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  • Writer's picturePatson Chifumbe

Northern Circuit of Zambia

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Introduction The Northern Circuit of Zambia encompasses Luapula Province, Northern Province, and Muchinga Province. These regions are teeming with national monuments and heritage sites, many of which are waterfalls, the pristine Samfya white sandy beaches, Lake Tanganyika and its surroundings, a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions, archaeological sites, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks. Part I: Luapula Province Luapula Province, nestled in the northern part of Zambia, shares most of its borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This region lies between 8 to 12 degrees south of the equator and 28 to 30 degrees east of the Greenwich meridian. Covering over 51,000 square kilometers, it constitutes about 6% of Zambia's total land area. Luapula's tropical climate and favorable latitude are responsible for its swift rivers, expansive lakes, and evergreen vegetation. Luapula Province is a sanctuary for natural wonders, making it a captivating destination for tourism, nature enthusiasts, and relaxation seekers. Everywhere you go in the province, there's something to feast your eyes on. With an estimated population of one million people, Luapula is home to various ethnic groups, each of which has preserved unique traditions, beliefs, and cultures. This diversity enriches Luapula's history and makes it exceptionally intriguing. As you traverse the province, you'll encounter a continuous string of villages dotting the landscape. About 200 kilometers from Mansa along the Kashikishi road, you'll find Mwansabombwe, a district with a rich historical background dating back to its establishment in 1890. Mwansabombwe, which means the "Land of Peace" in the local language, boasts one of the largest populations in central Africa, with over 17,000 inhabitants. It's the home of Mwata Kazembe, the traditional ruler of the Lunda people in Luapula Province. Upon entering the village, you're greeted by a statue of Chinyanta Nankula Kazembe the XIV Chinyanta the III. One of the most famous traditional events in the village is the Mutomboko ceremony, held annually on the last weekend of July. During this ceremony, Mwata Kazembe performs a mesmerizing dance while holding a sword and an axe, symbolizing victory over enemies. It is one of the largest gatherings in the country each year. Another captivating sight is Puta village, inhabited by the Bwile people in Chiengi district. From the vantage point of Kabwekatenda Mountain, you can see the Kashikishi-Luncinda road winding its way around the village. The Bwile people are known for their peaceful history and their tradition of resolving conflicts through dialogue. Their Ubuilile traditional ceremony, held in the first week of August every year, is a celebration that dates back centuries. Legends say that the Bwile people stockpiled food before sharing it with their hungry neighbors when famine struck, leading to the name "UBUILILE," which means "partying" in the local language. The ceremony is accompanied by songs and dances and concludes with Chief Puta distributing food from the granary, or ubutala, to his subjects and visitors. On the Mbereshi-Kawambwa road, you'll find the historic Mbereshi Mission Church, built in 1905 by the London Mission Society. Over a century old, this church stands as a testament to what local materials and human labor can achieve. Similarly, the Santa Maria Church, erected by the Catholics on Chilubi Island in the north, is over a century old and remains a symbol of architectural beauty. Luapula stands out as the only province in Zambia blessed with numerous enchanting waterfalls, most of which are located in Kawambwa district. Mtumbacushi Falls Located 18 kilometers from Kawambwa town, Mtumbacushi Falls, ensconced in a lush, misty forest, is one of Zambia's most alluring waterfalls. Its name, "MTUMBA" meaning "mountain," and "CUSHI," signifying the mist created by the falling water, reflects the breathtaking scenery. During the rainy season, approaching the falls without getting soaked by the fog generated by the cascading water is almost impossible. The falls feature seven panels adorned with intriguing ancient rock paintings and shrines, evidence of the Bushmen and other ancient communities that once inhabited the area. Mtumbacushi Falls is ideal for bush adventures, camping, picnics, plant species study, historical site research, and general site viewing. Lumangwe Falls Situated