Zambia is well-known as the home of Victoria Falls and spectacular game parks, but there are many small gems scattered across the country that are special in their own way. In each of these places I saw no other visitors. From waterfalls to protected national parks to moving memorials, Zambia has a number of lesser-known but amazing places. These are my top five (in no particular order):
1. Kundalila Falls, Serenje District, Central Province
This wonderful waterfall is located in a secluded spot and makes a great getaway spot for overnight or even just the day. Kundalila roughly translates as “cooing dove,” which is an illusion to the sound that the falls make as they cascade over the rocks. The falls themselves are a somewhat narrow plunge of 67 meters. You can swim in the Kaombe River, and in the dry season you can get right under the waterfall.
The campsite has long-drop toilets, shower facilities and a large insaka. There is also a smaller insaka with a fire pit, including a grill. Near the camping area, there is a rock precipice that can be climbed. On the top, you can see the top of the falls, and it also offers a spectacular view of the valley. Since Kundalila is on the edge of the Muchinga Escarpment, this view is expansive and truly amazing.
2. Dag Hammarskjöld Memorial, Ndola District, Copperbelt Province
Hammarskjöld was a Swedish diplomat and economist who served as the United Nation Secretary General from 1953 until his death in 1961. The memorial marks the site of the plane crash in which Hammarskjöld and fifteen others were killed just after midnight on September 18th, 1961. After his death, he was awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize (he had been nominated before his death). At the time of the crash, he was on his way to the Congo Republic to negotiate a cease-fire.
The memorial itself consists of a memorial garden with a cairn at the center with shrubs and trees on the outer circle. A museum was constructed and opened in 1981. The museum exhibits some remains of the crash, as well as materials on the life of Hammarskjöld and the United Nations.The site is on the tentative list for being declared an UNESCO World Heritage site. The memorial site has a braii area, perfect for a picnic, as well as toilets.
3. Liuwa Plain National Park, Kalabo District, Western Province
Liuwa Plain National Park is 3,660 km2 of extensive grasslands and a few wooded islands, dotted with the occasional termite mound. The area is a huge floodplain – so it is extremely flat, and during the rainy season most of it is under water. This park is one of the more challenging spots in Zambia to get to but with its vast and largely unvisited spaces and the impressive yearly migration of nearly 50,000 blue wildebeest, visiting the park is worth it for those up to the adventure.
The area is considered one of the oldest protected areas in Africa. In the 1880s Litunga Lubosi Lewnika declared the area his royal hunting grounds. To protect the area, he placed people there to serve as the royal gamekeepers – to this day, the descendants of these gamekeepers still live within the boundaries of the park. Approximately 20,000 people live here and share the same resources with few problems due to a continued adherence to traditional practices and regulations.
4. Kapishya Hot Springs, Chinsali District, Muchinga Province
Located on the famed Shiwa Ng’andu estate, Kapishya Hot Springs is located about 30 kilometers from the main house. These are naturally occurring and sulfur-free. During Sir Stewart Gore-Browne’s time at Shiwa, they were one of his favorite places. It is now run as a separate lodge, but visitors can go between both the main house and the hot springs. The springs are located in a somewhat secluded area and surrounded by lush vegetation and it is one of the most relaxing places in all of Zambia.
5. Ntumbachushi Falls, Kazembe District, Luapula Province
Ntumbachushi Falls is a series of pools and rapids on the Ng’ona River. The main falls, two parallel waterfalls each about 10 m wide, cascade down about 30 meters, and there are other small falls scattered across the kilometers directly above the main falls. Traditionally, this waterfall was believed to be a sanctuary of spirits while the waters of the Ng’ona River are used for bathing to cleanse people of bad luck and misfortune. There are two shrines close to the main falls where local traditional leaders and healers still perform rituals. The water in the river is exceptionally clean and great for swimming. Camping is available for ZMW25 a night, with cold showers and long drop toilets available.