We received another visa and passport stamp as we crossed into Zimbabwe…our fourth African country. Once rich in agriculture, the country’s leader gave away the lands as payment to his rebel fighters for keeping him in power. The lands were destroyed after generations of successful farming and the country’s lack of exports led to the beginning of their financial crisis. The country continued to print more and more money to make up for their deficit which quickly inflated their currency. Zimbabwe now uses the U.S. dollar but you can still come across the old currency. The largest note that was printed before the currency was completely dissolved was the 100 trillion note.
We drove from the border to the town of Victoria Falls where we stayed for the next three nights. Our campsite was situated in the middle of town and was frequently visited by monkeys, baboons and warthogs.
The town of Vic Falls is home to adrenaline sports and the Victoria Falls waterfalls which create a natural border with Zambia. A group of us decided to spend a few hours exploring the falls. There are three ways to measure a waterfall: height, width and volume. If you combine these factors, the three largest in the world are Niagra Falls, Iguacu Falls (which we visited in Argentina) and Victoria Falls. However, Victoria Falls is the only of the three to be named one of the as Seven Natural Wonders of the World. A big hug to Mary Tom for the lovely Vic Falls wedding honeyfund, it was beautiful to see!
A group of eight of us who have been traveling together since Cape Town signed up for a white water rafting trip down the Zambezi River. Rapids are rated from Class 1 to Class 6 depending on their difficulty. Our rafting course included 19 notable rapids, including one Class 6 rapid that we had to get out and walk around because Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Traversing a Class 6 rapid “has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death.”
The Zambezi River is renowned for its world class rafting and is home to one of the greatest stretches of Class 5 rapids. After some research, we learned Class 5 rapids require “advanced whitewater experience,” but this is Africa and our rafting company could care less that the majority of us had never previously been on a rafting trip. A few people we were with, including Chris, have rafted before, but no one was prepared for what was in store.
Our first rapid was a Class 3 and our raft flipped and trapped a few of us underneath leaving us gasping for air that wasn’t available. The second rapid busted our friend’s lip. We were off to a poor start and a few of us started to become uneasy about what we’d signed up for. The rapids were huge, a few included 10-12 foot drops, the current was incredibly strong and there were whirlpools that could suck you underwater for up to 15 seconds before spitting you back out. Two of the Class 5 rapids had a 95% chance of the raft flipping. We flipped often. The second to last rapid, another Class 5, was appropriately named The Oblivion. It consists of three rapids in quick succession where the last rapid completely tears you apart. The chances of getting through unscathed is slim to none. We watched as three rafts in front of us immediately capsized after hitting the third rapid. When it was our turn, we paddled hard into the current. We hit the first and second rapids without any problems. As we approached the final rapid, we became stuck in a pocket of swirling water that held us there for about 15 seconds while we were violtenly shaken around until we finally flipped. The guides from the other boats were so excited and impressed that we “surfed” the rapids for so long. They said we looked like popcorn being thrown out of the pan as we all struggled to stay on the raft.
After two and a half hours, we were completely exhausted, battered and water-logged. Chris had an absolutely amazing time. He was hit in the head by the raft when it flipped but that couldnt break his spirit as he relished in the experience. Me? Well I can check this off the ol’ bucket list but will likely not ever being doing it again. Many thanks to the Michuda’s for the white water rafting honeyfund. It was for truly unforgettable memory and (for me) a once in a lifetime experience!
We had one more day in Vic Falls before we had to say goodbye to several people in our group and the crew we’ve been overlanding with for the past three weeks. We’ll miss our trip leader, Bruce, who is incredibly generous and passionate about his job, wildlife and Africa. Our driver, Servius, who has a heart of gold and Onary, our cook, who is responsible for our 5 lb. weight gain. It was a sad goodbye and we’ll miss our new friends. We have a new crew and there are now 11 of us traveling on our new truck, seven of whom we’ve been with since the start of our trip in Cape Town.
Our trip itinerary had us backtrack to Chobe National Park in Botswana. This was a bit redundant for us since we had already bush camped in the park just a few days ago, but it provided another opportunity for some spectacular game sightings before we were to loop back to Zambia to visit the other side of Victoria Falls. Within a few hours, we saw nearly a dozen different lions. One was feasting on a freshly killed warthog, others were laying along the river, two were shagging, one sat blocking our road ahead and a couple were hunting in the plains.
We also spotted our second leopard. We followed it for some time as it elegantly walked through the brush.
The next morning, we drove out of the park and made our way to the border where we crossed by ferry to Zambia. Since Chris and I first planned our trip to Africa, we knew there was one thing we had to do in Zambia – swim in Devil’s Pool. Our friend had visited the pool on his trip to Africa last year and it looked like an amazing and unique experience (thanks J-dub)! As soon as we arrived in Livingstone (home to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side), I quickly beelined to the nearest hostel to book a boat to take us to the pool. Chris and I have been campaigning for a trip to Devil’s Pool for several weeks so it didn’t take much to convince a few of our friends to come along. We were incredibly lucky to secure the last five spots available for the day.
So what is Devil’s Pool? At the top of the Victoria Falls waterfalls is a natural rock pool. The pool sits right at the point where the river water cascades down the cliff to the rocks below. You can swim, sit and play in the pool which is protected by a thick rock ledge.
To get there, a small motorboat picked us up from a five star hotel on the river and took us just above the falls to a small island called Livingstone Island. From the island, we swam and climbed our way to a rocky outcrop right above the pool and falls. Our guide pointed to the pool and the surrounding currents indicating to us where we could jump in without getting swept over. Once we jumped in, the current pushed us toward the natural rock ledge which stopped us from being swept over to our certain death. There aren’t any ropes, safety harnesses or barriers protecting you from getting swept over the edge…just your own common sense.
After jumping in, we sat in the pool and watched as the water washed over us and proceeded down the falls. We took turns holding each other’s legs as we peered over the rock ledge and admired the incredible view.
After downing a few cocktails on Livingstone Island, our boat picked us up to take us back to the five star hotel. The five of us sat on the patio and drank a few beers while taking in the lovely views of the falls where we had just swam. The boys had to pry us away from the immaculate hotel property to get us back to our campsite in time for dinner. We are more than half way done with our trip through Africa. These past three weeks have been extremely memorable and we look forward to what’s in store for our last three weeks as we start making our way up to Malawi and East Africa!
Disclosure: We are traveling on an overland safari with Africa Travel Co. and have received a trip discount in exchange for sharing our experience. These thoughts and opinions are completely our own.