Kundalila Falls

Serenje District / Kanona, Central Province, Zambia

About Kundalila Falls


Hiking Distance: 2-3km round trip
Suggested Time: 60-75 minutes

Date first visited: 2008-05-28
Date last visited: 2008-05-28

Waterfall Latitude: -13.15439
Waterfall Longitude: 30.70424

Kundalila Falls (sometimes spelled Nkundalila Falls) was a gorgeous waterfall set in the escarpment country of the Central Province near Serenje.

The Kaombe River dropped from the Muchinga Escarpment in multiple stages over a cumulative height of around 30m.

Kundalila_Falls_044_05272008 - Kundalila Falls
Kundalila Falls

The shape of the falls was like rivulets of rocky cascades at its top, then it converged into a double barreled drop at its mid-section before consolidating over its last drop to its base.

Of the waterfalls that we saw in Zambia during our May 2008 trip, this one very well could have had the most unique shape.

This was the first waterfall we saw on our very adventurous waterfall safari through Northern Zambia.

It would turn out that our experience at this waterfall was one of the tamer ones on the safari (from the standpoint from both accessing the trailhead by vehicle and accessing it by foot).

Experiencing Kundalila Falls

After reaching the car park, a local villager greeted us and then guided us to the viewpoints and ultimately to the base of the Kundalila Falls.

Kundalila_Falls_014_05272008 - Looking over the top of the Kundalila Falls beyond the escarpment
Looking over the top of the Kundalila Falls beyond the escarpment

As we approached the white rocky escarpment near the top of the falls, we enjoyed the panorama looking towards what appeared to be rolling hills and low mountains fronted by more white rocky outcrops as well as some bush and trees.

Such landscape features seemed to suggest that this area was either temperate or arid.

The walking path started becoming more like a scramble as we saw the Kundalila Falls’ rivuleted top.

We couldn’t see the bottom of the falls from this vantage point, and the foliage blocked some of the view anyways.

Nonetheless, we could readily see that the trajectory of the watercourse twisted and turned.

So what we could see up here probably didn’t lend itself to revealing more of its bottom until we made it down to the waterfall’s base.

Kundalila_Falls_017_05272008 - Looking down over the rivuleted upper section of the Kundalila Falls
Looking down over the rivuleted upper section of the Kundalila Falls

After having our fill of the upper part of Kundalila Falls, we then followed the guide on a roundabout path eventually leading down a somewhat steep but very doable trail.

Ultimately, the path would lead us down to the misty and slippery rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.

It was from here that we were able to see Kundalila Falls as you see photographed at the top of the page.

All told, we spent about 75 minutes away from the safari vehicle, which encompassed the time spent at the waterfall as well as the hike and the pauses for picture taking.

Crying Doves

We were told by the local guide that “kunda” means “dove” in Bemba (the most widely spoken language in Northern Zambia) while “lila” means “crying.”

Kundalila_Falls_024_05272008 - Guides leading us to the base of Kundalila Falls
Guides leading us to the base of Kundalila Falls

Therefore, Kundalila Falls was named after crying doves.

This came about because it was said that white prospectors used to kill the now-extinct doves that used to be in this area for their gizzards.

They believed that these gizzards contained gold dust since they thought the birds might have picked a few of these while trying to pick for worms or whatever else was on the ground.

I’m not sure if they were successful or not, but it was certainly too bad for those doves (assuming of course that the story was true).

The Mutinondo Wilderness

One more thing worth mentioning was that Kundalila Falls was one of several waterfalls in the escarpment lands between Serenje and Mpika.

We actually spent one night within this region at the Mutinondo Wilderness Lodge.

Mutinondo_040_06032008 - A chilly morning on the escarpment lands of the Mutinondo Wilderness
A chilly morning on the escarpment lands of the Mutinondo Wilderness

Unfortunately, due to bad planning, we couldn’t supplement our waterfalling around that eco-friendly lodge.

Nonetheless, Kundalila Falls wasn’t very far from the Mutinondo Wilderness (geographically speaking) and we hope to come back to that lodge one of these days to explore the area more thoroughly.

From the one night we were there, it was very scenic, and it reminded me very much of what some of the scenery in the Red Centre of Australia was like (i.e. think Uluru and Katja-Tjuta formerly known as Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas, respectively).

Authorities

Kundalila Falls resides in Serenje District near Mpika, Zambia. To my knowledge, there is no official authority administering this waterfall. So for more information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Ministry of Tourism and Arts.

Great_North_Road_001_05272008 - Driving the Great North Road towards Serenje at the pre-dawn hours
Kundalila_Falls_001_05272008 - Just as we turned off the Great North Road east of Serenje, we were on this unpaved road towards Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_002_05272008 - Road to the Kundalila Falls starts off sandy
Kundalila_Falls_003_05272008 - Despite the road being unsealed, it was pretty straight shot on the way to Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_005_05272008 - The dirt became redder the further down this road we went to Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_006_05272008 - Our guide Chester talking to Julie while on the trail to Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_007_05272008 - Following the local guide across a narrow makeshift bridge en route to Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_011_05272008 - Looking towards some interesting rocks supporting the brink of Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_015_05272008 - Scrambling amidst some scenic escarpment lands to get a closer look at the top of Kundalila Falls
Kundalila_Falls_018_05272008 - Looking over the brink of Kundalila Falls towards the escarpment lands and forest below
Kundalila_Falls_022_05272008 - The guides leading us down towards the base of Kundalila Falls, which can be seen at the topright corner of this photo
Kundalila_Falls_035_05272008 - We finally made it to Kundalila Falls. Notice our guides were standing near the base of the falls for a sense of scale.  Also note that we couldn't see the rivuleted top part of the falls from down here
Kundalila_Falls_048_05272008 - Julie checking out Kundalila Falls

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We did this as part of a waterfall safari tour for as tourists, I don’t think self-driving these parts was either a very good idea or even an option.

From what we could tell, access was from a signposted 14km unsealed detour off the Great North Road east of Serenje.

It was about a 2.5-hour drive (186km) east from Mkushi, where we started the day.

Further east on the main highway from the turnoff leading to Kundalila Falls was also the Mutinondo Wilderness Lodge, which we’re mentioning here because we thought it was a pretty special place even if we didn’t get to explore the wilderness area as much as we would’ve liked.

The turnoff for the lodge was said to be 72km south of Mpika.

Just to give you an idea of the distances, Mkushi is 300km northeast of Lusaka. Even though GoogleMaps says this is around 3 hours drive, you have to keep in mind that it takes longer on the road to go the same distance as you’re used to in industrialized countries. That’s because many of the rural roads in Africa are littered with deep potholes and/or lack of pavement.

Left to right sweep of the river before sweeping from bottom to top of the falls

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Tagged with: serenje, kanona, central province, zambia, africa, waterfall, nkundalila, mpika



Visitor Comments:

Extra Cherry on the Cake (Kundalila Falls) January 7, 2013 5:32 pm by Paul Ward - Went to the falls regularly when we lived in Mpika and Kasama for four years with an Aid Project. Beautiful country Zambia and places like this are an extra cherry on the cake. We were told that the translation was cooing but as they use the same word for cooing, calling and crying I suppose… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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