Victoria Falls are known locally as Mosi-Oa-Tunya, which means ‘the smoke that thunders’, something that Livingstone saw from a distance before he was escorted from the Zambian side to to top of the falls. Livingstone was a Scottish Missionary who allegedly found the falls in November 1855, and did so from a place known today as ‘Livingstone Island’. Here today a statue marks his discovery, and it is from here we ‘re-trace’ his steps towards the falls, then complete what seems like one of the stupidest things to do and swim on top of of the falls with water gushing past us, and hopefully not going over to hang out in an area known as ‘Devil’s Pool. This trip is so dangerous that it is only open for a few months of the year in between rain, and from what our guides told us it will close very soon as the water is picking up…could have told us that after the event!
We are shuttled to the ‘Livingstone Island Launch site’ – basically a wooden platform next to the river, where we sign an indemnity form, get to write our own name on a certificate to remember our ‘retracing of Livingstone’s footsteps’ – something I will be framing immediately, and prepare for the short boat trip towards to top of the falls.
This is the closest we had been to the falls thus far, and the mist and noise started to show the power and size of the falls. A short walk inland to a well set up (but temporary base camp – as all this will soon be underwater) allowed a chance for a toilet stop at the ‘Loo with a View’ or to get changed if swimming…and you have to swim, across the top of the fall current some 20-50m from the edge, to make it to Devil’s Pool…
We start our journey under the supervision of our guide, and his sidekick (who also has one camera per group and is our official photographer, and hopefully last chance ‘catcher’ if we don’t judge the current swims). To get to the pools we need to walk across a serious of rocky areas, then we complete a series of ‘swims’ to avoid underwater rocks, etc in short and rapid bursts to zig zag across. We swim up into the current to fight it, we swim straight across and get dragged down to another point where we are ‘caught’ before a few final crawls across to the pool edge – right at the top of the falls…
From here it’s down into the pool….
“DO NOT PUT YOUR LEGS UP, LET YOUR LEGS GET SUCKED UP – OR YOU WILL GO OVER”.
These are the regular words, and I’m sure because they said it, it felt like your legs always want to go up over your head, and when they do you can feel the power of the water start to grab you….not a good outcome…the other thing that they don’t fully tell you about is the fact that you are constantly bitten by something…some small fish I assume – which makes you feel like you’re in one of the Thailand fish massage pools…nibbling away at you feet, legs etc the whole was, probably just seeing if they can scare the crap out of you and make you throw your legs up Im sure!
Six people are only allowed into the pools at a time (for safety), and you get to hang at the edge and admire the awesomeness and power of the falls from the top, and they one by one they move you across with a guide holding your legs, and hang you over the edge for the best photo pose around…we decided to let Josh have the glory here and do something his parents didn’t (I personally didn’t trust that they wouldn’t let go of me!).
Following around 10-15 mins in the pools, with all our photos taken by the crazy guide who simply stands on top of the edge of the falls like a mad man, we get back and start the reverse journey back to safety of the island…so more cross current swimming and rock scampering, and a bit of a sigh of relief from all. It was here that the courage of the group comes out, and we ask if anyone had died on the falls. We where told only one. A Google search later that night could only find one recorded death, and that was of a guide attempting to save a tourist, and then the story had been edited to state that the death was in fact in an ‘unapproved area’ with ‘unapproved access’ and not part of any official tour, so either the truth, or good PR to keep the tourism sector going…either way, we never became a news story so all was good!
This tour was amazing, and gives a total different perspective on the falls, and is certainly one of those ‘must do’ experiences for anyone who has the chance to visit the falls.