Kabwelume Falls

Kalungwishi River / Chipempe, Luapula Province / Northern Province, Zambia

About Kabwelume Falls

Hiking Distance: 600m round trip
Suggested Time: 30-40 minutes

Date first visited: 2008-05-30
Date last visited: 2008-05-30

Waterfall Latitude: -9.52476
Waterfall Longitude: 29.35131

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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 title in our minds.

Kabweluma_Falls_027_05302008 - Kabwelume Falls
Kabwelume Falls

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 literally drove in the bush.

All things considered, the wheels were probably twisted in opposite directions too many times to count, which had put lots of strain on that rear axle.

Experiencing Kabwelume Falls

Kabweluma_Falls_006_05302008 - The trailhead for Kabwelume Falls
The trailhead for Kabwelume Falls

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 hiking boots.

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 Kabweluma 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 and the blasting mist.

When I realized that taking photographs from the plateau wasn’t going to work out, that was when I didn’t go any closer.

Kabweluma_Falls_011_05302008 - Chanda trying to get closer to the Kabwelume Falls
Chanda trying to get closer to the Kabwelume Falls

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 in the past that 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 while 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.

The Snake Spirit

Kabweluma_Falls_054_05302008 - Deep gullies and craters on the road between Lumangwe Falls and Kabwelume Falls
Deep gullies and craters on the road between Lumangwe Falls and Kabwelume Falls

Our local guide (named Chanda) told us that this waterfall was one end of a snake spirit (the other end being Lumangwe Falls).

Apparently this snake spirit was said to prevent this falls from being seen by the outside world.

He anecdotally said that people before us who had seen this falls couldn’t have their camera film developing correctly or their camera somehow malfunctioned.

We started to think that perhaps the same snake spirit might have been up to its tricks when our safari vehicle became disabled as it was on its way back to the Kawambwa-Mporokoso Road.

In any case, as you can see from this web page, we did manage to show the outside world what the Kabwelume Falls 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.

Kabweluma_Falls_060_05302008 - The so-called snake spirit possibly having something to do with our safari vehicle breaking down on our way out of Kabwelume Falls
The so-called snake spirit possibly having something to do with our safari vehicle breaking down on our way out of Kabwelume Falls

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.


Kabwelume Falls resides in the Luapula Province near Kawambwa, Zambia. It is administered by the Kawambwa District. For more information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try visiting their website.

Kabweluma_Falls_002_05302008 - Joseph being a trooper and guiding Chester through the really rugged 4wd track on the way to Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_005_05302008 - Joseph still helping Cheser navigate the really rugged 4wd track
Kabweluma_Falls_007_05302008 - Everyone on the trail to the Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_008_05302008 - Chester beckoning us to come over the stream to continue the hike to Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_012_05302008 - A closer look at the part of Kabwelume Falls that extreme kayakers might have been able to run
Kabweluma_Falls_016_05302008 - Chanda and Joseph making the descent closer to the Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_020_05302008 - As much of Kabwelume Falls that I can capture without stitching
Kabweluma_Falls_044_05302008 - Another look focused on the far right side of Kabwelume Falls and its two-tiered drop
Kabweluma_Falls_028_05302008 - Panning over to the leftmost segments of Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_043_05302008 - A closer look at the wet, slippery, and overgrown trail leading to the plateau for a mistier look at the Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_053_05302008 - Progressing slowly on the deeply rutted road on the way out from Kabwelume Falls
Kabweluma_Falls_061_05302008 - 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 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 given the numerous potholes on the roads) to the east of the falls was the town of Kasama.

Kawambwa was said to be 970km north of Lusaka.

Find A Place To Stay

Left to right sweep of the very wide and unique waterfall deep in the remote Lusenga National Park

Tagged with: chipempe, kalungwishi, luapula, northern province, northern zambia, zambia, waterfall, mporokoso, mukuma, lusenga

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