My next travel adventure took me to the outskirts of Kasama in the Northern province of Zambia, further than I have ever driven before, within borders of the Real Africa. Google Maps estimated that the 850 km journey from Lusaka to Kasama would take under 12 hours but in reality the entire drive took me about 14 hours. The lag in timing was largely due to the poor state of the road in some parts especially between Serenje and Mpika the random tracts of gravel on the Mpika – Kasama road. The Kapiri – Serenje road was quite smooth and enjoyable.
I got to see the rural landscape as it transformed from the concrete jungle of Lusaka to the plateaued farming blocks of Kapiri and Mfuwe and the hilly woodlands as I drove into Serenje. This woodland transitioned into the unmissable Muchinga escarpment as I drove between Serenje and Mpika, and the larger portion of the journey between Mpika and Kasama was a mix of woodland and savanna hills. One thing I noticed is that this northerly route had more stretches of straight roads than most areas I have visited in Zambia, especially along the Mpika – Kasama road. I needed to deliberately remain positive as the drive begun to give me much fatigue – the road just kept going and going with no end 😅.
I got to Kasama in good time to grab some supplies from the chain department store but had to dash to my final destination, which was still 40kms outside Kasama. I eventually arrived as the sun was setting and managed to steal a moment to see the Chishimba waterfalls, it was such a fitting reward after the day I had. It felt so calming to just sit, breathe the unspoiled air and take it all in. I returned to the visitors centre and decided to spend a night on site, as it did not make sense to drive back to Kasama and come back the next morning. Plus! I had not camped in so many years so it was nice to do something different for a change.
The facility was actually better than I thought, it had men’s and women’s ablutions with flushable toilets which were clean plus there were several built-in braai stands dotted around the visitors area. The camping ground was reasonably safe too and there was a guard on patrol. The night passed by so fast and I was up at dawn to go and see the wonder of the three water sights on the Luombe River, which flow throughout the year.
I went upstream from the car park on a short path that led to the Mutumuna Falls, which is the uppermost waterfall in the trifecta. In spite of the hyrdo-electric power station that was built up stream, the river still had a strong current as it fell. The Mutumuna waterfall is about 20 – 25 metres tall and it looked even wider than that. I found that the bottom of the falls had more rocks than an actual plunge pool, like most waterfalls. The rocks provided a good support to get closer to the waterfall for a better view, but they were quite slippery.
The Kaela rapids are down stream from Mutumuna Falls, around the vicinity of the visitors area and camping facility. The rapids are preceded by a mid-sized lake which is formed by the wall that seemed to have been built as a secondary part of the hydro-electric power station. The ‘lake’ provided such a calm front for what later became a swift change in scenery and pace of the Luombe river. It was quite exhilarating to witness and the different viewing points gave such a good perspective of the expanse and uniqueness of the Kaela.
The Chishimba Falls are further down stream from the Kaela Rapids. You actually have to take a 5 – 10 minute leisurely walk on the foot path from the rapids to the falls. You will notice that the vegetation changes to a grove of trees, and large palm trees which look like they predate our independence from British rule. The grove later transitions to a marsh that surrounds a dry river bed that gives access to the Chishimba falls. I especially loved that I could hear the waterfall before I actually saw it, it sounded a lot more voluminous than it did when I saw it the evening before.
The Chishimba falls can be viewed from the top, where you get great views of the water as it gathers momentum to fall off the cliff and you will get a good shot of the river flowing away into the distance after falling off the cliff. You can also see the waterfall from the side where you will see the the raging white flow stand out from the stone and greenery around.
The view of the Chishimba from the bottom gives you the opportunity to experience the sheer might and grandeur of the falls, plus it has a good spot to sit and take it all in. There is a staircase that leads to the bottom which was carved from the stone that surrounds the waterfalls, it is not too steep but I recommend you taking it one step at a time.
💡 – The northern trifecta was quite an adventure, I surely recommend the experience if you are ever in the Kasama area. You will be happy to know that this trifecta is one part of a circuit of waterfalls in this region which has the majority of Zambia’s notable waterfalls.
- The 850km drive from Lusaka to Kasama drive is approximately 12 – 14 hours long and the road gets bad in some places. So, ensure your vehicle is well serviced, drive at a moderate speed and make sure you have enough podcasts or a good playlist to keep you energised.
- You will find several toll gates on the entire journey ensure you carry some cash.
- Ensure you also have your drivers licence and identity document in case you come across Police at checkpoints and Road and Transport Safety Staff at speed traps dotted along the route.
- If you prefer not to drive from Lusaka to Kasama, you can utilise public transport providers like Juldan, Power Tools and Likili Motors, whose ticket sales centres can be found at the Inter-City Bus station in Lusaka.
- I recommend that you buy enough snacks and supplies by the time you leave Kapiri as there are few established grocery stores where you will find creature comforts between Kapiri and Kasama. Once you get to Kasama you have a little more variety.
- If you choose not to camp at the Chishimba Falls camping site, I can advise you to consider any one of the following lodges in Kasama:
- Alitasha Lodge, which has two locations in Kasama but the most accessible one is along the main road as you enter Kasama CBD (0967605120 / 0967757275).
- Kizya Executive Lodge located near Kasama CBD (0977750147 / 0963350285).
- JMV Apartments located on the outskirts of Kasama, opposite Kasama Airport as you head to Chishimba Falls (0977861651)
- Kasama Tower Hotel located as you enter Kasama from Mpika (0760826160 / 0977713 629).
- If you get weary on the drive to or from Kasama, you could also consider getting some rest at Atha Executive Lodge in Serenje (0976077723 / 0976379166) or Landmark Lodge in Mpika (0966400487).
- Kasama and the surrounding areas are generally cooler in temperature compared to most of the towns in the central and southern regions of Zambia, so it is advisable for you to carry something to keep you warm when the night gets chilly.
- Ensure you also carry insect repellent as any area with water bodies is prone to have mosquitoes, among other insects.
- The Luombe river did not have any marine life from my observation and I generally did not observe any wildlife around the trifecta area, other than birdlife. I still recommend that you remain aware of your surroundings as snakes are alive and well in the tropics 😅.
- As with all other travels, when you get to these beautiful sites, be responsible and do your part to preserve them by not polluting the soil, air or water.