With the Devils Pool experience booked up (you gotta get in there early!) we wanted another way to see Victoria Falls in Zambia side. And so, we were recommended the new ‘Under the Spray’ experience.
Basically, it involved a hike down the gorge, a boat trip out to Victoria Falls, a barefoot trek across the rocks and then a swim under the Falls. We didn’t know any of this before we went though.
We’d just heard ‘under the spray’, thought it sounded fun and didn’t think anything more of it until we woke up late, after a few too many $1 Livingstone wines the days before.
And then we were told we were REALLY late after misunderstanding the vague instructions.
Long, boring transport story short, we made it to the meeting point a good hour behind the rest of the group.
The journey down to the spray at Victoria Falls
Life jackets on, and it was a 30-minute steep hike down the gorge while holding our paddles. With every step the regret of the night before ricocheted through my body. Belly gurgling, head pounding, they were making us go fast to catch the group up.
By the time we got to the boat my legs were quivering under the shock of forcing them to traverse that downwards rocky slope in double time.
I was so happy to collapse into the boat, after that last minute surprise of having to clamber round a rock face with just 2cm depth pieces of wood nailed in – all that separated me and falling into the water a few feet below. Not ideal for my size 8, 7 at best, trotters, and a slightly wine skewed centre of balance.
White water rafting at Victoria Falls
And so we paddled out. And I started to relax and enjoy. The lateness and the hike had been a shock for me. I wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for either. Good job you’re reading this so you know what to expect.
The Zim Zam Bridge had been amazing to see from the few glances up I’d risked while venturing down the gorge, but as we turned the corner in the boat to see the Falls in all the glory, it was clear to see why this was the number one attraction to see in Zambia.
And kinda scary at the same time.
Our leader was shouting at his team, and us passengers, to “PADDLE!”. There were huge rapids to the right and with the sound of the Falls, the complete ignorance to what ‘Under the Spray’ actually was, and me not quite being in tune with the Zambian English yet, I was terrified he was going to take us down them.
Definitely wouldn’t be into that.
Thankfully we were merely going round them – nothing to worry about.
I chatted with Helen (from the UK’s biggest Africa travel blog)
about Africa for my podcast, So She Travels.
Have a listen!
Actually going ‘Under the Spray’ at Victoria Falls
We moored up and one by one got out onto the rocks. I ditched my trainers as soon as I realised we’d be wading through water. Needed them dry for the hike back up again, which I couldn’t bare thinking about right now.
We hopped from rock to rock, some wobbled, just to keep the trek spicy, and the trusty ones took my weight perfectly. It was hard work, using muscles I hadn’t engaged for a long time, but I genuinely loved it.
We soon arrived to the pool just before the Falls, where we had to sit and launch ourselves forward to bypass the rocks below. This was when I learned that two people in our group of six COULDN’T SWIM.
They followed the ropes the leader threw to them, while Helen and I gallivanted off via breaststroke in the direction of the waterfall.
We spent about half an hour swimming around, standing under the Falls for a massage, taking photos and lying out on the rock under the sun to warm up again. It was truly incredible to be stood under Victoria Falls – one of the 7 Wonders of the World – looking up to see it coming down at us in full force.
The Under the Spray experience
The conditions have to be just right for the Under the Spray experience to go ahead. We were there in dry season – you’d have no chance in wet season. Too much force and too much water leads to crazy and unpredictable conditions.
And there’s no way you could do anything like this by yourself. You need trained leaders and people who know what they’re doing.
After 30/45 minutes it was getting chilly down in the gorge as the sun had moved behind the Falls.
And so, gradually, we left. Not before one of the guys who couldn’t swim decided to jump off this huge rock… for the yolos and lols.
We paddled back and then began the slow and tough ascent back up again. I’m always of the mindset that the quicker you go the sooner it’s over, so marched on. But others opted for the slow and steady approach.
Back up the Falls
Every so often I’d turn around to take in the beautiful views. I wanted to remember every step to fill my head next time I was on the stepper at the gym. I wanted to be able to recreate it.
We made it to the top, via a bench we paused at for a lovely view – when a minute later two baboons started going at it, or at least the male did, and the female shirked him off with a screech after a few seconds.
So the same day I saw a baboon’s penis, was the same day I saw the Falls. I know which one I’ll remember with joy.
Where I stayed
The Under the Spray experience is best accessed from Livingstone, the second city of Lusaka. You just need to travel around 15 minutes to the Falls, via taxi, from Jolly Backpackers.
Jolly Backpackers was my favourite place I stayed in the whole of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi on my recent trip. It’s a super chilled place in a great location in the centre of the city, with friendly staff. They have a pool and a bar, and a good varied menu of food. You can book all kinds of tours from here.
I did the Under the Spray, and the Sunset Cruise too.
I would’ve loved to have gone to Livingstone House but we weren’t prepared enough and as it’s fancy, we didn’t think they’d appreciate us turning up in our kinda dried but still wet clothes, looking like we’d just gone under the spray of the Victoria Falls.
What to wear for Under the Spray
Thank god I changed before I left Jollyboys. In our total under preparation I’d been ready to go in a dress and flip flops. Thankfully I changed into shorts, a T-shirt, trainers and my bikini underneath. Turned out to be the perfect outfit.
You want to be comfortable and protected from the sun on the way down, and in the boat, yet comfortable to bend down and stay low as you climb over the rocks, and then there’s the ascent too.
I’d recommend you take your trainers off as soon as you see the boat so you have them dry for the way up. Top tip for you there.
So, Under the Spray – any questions?
More on my 3 weeks in Africa