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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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The Kundalila Falls in Serenje, Central Province are undoubtedly the most romantic in Zambia. The quiet, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere here provides the perfect getaway for romance.

This location offers the perfect spot for breakfast and dinner to adventure seeking couples, especially those willing to camp on self-catering basis. The Falls area has beautiful, exciting and romantic dusks and dawns. These disappear into and alight from the surrounding hills, valley and peaks near and beyond. This, accompanied by the botanic beauty around the Falls, especially when viewed from the bottom of the gorge, make the Kundalila Falls unrivalled.

Swimming pool below the falls

‘Kundalila’ is a Lala word meaning ‘Crying Dove’. The story behind the naming of the Falls, though rather sad, reminds us of one of the most poignant ‘love’ stories in local folklore. A pair of doves are said to have bonded and became inseparable. It came to pass that locals in the area believed that the doves had eaten some precious stones which were now trapped inside. Overcome by greed, one villager decided to test this by killing one of the doves. This not only led to the other doves taking flight, but the remaining of the pair mourning its lost partner for days at the foot of the Falls. Hence the name.

Located 65km north-east of Serenje District on the Great North Road and another 14km east after the turn, the Kundalila Falls are not remote. However, they remain unexploited and underdeveloped, providing the ideal hidden self-catering location to the most equipped campers.

The Falls are found on the Kaombe River which originates from the Lusiwasi Dam several kilometres upstream. As the river approaches the Falls from a north-easterly direction, it is in form of a stream whose waters are almost stagnant. This is until it curves into a south-easterly speedy flow in form of a series of rapids before breaking into several narrow channels which spurn and drop to the right about 67m below. This right spurn and drop form the main falls before the water immediately flows through smaller cascades before forming several pools at the bottom of the gorge.

The Botanic Garden

This view from the bottom of the Falls is the most beautiful as it brings out the entire depth as well as extension of the falls including its botanic garden. During peak periods the Falls are constantly covered in very thin smoke clouds that do not affect the view. The scaly boulders around the Falls and the surrounding peaks reflect in grey to white from the sun depending the time of day. The pools surrounding this place are shallow and complement the romantic scenery of the Falls as one would imagine. The pools are formed by hot springs where one could jump in for either a morning swim or an evening dip. As you wind down behind the opposite cliff to the gorge below, sneak peaks of the main falls are as panoramic as any other.

A scenic view from one of the hills

From the top of the Falls, the Kaombe River Valley below and beyond is one of the most beautiful scenes ever seen in Zambia. Especially at dawn as the sun rises from the distant easterly peaks, cutting through the valley and settling above the Falls behind the peaks then slowly dropping into the Falls. At this stage, the flat top opposite the Falls are an ideal location for a freshly coal fired full English breakfast or an evening sundowner of drinks especially the rarest of wines. Also from this view, the Kaombe River downstream, a few metres of the Falls is a mystery as it quickly disappears into the thicket.

The campsite itself, south-west of the Kaombe stream, is aptly located and conducive for setting up a romantic dinner and campfire.

The vegetation of this entire area including the surrounding villages and as are most of the Northern tourism Circuit of Zambia are mostly forest. This ranges from hilly rich vegetation, woodland, riparian and mixed scrubland. The notable traditional trees in this area are umupundu, kasabwa, umutobo, chimpampa and umutondo.

Part of the crew visiting the falls

The Kundalila Falls site is surrounded by villages which are mostly dominated by the local Lala people who are one of the friendliest people in Zambia. Although, they pay no attention to the Falls, they are constantly aware of approaching visitors. A few onlookers, especially women and children, gather outside their homes as visitors pass through the gravel road but, retreat the moment you pass. They do not disturb, the only other time you see them is early in the morning or late afternoon as they cross the Kaombe stream to go about their daily business. However, one or two women would not fall short of offering to sell you their garden produce.

This, dear reader, is my story told as experienced seen through my eyes and lens.

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