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Into the wild

Zambia and Victoria Falls travel guide

Nick Wilson January 21, 2014

After a rather bumpy mid morning flight from Johannesburg, my travelling companions and I landed in Livingstone, Zambia so that we could view one of the seven natural wonders of the world – Victoria Falls.  Known locally as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, Victoria Falls had long been on my wish list of places to see.

Nothing had prepared me for the moment when I first walked through the entrance to the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia. As we walked through the foyer, the colonial grandeur of the hotel really struck me. The staff all wearing pristine uniforms that hark back to a by-gone era when David Livingstone first explored the area, the elegant pool area with linen covered sun loungers, the al fresco dining area with not one item of cutlery out of place and a selection of cakes and pastries piled high on Victorian cake stands; really bring home the elegance of this hotel and it’s hard to describe in words the feelings it invokes. It’s when you walk across the immaculately manicured lawns however and down onto the decking area surrounded by sausage trees that the real power of the place hits you.

As I stepped onto the decking and was handed a chilled glass of wine and a cold scented towel, the mighty Zambezi River was there spread right out in front of me with a pod of hippo just a stone’s throw away. It was the sight and noise in the distance though that made my adrenaline rush. ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ is not a name without basis – Victoria Falls creates so much spray that it literally looks like a field of smoke and this was there right in front of me behind the hippo pod.

Victoria Falls has something to offer everyone. You can choose to gaze on the river and the spray whilst sipping a cocktail or for the more adventurous, there are a whole host of activities; bungee jumping, white water rafting, micro light and helicopter flights over the Falls or a guided walking tour that gets you just as close to the wildlife as it does to the Falls (think a whole troop of baboons!).

I however (and the rest of the group) decided to plump for the most extreme option – the Devil’s Pool.  Only accessible from the Zambian side of the Falls and from the Royal Livingstone jetty – this extreme activity almost feels like an insider secret when it is offered to you. For only 2-3 months of the year, when the Zambezi River is at its lowest, those who wish to can choose to sit in the ‘Devil’s Pool’ – a small pool that sits at the edge of the Falls that allows swimmers to swim in relative safety just feet away from the point where the water then cascades 354 feet to the bottom of the falls below.

Even the journey to the Devil’ s Pool is exciting; a speedboat races with the current to a small island from the jetty, passing hippo pods and numerous bird species as you go. Once on the island, you walk a short distance to the top of the falls and take in the amazing views. Your guides will then tempt you into the water for a short swim to the Devil’s Pool. Once in the pool, you quickly glide with the current to the rock edge that separates you from the 354 foot drop – quite exhilarating! If this is not enough, you can scare yourself even more by lifting yourself onto the ledge whilst one of the guides holds your legs and you edge yourself over the falls and look straight down. I will admit I lasted less than 30 seconds! An amazing experience that I still cannot believe I have done!

If I have the opportunity again, I would stay longer at the Falls (there is easily enough to do to fill three nights) and dare I say it, I would probably venture in the Devil’s Pool again, as well as perhaps taking a flight over the Falls to see them from the air which I am told is a sight to behold and a once in a lifetime experience.  A visit to the Falls is highly recommended for everyone journeying to this part of the World so if you are in Southern Africa for your next holiday try and extend and visit the Falls!

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