We had a great 10 days with Kevin. After a few days here we took off for Livingstone. We took the 8 am flight so we’d have the full day there (9 am arrival). We had a brunch and then went to our hotel, the Zambezi Sun. (We were staying there one night, our splurge night, and then moving to the budget Chanters Lodge.) What’s cool about this hotel is that it’s right next to Victoria Falls national park, and you can just walk there.
Our excursion that day was the famous Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island, only accessible a few months of the year under low water conditions. We were told by several people that it was very important to take the only sanctioned tour, run by Tongabezi, the outfit that owns the island. As you can imagine, safety is a priority when you’re frolicking at the top of one of the seven natural wonders of the world so it’s good to have legal guides who can tell you where to step.
From the Zambezi Sun we took the shuttle to their super upscale sister hotel, The Royal Livingstone. Wow! Is this my kind of place. It’s about $800/night including taxes (the “discount” rate). The rooms look nice, but not that nice, so we figured that the reason for the high price was that the breakfast contained gold sprinkles or white truffles or a glass of Montrachet 1978.
Entering the Royal Livingstone Hotel is like stepping back into a different time. We sat on a veranda that hung over the Zambezi river and were given the drink menu (photo above and to the right). Too bad we couldn’t talk Kevin into staying in Zambia so we could trade in his return ticket to pay for the drinks but he professed love for Michigan and his girlfriend so we had to forego any cocktails.
A small motorboat that could only hold four at a time ferried us to the island. It was obvious the driver had done this for a long time because our route was long and circuitous, no doubt skirting rocks and hippos. On the way Thom quizzed the driver. How long have you been doing this? Twelve years. About how many people go over the falls each year? Oh, about 11-12. Because they do something stupid? Some, but mostly because they just slip.
Gotta love straight-up honest African answers about accidents and death. Thom really doesn’t care for heights and he said all the way to the island he kept thinking of the things that could go wrong, the first being that the small African outboard motor would fail and we’d all be swept over the falls. I was kind of disappointed that I hadn’t thought of that because I’m usually the matron of doom but it was a most excellent point.
We arrived at the island, so named because it was the first place where David Livingstone saw Victoria Falls. The guide showed us the “Loo with a View” where we would have changed into our swimsuits if we weren’t already wearing them.
In the photo on the right you can see the black speck of a person in the upper far right of the photo (click on the photo to enlarge). Immediately to his left is the Devil’s Pool, our destination.
Along the way the guide pointed to a rock adjacent to the face of the falls and told me to sit. Looking to my right, terra firma, looking to my left, only air. While I sat frozen in place first Kevin stepped in for his photo, and then Thom. I thought it was very sweet that both of them gripped me and slightly pulled me toward them. They must love me after all!
The guide led us to the place where he said we had to swim to the next rock outcropping, so we jumped in and swam. There was no current in this section as it was behind part of the island but I wondered why the group of old people were led across a rock path to the same place. I think our guide was trying to give us more of an “adventure.”
We made it to the designated rock outcropping that was the jump-off point to Devil’s Pool. The guide kept saying jump here (to the left of the photo in front of him), but most definitely not behind him.
Here’s a photo showing the pool to the left (relative calm) and the rushing water to the right (where you’d be washed over if you jumped there). As you can see in the photo above the guide stood on the rock wall between the two sections and pointed to where we were to jump. For the faint of heart, you were given the option to slide in. It is pretty scary to leap toward the edge of the falls, but all three of us did it.
Doesn’t it look like Thom and Kevin are about to be washed over here?
This photo shows just how little distance there was between the safe zone and the unsafe zone.
For a while there were like 12 of us in the little pool, which was too many, but finally the group of older people left and here was the younger crowd (which, believe it or not, included Thom and I).
Next, we had the option of hanging over the edge of the falls with the guide hanging on to our legs. Thom had pretty successfully conquered his fear of heights but that was a bit too much for him, so he got out and watched as Kevin and I hung over. As you can see, I was too short to really hang over (the guide wouldn’t let me scooch closer to the edge). I wiggled forward about three inches and just in that short distance between where the guard placed me and where I wriggled too, the current increased strength five-fold. I scooched back quickly. Kevin’s body is longer so he got a better view; I really couldn’t see over the edge but I guess I’ll live…
After about 20-30 minutes in the water we hiked back to the core of Livingstone island where we were served a three-course lunch under a canopy with a full-service bar. (See the trees in the panoramic photo at the top of the post? That’s where the lunch was set up.) We didn’t think to bring clothes to change into so we were pretty soggy lunchers.
All in all it was great fun. My advice to anyone who goes — bring a change of clothes!