In brief: We walked the lip of the falls extensively in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We also took on two challenges: Zambia’s Devil’s Pool and Zimbabwe’s rapids rafting.
You can view Victoria Falls, the great natural wonder where the Zambezi River drops 100 meters (300 yards), from two countries – Zambia and Zimbabwe. The river is the border between the two countries. We spent hours walking the trails that trace the lip of the falls along its whole length, part in each country.
We also took on two daring challenges: Devil’s Pool in Zambia and rafting the river from Zimbabwe.
The Zambian side is a spectacle, though the flow is often limited in the dry season and is partly controlled by a diversion to a hydro plant. If you wander a bit here, there are several ways to explore the wooded plateau topping the canyons at the falls. At times, the water seems far away; at times, the forest opens up to unusual vistas of the water flow.
On the Zimbabwe side, you walk directly across from the main curtain wall of the falls confronting the huge flow of water, the shifting spray and the closeness of its power.
The two sides are connected – or as a border, divided – by the century-old steel bridge known for its 111 meter deep bungee jump and the chance to ride a swing back and forth over the drop.
Victoria Falls, Zambia (from the town of Livingstone)
Pedestrian bridge (not Victoria Falls Bridge) that leads to the main walk along the Zambian falls.
In this dry season, the Zambia side is more a sequence of individual spectacles – especially now during the worst drought period in dozens of years.
We joked with one of the workers about turning on the tap to send more water over the edge. He broke our illusions by saying, yes, they could turn on the water flow by diverting the channel that heads to a hydro-power station. They do so for the President of Zambia and other high officials, but not for us.
You can take do a boat trip that ends up just below this spot, beneath the Zimbabwean section of the falls.
Livingstone Island is also famous as the spot where explorer David Livingstone first saw the falls in the mid-19th century. This was approximately his view.
At Devil’s Pool
On the Zambia side, we breathed deeply and visited Devil’s Pool, the most precipitous of infinity pools hovering at the slippery edge of the falls.
Oh, yes, as the 30 second video shows, we definitely dived in!
But first we needed to tiptoe across a set of rocks within the water, then swim 100 meters to reach a slight ridge of rock at the edge of Devil’s Pool. In we went, just a few meters across the hollow to the lip of Victoria Falls.
To reach Devil’s Pool toward the back end of this photo, you have to cross these sections of the flowing Zambezi River, all just a few meters from the edge.
The adrenalin rush from this improbable experience kept our hearts pumping fast for the next 24 hours. It’s only possible to visit the Pool safely during the dry season.
From across the falls, walking along the Zimbabwean side, we looked across the falls’ canyon over at the Devil’s infinity pool dangling from the edge of the falls at Livingstone Island.
The drop-off of crashing water around the pool seemed even scarier from this vantage point. Look closely and you will see one person in the spot where we also dared to go.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Here we have returned to the Falls, doing the walk along the Zimbabwe side to one of many overlooks.
This is clearly a much more turbulent and fuller section than the Zambian side offered, particularly in the dry season.
Viewing the powerful flow of the Zambezi River at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls makes quite an impact on a visitor as it drops 100 meters (over 300 feet).
Rafting the Zambezi
We ended our lengthy visit to southern Africa and Victoria Falls with a roar.
For four hours, we paddled the 19 famous class-5 rapids (i.e., the most difficult) on the Zambezi River just downstream from Victoria Falls. And it was hard work, as the rapids were nearly non-stop.
If your heart can stand it, here is the short video of us shooting five of those rapids (we’re at the back on each side, just in front of the guide), followed by some stills of the experience and views of Vic Falls.
The video sequence…Stairway to Heaven (or Hell) with its 30 foot drop; Devil’s Toilet Bowl which proved relatively easy; Gulliver’s Travels where our guide fell out, Barry half fell out, and the other boat capsized; Mother with its roller coaster waves; and Oblivion which tossed half the boat into the water. We are at the back just before the guide. You WILL want to watch this until the finish because you don’t want to miss our flips or the romantic ending.
Despite the gorgeous scenery of the canyon, after the first tumble at “Stairway to Heaven” (or Hell), we were sure we were in the wrong place, but there was no way out at that point!
And no, we would not have done it if we had seen this video first…but at least you know we’re alive!
The toughest part physically was on land afterwards. With rubbery legs due to our tumbles in the rapids, we needed to climb a steep, slippery trail up over 200 meters (750 feet) in altitude to reach the van.
The bridge at the end of the video is Victoria Falls Bridge, From here, we had to descend 200 meters to the river before rafting.
Some stills captured the juicy moments…
Heading into the big drop of Stairway to Heaven (or Hell).
Nancy shows off her pink helmet in the rapids called Devil’s Toilet Bowl while the rest of us are nearly swallowed up by the foam. Our guide was tossed from the raft briefly during this one.
At rapid 18, Oblivion, half the people on our boat were tossed out, including Nancy whose foot is sticking out of the foam on the left – just before she went rolling and tumbling through the rapids without the raft, but she did keep hold of her paddle.
A lovely vista within the Zambezi River canyon during a short, relatively quiet moment between rapids. There was only one other boat with us during the heart-pounding excursion, but here we caught up with another group of two.
(To enlarge any picture above, click on it. Also, for more pictures from Zambia and Zimbabwe, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the itinerary page.)