on the Kawambwa-Mporokoso road near the Kalungwishi in Chipepe, Lumangwe Falls is another spectacular natural wonder. This superb waterfall boasts a thick, expansive curtain of cascading water, measuring 30 meters in height and 100 meters in width, making it the second-largest waterfall in Zambia after Victoria Falls. Unlike Victoria Falls, Lumangwe flows consistently throughout the year, making it an all-weather attraction. The falls create a breathtaking spectacle, with water seemingly pouring from the sky when viewed from its base. Lumangwe Falls is surrounded by rich flora and fauna and offers camping facilities, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and picnickers. Kabwelume Falls Located just 5 kilometers from Lumangwe Falls, Kabwelume Falls features three water caskets and is often crowned by a permanent rainbow during cloudless days. The top of the falls can be easily viewed from a vantage point but may be daunting for those with a fear of heights. The falls offer designated campsites and modern accommodation facilities, creating a perfect setting for a memorable experience. Both Lumangwe and Kabwelume Falls draw their waters from the longest and fastest river in Zambia, the Kalungwishi River. The Kalungwishi River is also the source of other waterfalls, including the Chipepe Falls, nestled in the dense forest west of the Kalungwishi Bridge. Chilongo Waterfalls Chilongo Waterfalls in Kawambwa district are formed by a series of smaller cascades, creating a mesmerizing natural pool. Despite its allure, Chilongo Falls remains relatively unknown to many, making it an unexplored gem. Kundabwika Waterfalls Situated 98 kilometers from Nchelenge district, off the Kaputa-Mununga road on the Kalungwishi River, Kundabwika Falls is best visited during the rainy season when it's at its peak flow. Mumbuluma Falls Mumbuluma Falls, found in the western part of Mansa district, is located about 42 kilometers from Mansa town on the Mansa-Mwense road. The falls cascade over the Mumbuluma rockfront, creating a thick curtain of water that tumbles over two levels with 4-meter drops and spreading 6 meters across the rocks. The area around Mumbuluma Falls is perfect for camping, nature study, swimming, and fishing. Mumbotuta Falls Situated approximately 218 kilometers from Mansa town, Mumbotuta Falls (rapids) can be found just 1 kilometer from Musolo village in the Milenge district. This majestic natural wonder spans a staggering 300 meters or more in width and features a series of impressive rapids. The highest cascade is about 3 meters in height. These rapids are located along the section of the Luapula River known as "Mumba." The site is not only picturesque but also suitable for thrilling rafting adventures, making it a must-visit destination. The surrounding area is perfect for picnics and camping, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of nature. Carvings and Art Rock Paintings The complex and visually captivating carvings and rock art found throughout Luapula Province serve as a testament to the region's rich history. Each unique rock, painting, carving, or shrine carries with it traditional legends and chronicles that offer valuable insights into the lives of the early inhabitants. Touring these ancient rocks and carvings opens doors to history, providing a unique opportunity to connect with the past and make history and traditional legends come to life. Kilwa Island On Kilwa Island in Lake Mweru, located in Nchelenge district, you'll discover prehistorical carvings believed to have been shaped by the action of water over many years. These carvings are astonishingly large, with the capacity to accommodate about 2,000 people. Venturing inside these carvings is a mind-blowing experience, as they are shrouded in thick darkness, and navigating through them feels like traversing a mysterious maze. The best time to explore these carvings is during the summer when the water levels have receded. However, it's essential to seek permission from the local chief, Nshimba, before embarking on this exploration. Kabwekatenda Rock In Nchiengi district, the distinctive Kabwekatenda Rock stands out as a prominent geological formation. This massive rock rests atop a smaller one, defying expectations that it might topple in the face of strong winds. According to local legends, these two towering rocks were once united and served as guides and protectors for the indigenous people. However, a tale tells of the male rock's extreme jealousy, which led to the female rock tumbling down the mountain into the lake, vanishing forever and leaving the male rock in