Kabwelume Falls (I've also seen it spelled Kabweluma Falls) was definitely one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the Kalungwishi River, in our opinions at least. Well, at least this and Lumangwe Falls further upstream can certainly claim that superlative in our minds. Indeed, this was probably the big waterfall surprise of our 2008 Africa trip, but getting to this falls was a whole different story.
The access road beyond the Lumangwe Falls turnoff (near the gate into the reserve) was terribly rough and rugged. In fact, I think this contributed mightily to the rear axle snapping on our safari vehicle thereby disabling it when we left the falls later on. That was because the drive train suffered through ruts deep enough to make the car tilt seemingly 45 degrees. It probably didn't help that we had taken a detour earlier on the day in search of Chipempe Falls where we were literally driving int he bush. All things considered, the wheels were probably twisted in opposite directions too many times to count, which had put lots of strain on the rear axle.
Anyways, once we made it to the signed trailhead, we had to walk another 300m to the falls. On the way, there was a stream crossing that could easily wet the feet without gore-tex, and only then, we still required a fair bit of rock and log hopping just to even get across. Once we made it past the crossing, we then made a descent on a slippery, muddy and grass-fringed path down to a misty plateau right in front of the falls.
Julie and I only went so far down the slippery descent, but our local guides Chanda and Joseph had no trouble making it even closer to the falls. When I realized that taking photographs from the plateau wasn't going to work out, that was when I didn't go any closer.
Kabwelume Falls had a rather unique shape as there were four or five different wide segments of the falls tumbling in parallel. The one of the far right was wide and fell in two steps. I recalled there were some extreme kayakers who had run that section of the falls thanks to its stepped characteristic. Further to the left was a more directly falling waterfall. The segments on the furthest left of the falls were cascades tumbling along a rugged slope.
All segments converged at the base of the falls directly across from the end of the misty and wet plateau we were above. Thus, all that water crashing down in one place easily produced the mist that kept us from getting all the way onto the plateau itself.
Our local guide (named Chanda) told us that this waterfall was one end of a snake spirit (the other end being Lumangwe Falls) that prevented this falls from being seen by the outside world. Such a calamity could've been by camera film not developing correctly or a camera getting destroyed somehow. Our calamity happened to be a disabled safari vehicle on the way back to main Kawambwa-Mporokoso Road so maybe there was something to this legend after all. In any case, as you can see from this web page, we did manage to show the outside world what this waterfall was like despite our misadventure.
But just as we were getting over the euphoria of having finally earned our view of this waterfall, Chanda then mentioned that the falls was given the authorization for hydroelectric development. We really hope that doesn't destroy this wonderful waterfall, but with economic needs typically trumping the realities of Nature, who knows what will happen next?!?
To give you an idea of the time commitment involved, we spent about 30 minutes to be driven on the 4wd track from Lumangwe Falls to Kabwelume Falls. Then, we spent another 40 minutes away from the vehicle to both hike and photograph the falls.
Stitched panorama of the full width of Kabwelume Falls
A closer look at the part of Kabwelume Falls that extreme kayakers might have been able to run
Joseph being a trooper and guiding Chester through the really rugged 4wd track on the way to the falls
Joseph still helping Chester navigate the really rugged 4wd track
Finally made it to the signposted trailhead
Everyone on the trail to the waterfall
Chester beckoning us to cross over the stream
Chanda (after coming back up to leave his jacket behind) and Joseph making the descent closer to Kabwelume Falls
As much of Kabwelume Falls that I can capture without stitching
Focused on the far right side of the falls and its tow-tiered drop
Panning over to the leftmost segments of the falls
Progressing slowly on the deeply rutted road on the way out
About to approach a real deep rut
The rear axle finally gave out after all it went through today. From this point forward, we had to grab our stuff and walk to the nearest village near the Kalungwishi River. Then, we had to assess our situation and figure out what to do next.
The access to this waterfall was about 5km beyond the turnoff for Lumangwe Falls on a real killer 4wd road. See the Lumangwe Falls page for how we got here in the first place.
As for context, the nearest big town to this falls from the west was 75km (GoogleMaps says 90 minutes drive) northeast of Kawambwa or 272km (GoogleMaps says 4.5 hours though I swear it took much longer than that) west of Kasama. Kawambwa was said to be 970km north of Lusaka.
You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.