Kundalila Falls

Serenje District / Kanona, Central Province, Zambia

Static Google Map of Kundalila Falls

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. It dropped in multiple stages over a cumulative height of around 30m. 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 it by vehicle and accessing it by foot).

After reaching the car park, we were greeted by a local villager who guided us to the viewpoints and ultimately to the base of the waterfall. 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 seeming to suggest this area was either temperate or arid.

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Looking over the top of the falls beyond the escarpment

The walking path started becoming more like a scramble as we saw the waterfall’s rivulted top. We couldn’t see the bottom of the falls from this vantage point, and the foliage was blocking some of the view anyways. Nonetheless, we could readily see that the trajectory of the water was twisting so what we were able to see up here probably wasn’t going to be seen when we made it to the base.

So we followed the guide on a roundabout path eventually leading down a somewhat steep but very doable trail. Ultimately, the trail would lead us down to the misty and slippery rocks at the bottom of the falls. 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 at the waterfall encompassing the hike and the photos.

We were told by the local guide that “kunda” means “dove” in Bemba (the most widely spoken language in Zambia) while “lila” means “crying.” The falls was named after crying doves 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).

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. 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).

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We did this as part of a waterfall safari tour (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 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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