solitude. Ubutala Bwa Lesa In Mwense district, the Ubutala Bwa Lesa rock formation is another captivating sight. This unique rock, shaped by the repeated actions of water, stands as a 15-meter-high tower resembling a traditional granary structure. It is fittingly named "Ubutala Bwa Lesa," meaning "God's granary." Samfya District Samfya district is renowned for its expansive and beautiful white sand beaches along the shores of Lake Bangweulu. The lake seems to meet the sky on the horizon, creating a breathtaking vista. Gazing at the sun late in the afternoon and early evening from these beaches is a delightful experience. In addition, Samfya district is home to an extraordinary tree known locally as "Chitibaluba." Legend has it that this tree, named "Chitibaluba," which means "the tree that cannot be identified," changes its appearance to mimic different tree types at various times. Lake Bangweulu is graced by three beautiful islands: Mbabala Island and Chinshi Island in Luapula Province, and Chilubi Island in the Northern Province. Mbabala Island offers unique and captivating scenery on Lake Bangweulu, making it a perfect place for a tranquil retreat. Chinshi Island Chinshi Island is another ideal destination for holidays, picnics, historical exploration, and tourism investments. The island has preserved historical narratives that have been passed down through generations, mostly unchanged. Among these treasured stories are those of the copper crosses, believed to have belonged to one of the earliest area chiefs, Kasolwe Chabala, a descendant of Chabalamuwe. The legend tells of Kasolwe Chabala's migration from the Kola region in present-day DR Congo, bringing with him these copper crosses. Following his passing, the crosses were placed in a shrine where they remain to this day. Local inhabitants hold a strong belief in the divine nature of these copper crosses, considering them a source of security for the entire community on Chinshi Island. According to local tradition, it is nearly impossible to move the copper crosses from the island by any means. Legend also tells of an unsuccessful attempt by foreigners to remove the crosses; their boats mysteriously refused to budge. Lunga Wetlands The wetlands of Lunga district offer exceptional opportunities for tourism and investment, particularly in the hospitality industry. Lunga district is a network of islands decorated with rivers, streams, and ponds, providing a diverse environment rich in flora and fauna. This region's unique setting is a haven for various wildlife species, including the shoebill and the black lechwe. Exploring the waters of Lunga offers a rare chance to witness the annual migration of black lechwe, who move to Chiunda Ponde in the Northern Province during the rainy season when water levels are high and return to Bwalya Ponda in Lunga district during the dry season. The wetlands provide an impressive spectacle of numerous birds soaring across the sky, resembling a grand celebration. Ifunge Peninsula The Ifunge Peninsula, situated between Lake Bangweulu and Lake Chifunabuli, offers a mesmerizing view of both lakes simultaneously. It's truly remarkable to witness two lakes at once. The peninsula is predominantly inhabited by fishermen who set up camps for fishing, their primary source of income. In addition to its popularity among fishermen, the peninsula is also recognized for its white sand beaches, adding to its unique charm. Lubwe Mission Lubwe Mission, located approximately 40 kilometers from Samfya in the Chifunabuli district, is the oldest mission in the area. Established by Fr. Louis in 1905, this mission is closely tied to the local culture. Lake Chifunabuli, originally known as Kamimbi Lake, has a local saying: "Kamimbi we wa shitilila Bangweulu," which translates to "Without Lake Bangweulu, Kamimbi Lake wouldn't exist." Luapula River Luapula River is a significant section of Africa's second-longest river. This river system flows into Lake Mweru, eventually forming the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. It is later known as the Lwalaba River. The birthplace of the Luapula River is Lake Bangweulu, and about 45 kilometers from Samfya is Mpanta village, where the river flows out of the lake. The Chambeshi River contributes to Lake Bangweulu's waters, which later emerge as the Luapula River. The name "Luapula" simply means "to come out," referencing the river's source. It is one of Zambia's longest river systems. Visiting Luapula feels like a home away from home, with first-class accommodation facilities scattered across

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