CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI, Serenje
KUNDALILA Falls is far from being in a class of the Victoria Falls, the greatest curtain of falling water in the world located in Zambiaâ€™s tourist capital, Livingstone.
Situated in Serenje district, Central Province, Kundalila Falls is equally a unique natural waterfall with an imposing view during and after the rainy season when the volume of water in Kaombe River is high.
During this peak period, a curtain of water is created as the water cascades into a gorge from a height believed to be between 50 and 60 metres.
It is a spectacular view as the curtain of water complemented by a rainbow surges down into a gorge such that a sound of the falling water can be heard from a distance.
The situation is, however, different when the water level reduces in Kaombe River and the rock surface is exposed.
Kundalila is a geomorphological heritage site in the Muchinga Escarpment with a unique scenic beauty which exposes a splendid land formation of quartzite.
The waterfall is located about 73 kilometres in Serenje chiefdom, north-east of Serenje boma in an area endowed with trees such as brachystegia (musamba), uapaca, syzygium guineense and wild flowers.
The environment is free of pollution hence the presence of Lichens.
Kundalila Falls is under the National Heritage and Conservation Commission (NHCC) and was declared a national heritage site in 1964.
NHCC East Central regional director Kagosi Mwamulowe said Kundalila is a natural waterfall in the Muchinga Escarpment which runs from Mkushi in Central Province to Isoka in Muchinga Province.
â€œKundalila is a site which is unique as it combines the waterfall and the rock formations,â€ Mr Mwamulowe said. â€œIt has rare plant species which combine well with the natural vegetation.â€
Kundalila Falls attracts both local and international tourists.
Sightseeing and camping are some of the services offered at the site, which has potential for bungee jumping activities.
Leading to the waterfall is a 13-kilometre gravel road which branches off from the Great North Road at Kanona where there is a NHCC billboard.
On both sides of the road are villages which offer an insight to visitors of how people in Zambiaâ€™s rural areas live.
In some sections, the gravel road near Kundalila Falls is craggy and the rocky hills of the valley become a common feature.
Samuel Kamfwa and George Chanda are NHCC caretakers, and they are always on hand to receive visitors and guide them to Kundalila Falls.
As visitors itch to see the waterfall, Mr Kamfwa takes time to explain to them the dos and donâ€™ts.
â€œWe explain to visitors the importance of this falls,â€ Mr Kamfwa said. â€œWe tell them the history of this area so that they know as they see the falls.â€
According to Mr Kamfwa, who has worked at the waterfall for 14 years, Kundalila means a cooing dove.
The waterfall was a home of cooing doves which fled the area several decades ago when some white prospectors attempted to hunt them on the belief that they carried precious stones in their bodies.
â€œThere used to be doves here a long time ago but because there was a belief that when the doves dived into the waterfall, they brought out gold, when people attempted to kill one of them, they left and they have not returned,â€ Mr Kamfwa said.
The best period to visit Kundalila Falls, according to Mr Kamfwa, is between December and April because this is when a spectacular white curtain of the falling water is fully displayed.
When the water level is at its peak in Kaombe River, crossing using an improvised bridge to the other side for a better view of the waterfall is normally a challenge.
â€œIn May, June and July, the appearance of the falls is mild, and from September to November, the water level is very lowâ€¦itâ€™s just one curtain sometimes,â€ Mr Kamfwa said.
Of the many days he has worked at Kundalila Falls, January 28, 2013 was the saddest as he witnessed Annie Guldpjerg Nilson, an 18-year-old Danish tourist, plunge into the falls after she slipped.
â€œIt was very sad, she was trying to have a clear view of the waterfall and in the process she slipped,â€ Mr Kamfwa recalled, adding that accidents were also recorded in 1992 and 1997.
After the death of Ms Nilson, who was in the company of 15 Danish tourists, the NHCC erected a guard barrier as a safety measure.
However, Mr Kamfwa enjoys his work because he meets people from different countries with whom he shares information about Kundalila Falls.
Before or after seeing the waterfall, the tourists normally request for brochures but these materials are not available.
â€œKundalila Falls is not well marketed. We need to expose it to attract more tourists,â€ Serenje district commissioner Francis Kalipenta said.
Describing Kundalila Falls as a spectacular waterfall, Mr Kalipenta said the national monument should be one of the much sought after-tourist attractions in Zambia.
Mr Kalipenta urged the Zambia Tourist Board and other stakeholders such as the media to help market Kundalila Falls for many people to know about it.
â€œThere is need for coordinated efforts by all of us to market such a unique waterfall,â€ he said.
Mr Kamfwa agreed, saying players in the hospitality and transport industries in Serenje should also be sensitised about tourist attractions in the district.
Taxi drivers, Mr Kamfwa said, should be provided with brochures on Kundalila Falls, David Livingstone Memorial Monument, Kasanaka National Park and Sancha Hills, which are some of the tourist sites in Serenje.
One visitorâ€™s shelter, two flashing toilets and a pit latrine are the few structures at the site.
There is no information centre where data on Kundalila Falls is well documented and other structures that can add value to the site.
Muchinga member of Parliament Howard Kunda said Kundalila Falls needs to be aggressively marketed.
This, Mr Kunda said, should be complemented with construction of better infrastructure at the site.
â€œWe want to see a situation where we build infrastructure such as accommodation for tourists who come to view the falls so that they can stay longer and we can earn foreign exchange,â€ he said.
However, NHCC said it is exploring ways of attracting more tourists to Kundalila Falls.
Among such avenues is the planned construction of modern infrastructure at or near the site using its own resources and by partnering with tour operators.
â€œWe will allow tour operators through the public private partnership to invest at the site as part of improving the area,â€ Mr Mwamulowe said.
To see Kundalila Falls, non-resident adults pay US$15 per person and US$7 for those below the age of 12. For Zambians, adults are charged K8 and children K4.
All in all, Kundalila Falls should be one of the much sought-after tourist destinations in Zambia only if it is effectively marketed to both local and foreign tourists.
CHAMBO NGâ€™UNI, Serenje