getting closer

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We hopped off the boat, and were rewarded with views of Victoria Falls like no other, far different from the viewpoints I had experienced in each country’s respective national park the past few days.

Looking out in the distance, we could see the group before us in the pool, getting a sense of what we were in for:

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We also passed the plaque for David Livingstone on the way to the pool:

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Once we got closer, the guide told us to all give him any phones/cameras that we wanted him to use for pictures/videos, remembering which one belonged to who (there is no need to bring a waterproof camera or waterproof case.

My guide then invited me into the pool first (usually they’ll invite couples together if there any, otherwise people will go by themselves).

He motioned me toward the edge of the falls, told me to lean over, then grabbed my feet, told me to spread my arms, and I took in the absolutely amazing view around me, looking at water rushing down 355 feet. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

I spent about 15 minutes in total in the pool itself, with a few minutes at the edge, and even sitting a bit further away knowing that I was at the very top of the largest waterfall in the world was an incredible, surreal feeling. I could have spent all day. Sadly, we eventually had to go back.

But first, before we got on the boat, we had breakfast at a little table they had set up for us nearby, with freshly made eggs benedict, as well as an assortment of other breakfast pastries. It was surprisingly tasty. I was also quite amused by the nearby “Loo with a View”, an outhouse that had no door in the front, just an amazing view of the falls:

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We then hopped on the boat, got back to the hotel, where my cab driver met me and drove me back to the hostel, where I hung out for a bit before getting packed up and going to the airport. Going to Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls however completely lived up to all my expectations, and I hope to return someday.

 

Update: While this post mentions September through December as the best time to visit, reports of low water levels due to the drought mean that it may be possible to still go this month and even next, but definitely e-mail them in advance before planning any trips.

 

Do you have your own Devil’s Pool story to share? Questions about something I wrote? Feel free to e-mail me or post in the comments below.

 

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