When we arrived in Livingstone, Zambia to see the famous Victoria Falls, I decided that a visit to the Angel’s Pool had to be my splurge of the trip.
Some background info: Victoria Falls is right on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, with Livingstone being the Zambia side and Vic Falls Town on the Zimbabwe side. The tour company that basically has a monopoly on Livingstone adventures is EXPENSIVE as HELL. Like, jaw-droppingly expensive (and apparently it’s not even as bad as some of the resorts!). Anything you want to do will cost at least $100, if not much more. There are so many adventures to do… if your wallet is bottomless. You can bungee jump, zipline, do a gorge swing, raft on some of the world’s best rapids, go horseback riding, book elephant safaris and dinner/sunset cruises, fixed-wing plane rides or scenic helicopter rides… and more.
During dry season one of the most popular things to do is visit the infamous ‘Devil’s Pool,’ which is a little pool right on the actual edge of Victoria Falls (over 350 feet down) that you can hang over and take a photo. Obviously I wanted to do that (ha) but the water levels are too high at this time of year (late March).
So, in wet season, you can visit something called the ‘Angel’s Pool’ instead, which is apparently 1.5m away from the edge and still pretty cool. I didn’t know much about it, but I did know I wanted to go as close to the devil’s pool experience as possible, and see the top of the falls. So, I splurged big time (although pretty much the cheapest activity) on an Angel’s pool tour with breakfast for $100. (With lunch it was $165 and ‘tea’ it was $145. What?)
Transfer wasn’t even included in this price (wow) so we met our taxi and got on a little boat to go to Livingstone Island, an island on the edge of the falls where David Livingstone (a British explorer) apparently stood as he laid eyes on the falls for the first time.
Victoria Falls is what David Livingstone named the falls (after the Queen at the time), as the first white man to discover them. But, the local tribes have always called is “Mosi Oa Tunya,’ meaning ‘the smoke that thunders.’ It was overwhelmingly apparent why it was called that, because in wet season the sheer volume of water going over the 1.7km long falls is so massive that it immediately billows back up in massive clouds of spray, that can be seen from over 20km from the falls. So, basically, picture a waterfall so massive and powerful that you can hardly even see it due to the spray it produces, floating up high in the air like a monsoonal cloud.
As we got closer to Livingstone island, the spray rose above us like a big white cloud of smoke. It was already a thrill to be speedboating near the edge of the falls, but I had NO idea what was in store. We were welcomed by interesting strawberry + maize drinks (good… getting some luxury treatment for my money here!) and a little tour of the island. It was adorned with little tents over dining tables, which were sheltered from the spray and set nicely for a meal, with a kitchen in the back. We stripped down to our swim suits and waterproof cameras, and set out for ‘the edge.’
The guide told us to make sure he is always in front of us… and I soon found out why. This was like the ACTUAL EDGE of the MASSIVE waterfall; there was a drop of over 100 meters directly below us and water billowing back up to soak us before we even walked ten steps from the tent. The guide showed us devil’s pool, and we could tell why it was impossible to do in this season unless you legitimately had a death wish.
We took a few photos in various parts near the falls, always with a guide near us to make sure we walked on the grassy bits as not to step on a rock and slip. One by one, they would take us and position us for a photo, holding onto us and guiding us around. Perhaps the scariest of these is when we (when I say ‘we’ I mean just maybe three of us from a group of six… everyone else was too scared!!) sat on a little rock with the falls dropping hundreds of feet down, a few feet behind us. They held us as we looked over the edge for a second – a sight to make even ME a little bit queasy. When when I am queasy at a hight – you know it’s fairly intense (if you know me, you know sitting on the edges of high places is one of my stupid favorite things). But, the excitement and adrenaline in my veins overpowered the queasiness for sure. We saw a rope right over the edge of the waterfall, and kindof assumed that was a catch-rope in case anyone maybe slipped from the Angel’s Pool, which we thought would be much farther up.
We all joined hands to cross over a knee-deep bit of the river to another small little rock island, and the current was STRONG. We were all a bit shaky and moving very carefully. We sat on the rock and watched the guide hold onto a rope and maneuver his way closer and closer to the edge… and to our disbelief, he went ALL THE WAY to the rope we had thought must be a simple last-resort precaution. WHAT.
We looked at each other with laughs of nervousness and uneasiness. Is he serious?? Yeah, this is not a joke. That is the Angel’s Pool. I was the first in line… so, I guess it was time to follow suit! Sorry, mum.
I turned on my Go Pro and grabbed onto the rope for DEAR life, not letting go with one hand until the next was firmly fixed to the next loop like a limpet on a rock. I turned my Go Pro off after losing a tiny bit of my footing… this was SO not a joke. A 350 foot drop was just a stone’s throw away from me. This rope was my lifeline and although the guide was firmly standing there, I had to concentrate on cautiously finding my way down to him. What is health and safety in Africa anyway?
I grabbed his hand and he helped me down into maybe chest-deep, flowing, whitewater, honestly one meter away from falling hundreds of feet to the depths of the Zambezi river within thick, foggy spray. My adrenaline was pumping so hard I couldn’t even really fathom the fact that I was on the edge of Victoria Falls. I took some quick videos and lots of photos, smiled for the other guide to take photos, wet my hair, took a deep breath, and looked around in awe, with one hand gripping the rope. I honestly was so high on adrenaline and disbelief that the moment was over in what felt like a second. I climbed my way back up and made way for my friend Min to go, sighing a great sigh of relief and general AWESOMENESS. That. was. insane. Even as a huge adrenaline-junkie myself, I was blown away by the extremity of what had just happened. What a rush!
After only one other group member decided to do the same thing, and all the others decided to sit a bit closer to the ‘safe’ rock in shallower water for their pictures, we joined hands again to cross the current. We dried off, laughed about our terror, and (half) jokingly questioned the health and safety regulations and the strength of the single rope to stop one from going over the falls. Our guide said no one had ever died and that they change the rope at least once a month… not sure how much better that made us feel, though!!
It was time for breakfast, which was included in our price. They had told us it was ‘light’ breakfast (eye roll) but we were pretty pleasantly surprised to be served a coffee, a selection of biscuits and yummy cinnamon raisin muffins, and a hot eggs benedict, all with a view of the falls and spray. We happily indulged in as much breakfast as physically possible (getting our money’s worth, obviously) before boarding the boat back to our taxi. Yep, that was definitely one of the craziest things I have ever done. Sorry, mum!!
ANGEL’S POOL VIDEO:
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