Chasing the Waterfalls of Luapula

Leaving Mansa (Refer to Modest Mansa blog post)
There were few private transport options from Mansa and non were affordable enough for my budget, so I chose to use public transport (Peace Soldier Bus services) with an extra seat for additional leg room. During the journey, I witnessed the beautiful landscape of the province with a power station along the way too. I also got to see a medieval castle tower on what looked like a church and some colourful huts that reminded me of my great grandmothers rural home.

I got to Kawambwa early enough to check into UpHill Lodge (096 6394905), strike up a deal with two cabbies for my movements (Evaristo – 0976233879 and Leonard – 0977251828) and dash out to see my first waterfall before dusk.

Ntumbacushi Falls

Located a mere 20 minutes outside Kawambwa lies the Ntumbacushi Falls. The Ng’ona river flows through the area into several water pools and rapids that eventually give way to the waterfall that has two main fronts, with the grander view greeting you as you enter the premises. I could have sworn this was the same waterfall from the scene in the Shaka Zulu movie when Shaka was publicly bathed in preparation for his return to his father’s homeland to take the crown, but alas! my homeland did not feature in that story. The other view of the falls is a short walk away and you even get to walk over a weirdly unique foot bridge that gives a beautiful view of the river flowing away from the waterfall into the reed laden horizon.

The management of premises charges a small fee for entry and they have camping facilities for those that would like to spend the night. I did not stay the night as I wanted to retreat to the comforts of my standard accommodation and the taste of local char-grilled fish in a well-lit environment. I needed to rest and be refreshed enough to get back on the road in the morning to the next waterfall.

Lumangwe Falls
The next waterfall on my trip was the Lumangwe falls. It is over 75kms north of Kawambwa, near the border between the Luapula province and Northern province, which meant I needed to be up bright and early to cover much ground. From Kawambwa, 20kms of the road into the drive was tarred but the rest of the road was gravel with some pretty rough patches as we got closer to the turnoff that leads to the falls. This sure increased our travel time but I was more relieved that my cabbie’s Toyota Corolla was able to navigate through the rough patches fairly well, it was the dry season after all.

We got to cross a truss bridge over the Kalungwishi river which forms the boundary between the Luapula province and the Northern province at most points. We eventually arrived at the entrance to the facility where I realised that the Lumangwe and Kabwelume falls were much closer to each other than I thought, talk about hitting two waterfalls in one stone throw.

We got to the Lumangwe falls whose ‘smoke’ I could see from the parking lot. I was overjoyed to behold what felt like miniature version of the majestic Mosi-Oa-Tunya, it even had similar barriers at the first viewing point. The waterfall apparently spans over 140m wide and 30m tall. I learned from the local guide that unlike the Mosi-Oa-Tunya falls, water falls throughout the year at the Lumangwe as there is a high concentration of water bodies in the region that feeds the major rivers, like the Kalungwishi river. Yes, the river that we crossed using the truss bridge kilometres away was the same one falling so gracefully.

“felt like miniature version of the majestic Mosi-Oa-Tunya, it even had similar barriers at the first viewing point.”

The second viewing point requires quite a bit of caution as it is located at the top of the falls near the edge where the water plunges over the cliff. There is no protective barrier and the rocks are slippery but the partial views of the river falling over and flowing into the distance were unmatched.

The last viewing point at the bottom of the falls is accessible using 94 stairs made of carved stones. The falls looked like a curtain gently blowing through a breeze of sheer brilliance. This breeze naturally nourishes the whole area around the falls into a luxurious green rain forest straight out of the amazon.

Kabwelume Falls.
The Kabwelume Falls lies 7kms downstream from the Lumangwe falls. Yes, the Kabwelume falls is also on the Kalungwishi river, this river is the gift that keeps on giving. The road to the Kabwelume falls is fairly passable until you reach the vicinity of the waterfall. There is an area that was cleared for guests to park their vehicles, as the rest of the journey to the waterfall must be completed on foot. The stone-laden area from the parking lot transitions into wooden foot bridges that cross several streams before you eventually get to the breath-taking view of this majestic waterfall.

This scene is the stuff of imagination! I never even thought it would look this surreal and dreamy, this waterfall is truly enchanting to experience. I took deep breathes with each miniature step towards the edge and I was drenched by an unending gentle haze of ‘smoke’ from the different sides of the waterfall. The waterfall is uniquely shaped with the extreme right section having two steps of water falling and the left section of the waterfall having almost three separate sections of water all cascading into an almost horseshoe-shaped depression below the viewing plateau.

I eventually got to the edge and just stood in reverent awe at how grand but tranquil this piece of nature was. Singing How Great Thou Art took a whole new meaning as I stood there! I returned to the parking lot drenched and dripping with no regrets because I deeply appreciated this experience. I returned to Kawambwa and Mansa satisfied with my efforts to go where few have gone in search of nature’s unique beauty. I truly hope that this adventure has shed a little more light on this corner of Zambia and inspired you to also chase your own adventures.

Travel Tips

  • Make sure you create a music playlist for the road, things can become pretty mundane and reading is not always possible because of the state of the road in some parts.
  • Evaristo – 0976233879 and Leonard – 0977251828 were honest, reasonable and reliable in getting me to where I wanted to be once I got to Kawambwa.
  • If you are self-driving from Mansa, I recommend you use a CUV/SUV vehicle to comfortably navigate some portions of the gravel terrain. Make sure you have a few jerrycans of fuel as well, Kawambwa only has one fuel station which sometimes runs out of fuel supply.
  • I wasn’t able to find any backpacking options and reputable lodges in the Kawambwa area, other than the UpHill Lodge (096 6394905) and Peace Soldiers Lodge (097 5062433) as I spent most of my time away from town.
    • Uphill Lodge has pretty neat standards but it is much pricier on average than the lodges in Mansa, but it is well worth the additional amenities they have on site.
    • Uphill Lodge has a point of sale for guests to swipe and settle their bills, however, it is best to have enough currency in the event that technology fails. Ensure you also carry some extra local cash as each site charges a small fee (under ZMK 20 / $1.2) for entry.
    • If you intend to camp at any of the sites, ensure you carry mosquito and snake repellent.
  • There are a few grocery stores in the central town area of Kawambwa but they are not stocked with many options. If you like to snack from time to time, make sure you buy some snacks before you leave Mansa. I had most of my main meals from the restaurant at Uphill lodge and their service was pretty good too.
  • As you journey to the waterfalls, make sure you carry supplies with you because there currently are no established places to purchase talktime, food and beverages but you could possibly chance a few makeshift stores along the way.
  • I recommend you wear some comfortable shoes that have a good grip as the stones around the waterfalls are extremely slippery.
  • If you have a little more time in the region, make sure you plan to visit Kundabwika Falls (also on the Kalungwishi river), Mambilima Falls, Mumbuluma Falls, Musonda Falls and Lupupa Falls.
  • When you get to these beautiful sites, be responsible and do your part to preserve them.

11 thoughts on “Chasing the Waterfalls of Luapula

  1. Lovely Bongs! I actually read it all which says alot about your writing! Great stuff 👏🏾…now where wheres that bell I click subscribe lol!


  2. Do you have a YouTube channel ??
    This is sooo amazing I really want to go now 😃 thank you for this well put together piece.


    1. I do not have a YouTube channel yet but thank you for your positive feedback. I hope you will be able to travel and see these beautiful waterfalls, feel free to request for more information if you need any.


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