Waterfalls And Magic
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Sacred, mysterious and beautiful, all words that apply to the spectacular waterfalls found in Zambia. The high energy levels experienced at Victoria Falls make it one of the seven wonders of the natural world and a sought after destination, but it's not the only one...  Zambia is crisscrossed by life-giving rivers that form huge lakes and create places of exceptional beauty. In fact, this country has got the Lion's share of water-resources out of the whole of Southern Africa, with very active hydroelectric projects. It is possible to view more than 17 waterfalls in Zambia, most are situated in the north west of the country. 

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Chisimba Falls

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These northern provinces of Zambia are very remote and uncommercialised. Many have no tarred roads and are viewed as sacred places in traditional folklore.  The waterfalls are usually at their peak towards the end of the rainy season (January, February and March), but they also offer different perspectives at other times of the year. With the rain we had experienced in the last month we were hopeful that they would be flowing strongly. There had to be some consolation for getting wet after all!   

Our first experience was at Chisimbe. True to the promise, the road was dirt for some of the way. We found the park deserted apart from some Zesco workers checking the hydroelectric plant.



Entry fee was $25 each, clearly a nice round number in tourist speak. You can camp at the falls but the facilities looked run down. The paths to the look outs were well constructed and it was possible to walk quite a way down the river and eventually scramble down the bank to get a lower perspective. We were there in midday so the light was not ideal. Another advantage of taking your time and camping at the falls perhaps. The water volume was moderate but it was worth the trip.  There are actually 3 successive waterfalls here. The local people consider the falls to be sacred and regularly make offerings to the spirits. There is a cave below the falls which is a place of honour and prayer.

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Lamungwe Falls

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Our next wet and wild experience was several days later at Lumangwe. In the North generally there is such a paucity of accommodation that the falls are the only place you can officially camp and make for a useful stopover. They have been proclaimed National Monuments and all have view points and access tracks with basic shelters and braai spots but we often found them badly maintained and run down.

We arrived at dusk in Lumangwe after some really bad roads and were greeted with beaming smiles. I don’t think they get that many travelers and our arrival seemed to break the monotony. This park has access to both Lumangwe Falls and the Kabwelume Falls so at least the entrance fee is a twofer. $15 ppn to camp plus park entrance and the guard at the gate proudly announced there were toilets and showers down by the main falls. We headed that way in the fading light.

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Kabwaluma Falls

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Kabwaluma Falls is 5 km down stream. The guide book warns of a slippery and muddy route but they seem to have improved it substantially. The bridges were a bit rotten but otherwise the path was clear. We slipped down to find a fabulous falls with almost 180 degrees of cascades. The best so far. We could get down to the bottom quite easily where a forested ravine nestled, illuminated by rainbows in the spray.

Small butterflies sat on my shoes as I sat on a flat rock gazing up at the cascading water. This area is again sacred to the local people, full of frogs which are thought to represent physical forms of the snake spirits. No homes may be built here. 

The mist was everywhere and by the time we were finished we were soaked. Still it was well worth it. 

Kabwaluma Falls

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Kabwaluma Falls is 5 km down stream. The guide book warns of a slippery and muddy route but they seem to have improved it substantially. The bridges were a bit rotten but otherwise the path was clear. We slipped down to find a fabulous falls with almost 180 degrees of cascades. The best so far. We could get down to the bottom quite easily where a forested ravine nestled, illuminated by rainbows in the spray.

Small butterflies sat on my shoes as I sat on a flat rock gazing up at the cascading water. This area is again sacred to the local people, full of frogs which are thought to represent physical forms of the snake spirits. No homes may be built here. 

The mist was everywhere and by the time we were finished we were soaked. Still it was well worth it. 

Victoria Falls

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So at this stage we decided to stop with the waterfall tour although we will be sure to see more on the next visit. They are spectacular and it is yet another unique natural wonder Zambia has to offer. I am, however, going to revisit some thoughts on the greatest waterfall of them all, Victoria Falls, this time from the Zimbabwe side.  We had an opportunity to stay at a lodge on the Zambezi in Zimbabwe and so we decided, en route, to go through Victoria Falls, political upheaval not withstanding. Victoria Falls is a bit of a rebel in respect to Zimbabwe and it’s policies. Rather like Hout Bay they have declared themselves the Republic of Victoria Falls and hold themselves aloof from the fluctuating fortunes of their mother country. It is so close to Zambia, and so intertwined economically as a tourist hub with Livingstone, that it seems to be exempt from some of the political vagaries.


Access across the border was a tedious affair but going across late in the afternoon had the effect of capitalising on the desire of the customs officials to finish up and go home. The visa fees and levys comes in at a steepish $160. We came off better than Chinese and Canadian passports however, and it was still less than entry into Zambia. Indeed Zambia actually had the cheek to take another $25 from us on the way out for municipal taxes. Eish !


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We stayed at the Victoria Falls Rest Camp which is a campsite inside the town, literally a stones throw from the Falls, and perfectly placed to wander around the sights. We woke in the morning to the sound of the Falls and a dawn chorus of birds. Victoria Falls is bustling and vibrant, the people helpful and talented, the arts and crafts were incredible especially the carvings. I was so sad I could not bring a full sized menagerie of carved animals back to my garden. The coffee shops are colourful and the relaxed and arty ambiance makes sitting there passing time with the waiters and other visitors very pleasant. As this was only days since the 'non coup' the talk was all about President Mugabe. They uniformly expressed their frustration at his corruption and policies. Indeed in all our time in Zim we never met anyone who actually supported him. I guess thats the core of a dictatorship. Everyone was very upbeat about the potential for change. I hope they are right, they sure deserve a break.

At the Falls winding paths take you on a 2 km meander along the edge with view points. It was now about 6 weeks since our visit in Livingstone and the rains had arrived so the first observation was that the water flow was much stronger, and this gave it much more impact, but the other aspect of this is that the view points are just so much more direct from the Zimbabwe side. You get a better feel for the scope and majesty. The main falls were shrouded in mist and a fine rain engulfed us. This really was the Smoke That Thunders!

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