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.
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 Kawambwa at 75km (GoogleMaps says 90 minutes drive) to the southwest. Also, at 272km (GoogleMaps says 4.5 hours though I swear it took much longer than that) to the east of the falls was the town of Kasama. Kawambwa was said to be 970km north of Lusaka.
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