Kalambo Falls, Zambia

© Kalambo Falls in far north Zambia

Few visitors venture up to northern Zambia, where it borders with Tanzania, but if they do they may witness one of Africa's purest sights - the 212-metre drop of Kalambo Falls. Follow the trail with Carrie Hampton…

At the Zambia - Tanzania Border

Follow a bumpy track in far northern Zambia and you may find one of Africa's purest untouched sights. Forming the border between Zambia or Tanzania, the Kalambo River drifts carelessly in the dry season and turns into a rapid foaming mass in the wet.

The River Loses Composure

Almost casually, the river approaches the edge of a steamy tropical gorge and then seems to panic at the brink as the land suddenly disappears. It then topples 212 metres out of control into a spray engulfed chasm. Heavy rains from February to April can broaden the river from just three, to a monstrous twenty metres wide, and once this furious body of water launches into free fall, it never regains composure or fluidity before entering Lake Tanganyika a few miles downstream.During the dry season calmness is restored, and you can safely boulder hop from Zambia to Tanzania across the top of Kalambo Falls. The purpose-built viewpoints on the Zambian side are great vantage points, but there are no barriers to stop you leaning over the sheer striated rock for a better look. Gravitational pull seems stronger where land seems to have unjustly vanished, and with it comes the inexplicable urge to leap. I laid belly down to peer over Africa's second highest waterfall, more than double the height of Victoria Falls.

Rich Archaeological Site

Homo habilis may also have contemplated this powerful sight when he lived here 200,000 years ago. The Kalambo River basin is one of the richest archaeological sites in Africa, with prehistoric abodes undisturbed for thousands of years. Stone and wooden tools are abundant, and nuts, seeds and pollens have been perfectly preserved. A notable discovery was charred logs, which provide the earliest evidence of fire used by sub-Saharan man.Clay not indigenous to the area was a mystery, but it seems that early man knew how to supplement his mineral needs by eating earth or clay, as we do today with kaolin.The Zambian warden, whose job must be a lonely one, appeared out of the undergrowth to collect a nominal park entry fee and informed me that I was the second foreigner in a week. To get there I took the easy route, an hour's drive from the main road at Mbala in Zambia. A more energetic and fulfilling way would be the sweaty two-hour climb from Kalambo Lodge, Isanga Bay Lodge or Luke's Beach on the Zambian shore of Lake Tanganyika. All these starting points offer accommodation and are superb bases for a Lake Tanganyika trip.Copyright © 2002 Carrie Hampton. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.
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