Is it Safe to Swim in the Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls?

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The Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls is considered to be one of the most exciting but dangerous experiences to have on the Zambian side of the falls. Here's what you need to know before you go.

Aerial shots of the Victoria Falls, Southern Africa Photo © Getty Images/WR Mekwi

When you go swimming at the Devil's Pool, you are literally inches away from going over the top of a huge waterfall, plunging down a 354ft (108m) drop. This is Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, where 38,430 cubic feet of water per second drops into the abyss. But there's one spot where the surging water doesn't reach, and if you know where to tread and where not to swim, you can stare death in the face.

That one spot is called The Devil's Pool.

While there are dangers associated with going swimming in the Devil's Pool, local guides will lead you there and offer their safety advice to help you have a safe and enjoyable time.

Is it safe to swim in the Devil's Pool?

During the dry season (mid-August to mid-January) when the waterfalls aren't gushing (too much) over the edge, travelers can go swimming at the Devil's Pool with an organized tour group.

What many visitors don't know, is that you must swim through a small section of the Zambezi River to reach the Devil's Pool. If you aren't a strong swimmer, the guides will help you cross by joining a line holding hands. However you should be aware there is a current, which makes it a little more scary for many.

The guides will check for crocodiles or hippos before you all get in. That's right – there may be crocodiles or hippos swimming in the Zambezi River. Of couse, if the wildlife is spotted, the guides won't put you in harm's way. These animals haven't been reported in the actual Devil's Pool itself, but they could be in the shallow waters of the Zambezi.

Once you reach the pool, there is a rock lip that stops swimmers from being thrown over the edge – creating the pool of water at the top of the falls. While it is safe to swim here, it's up to travelers to not be foolish and tempt fate by going too close to the edge, or dismissing any safety advice from the guides.

Swim here at your own risk. While there have been no deaths here, accidents can happen when people slip on rocks.

On the Zimbabwe side of the falls

Traditionally, the Zimbabwean side of the falls has been the most popular place to go. It's a short walk to Victoria Falls National Park from the town, and the best views are from this side.

However, Zimbabwe's tumultuous economic situation has resulted in travelers favoring the Zambian side. It's famously reported that by 2006, hotel occupancy on the Zimbabwean side was down to 30%; while the Zambian side was at full capacity and there was rapid development of more accommodation.

But since 2011 travelers have started coming back to Zimbabwe, mostly due to cheaper accommodation and lower park fees that offer better value for money.

Victoria Falls has suffered some of the same food and fuel shortages experienced throughout Zimbabwe, but the situation is improving. Local hotel owners promise you'll find most things you need in Victoria Falls, just don't expect much choice.

Safety at the falls

The local businesses have worked hard at restoring harmony and making sure the town remains safe for travelers. There are tourist police patrolling the area, and they can be identified by their yellow vests. You'll see them everywhere around the town and at the falls.

Most hotels have security guards too, which can be handy because the local touts are very persistent. The police and the guards usually keep them at bay.

As more travelers have returned to the falls, so has the nightlife. There are breweries, restaurants and other venues to check out at night. 

If you do need to get around at night, make sure you have someone with you, and take taxis to avoid walking in the dark. Not necessarily to avoid people, but to avoid any animals which may be out and about. 

It's also not safe to walk the path down to the falls at night, just in case you encountered any wildlife in the dark.

On the Zambian side

Regardless of which side of the falls you're on, there's always a different view or something to attract you to cross to the other side.

If you want to go all the way across and visit the town of Livingstone on the Zambian side, you will need a Zambian entry visa and a Zimbabwean re-entry visa. All these visas can be issued on-the-spot, but allow between US $35 and US $100, depending on the type of visa you get. Many hotels can make all the arrangements for you as part of a day tripper package.

If you just want to view the falls from the middle of the bridge, you don't need any visas, just take your passport.

Extra travel safety tips for Victoria Falls

  • When visiting Victoria Falls, avoid getting your passport wet. A small dry bag or ziplock bag is handy for this, otherwise you may face difficulties if you try to travel using a damaged passport, and you may have to pay for a replacement
  • Take a spray jacket or poncho – you will get wet
  • So will your camera equipment, so either put it in a waterproof housing, dry bag or keep it under wraps in your bag
  • The hotels here no longer accept Zimbabwe Dollars. They do take US Dollars or South African Rand, and will accept credit cards. The same is not true of the small shops in the town of Victoria Falls – cash, preferably US Dollars, is the only currency. However, the situation may change, so check with your accommodation staff or travel provider prior to leaving in case the accepted currency has changed again.

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