Victoria Falls. We were going to see the Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, with the largest sheet of falling water, at a width of 5,604 feet. Named in the local language as the Smoke That Thunders, we expected cascades of gushing water, condensation rising from the gorges, and ample photo opportunities.
Victoria Falls from the Zambia side
We didn't expect this. On the last day of our Africa-in-Focus overland trip, we drove into the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.
Pool and view of Victoria Falls from Zambia side
We walked through the entrance gates and found ourselves at a mostly dry rocky edifice with a few thin rivulets of rushing water. We’ve seen more impressive waterfalls in our own backyard .
Boat driving in from Livingstone Island
Not to be deterred, we chose a tour out to the natural-made infinity pool at the top of Victoria Falls, very aptly named the Devil's Pool. Our guides took us by boat to Livingstone’s Island, a small promontory which can be reached only by hiking or boat with guided tours from the Royal Livingstone Hotel.
Once at the island, we swam in a straight line ---- to avoid the current that would sweep us over the waterfall ---- to the rocky point which clings to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall. One of the guides watched us dive into the Devil's Pool while another stood at the shore and took pictures of us with the rainbows beaming from the falls behind us.
We digested our experience over afternoon tea and cocktails over the blood red African sun touching into the Zambei River.
Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe side
It wasn’t until the next day when we were on the Zimbabwe side of the falls that we realized what we had done. Like the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls offers far better views of cascading water and the rising steam in the dry season. (In the rainy season, the Zambian side offers the better views because you can only see mist on the Zimbabwe side from the thundering falls).
And, as we walked along the Zimbabwe side, we saw people doing the exact same thing we had done the day before. That guide in what seems to be an impossible stance taking pictures: that was our guide.
Those crazy people jumping into the world’s tallest waterfall: that was us. Those people who look like they might just die up there: that was us. Yikes.
Those specks are people swimming in the infinity pool there
So, it turns out that a tiny shift in perspective makes a great deal of difference at the Smoke That Thunders.
We stayed at the very lovely and clean Jollyboys Backpackers in Livingstone, Zambia, and highly recommend them. They helped us book our trip to Livingstone Island, a fantastic Zambian cooking course (which I will write about soon), and our stay in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The lounge areas and pool are amongst the nicest we have ever seen in any hostel and we loved our stay there.
The tour to Devil's Pool and Livingstone Island starts at the Royal Livingstone Hotel
Jollyboys booked our tour to Devil's Pool and Livingstone Island but almost any tour operator in Livingstone can help you book that tour. There are various alternatives, some requiring a hike into the island, while others use a speedboat, and some offer afternoon tea or breakfast. We chose the afternoon tea option and really liked it.
We stayed at the very swank Victoria Falls Hotel on the Zimbabwe side of the falls to celebrate our last three days in Africa and of the first leg of our round-the-world adventure. It was lovely and actually pretty reasonably priced considering how much most five star hotels cost across the world.