Living On The Edge
Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone
In continuation of my African adventure last month, I had the opportunity to see Victoria Falls and swim in Devil’s Pool. Victoria Falls is a town in western Zimbabwe and home to a massive waterfall, also referred to as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders.” The Zambezi River plummets over a cliff and into the flowing waters through a series of gorges. Victoria Falls spans over 5,000 feet wide and over 350 feet tall along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. To give you an idea, it is roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls and over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls.
When I first heard about the opportunity to see Victoria Falls and swim in Devil’s Pool, I was immediately on board. Only a limited number of patrons are allowed to venture to the Falls each day to protect and preserve the natural habitat of the area, and it is only available certain times of the year when the water level drops making it suitable for swimming.
Devil’s Pool is a natural infinity pool on the edge of Victoria Falls and where I decided to venture with three other brave souls from my travel group. It was quite the journey just getting there. From our hotel in Zimbabwe and about 20 minutes down the road, we had a border crossing into Zambia. Once immigration checked our visas, we were taken to our meeting point at the Livingstone Island launch site. We met our first set of guides, were given a safety talk, and signed our life away as to not hold anyone accountable but ourselves if we plummet to our death. And this is where the butterflies started. Death? Surely this is just a precautionary measure, as tourists do this crazy stunt every day.
Next, we put on life vests — which I found ironic since we were told we’d be returning before our swim to reach the falls — and loaded into a speed boat that zipped us through the current of the Zambezi River where we twisted through the rocky channels making our way closer with every turn to “The Smoke That Thunders.”
Within minutes, we arrived at a sandy island where we discarded our life vests and were escorted to a changing area to dress down to our swimwear. Conveniently placed was a sign stating, “I acknowledge and accept that I am aware/appreciate the dangers and risks associated with visiting … and the real life risk of suffering bodily harm, injury and even death.” Oh sure, now I’m supposed to “appreciate” that I could fall to my death? I had no idea what I was getting myself into and my legs began to feel like Jell-O. Feet don’t fail me now.
With bathing suits and water shoes in place, we then hiked along a rocky path to the edge of the Falls on the east of the island overlooking Rainbow Falls. With every step we made closer, the roar of the water grew louder and sprayed us with its intensity. Just peaking out above the rocks was a hint of a rainbow and my fears immediately washed away as curiosity and amazement took over. I wanted to get closer to those Falls and see this natural wonder in its entirety.
As we made our way over to Devil’s Pool, we formed a line and were led by our guide into the chilled water as we swam upstream against the current. Once near the rock formations, we climbed out and could now walk along the edge of the Falls and Devil’s Pool. I was immersed in this wonder, standing at the top of a massive waterfall, about to swim in this dangerous vortex, when an overwhelming feeling of tranquility swept over me. With the rainbow now so close I felt I could reach it, I was in awe of this natural beauty literally surrounding me from every angle. As people finished up posing for photos as they leaned on the edge of the falls, we were asked to get in the water and be ready to swim over to the guides when motioned to come over.
Devil’s Pool was created thousands of years ago by erosion but somehow has a rock ledge at the edge of the Falls where the water is shallow enough for people to sit. This natural barrier is what allows one to jump into the pool but not get swept over the edge. Although when it was my turn to swim over to the edge my guide did have to yell, “Stay on this side, not that side. You go near that side, you go bye-bye.” There is no rope, no barrier, no float rings, just brave guides and crazy daredevils defying the laws of physics. That feeling of tranquility didn’t last long as adrenaline took over and my body began to rigorously doggie paddle my way through the pool and grab onto the edge (and my guide) for dear life.
Once myself, Kelly, Kyle and Joe hoisted ourselves onto the ledge, we were able to sit and enjoy the views and try not to think about the fact that one false move could send us to our doom. It was only the third day of the trip and this experience had already brought me that much closer to the three new friends I had made. We had just checked something off our bucket list together that not many people can say they’ve done and we were all so proud of each other for doing so.
I’m so glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone and lived a little, even if it could’ve resulted in “bodily harm, injury and even death”. I’m not saying everyone should go swimming at the top of a waterfall, but sometimes it’s worth taking the risk because chances are, you will grow from those experiences. Next month, I’d love to share the story of how a monkey stole my lunch while spotting The Big Five on safari. Only in Africa!
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone.”