NTUMBACHUSHI FALLS: An unexploited amazing spectacle

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By BENNIE MUNDANDO in Kawambwa

THE Ntumbachushi Falls is a magnificent waterfall located approximately 15 kilometres west of Kawambwa Boma, a few kilometres south-west of the Muchinga Escarpment along the Ng’ona River.

The falls boasts of eight natural water pools and rapids culminating into the main falls which is about 30 metres high and is believed to be a sanctuary of spirits as waters of the Ng’ona River are believed to be used for bathing chiefs before they are installed on the throne to cleanse them of bad luck and misfortune.

The main falls occur where the Ng’ona River splits into two channels to form two parallel waterfalls, each about 10 metres wide and separated by a distance of 50 metres.

The main falls drop about 30 metres into a dark pool, with a second cataract alongside and are blessed with strong currents and undertows that can pull someone under. The area around the falls boasts of some beautiful thick Mushitu forest. 

A small patch of relict rainforest grows in the spray from the falls. The landscape around the falls has been described by many as among the most beautiful in the southern half of Africa, with unusual vegetation, rocky outcrops and views over the Luapula valley.

The water of the Ng’ona is filtered by the wetlands (dambos) out of which it drains but is exceptionally clear.

A steep path, about 20 metres on the north side of the main falls leads you over the rocky cliff which is less than a kilometre from a place nicknamed “the beauty spot” consisting of two pools. There are also areas regarded as shrines close to the main falls where local traditional leaders and healers are believed to perform rituals.

History reveals that the area around the falls was the same area which Mwata Kazembe Chinyanta Munona VI of the Lunda people gave to his brother as compensation.

It is believed that Mwata Kazembe Chinyanta Munona VI fell in love with his brother’s wife and married her. As compensation for the beautiful woman, he gave his brother the land around the falls and beyond and this became the boundary of the Lunda people.

The Sunday Nation recently visited the falls and one of the tour guides, Victor Munkanta, explained that the falls was declared a national monument in 1976 but that before then, it was occupied by the Bushmen.

Mr. Munkanta explained that due to abundance of water from the Ng’ona and Luapula rivers, the area had plenty of wild animals and that Bushmen found a dwelling place there as they were hunters.

He explained that the Bushmen dwelt there until the Mbeba clan from among the Chishinga people fought them and forced them into the Ituri forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

“These falls were in 1976 declared as a national monument by the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC). Upstream, the falls has eight natural swimming pools and four rapids.

“The first people who lived here were the Bushmen who plied the mountain and the two rivers for animals. They were here for a long time until the Mbeba clan from Munkanta’s chiefdom came and fought them. They were forced up into the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Ituri forest,” Mr. Munkanta explained.

He said the first structures on site were constructed at the instruction of first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda and were mainly used for his meetings each time he was in the province. 

“After the area was declared a national heritage site, Kenneth Kaunda directed that structures be built and these were used to hold meetings each time he was here. There was an arena on the other side with a market centre where people used to sell their products but these no longer exist,” he explained.

The Sunday Nation also caught up with MMD leader Felix Mutati who was visiting the area for the first time and solicited for an interview at the foot of the falls. Here is the full interview.

Sunday Nation: What was your first impression about the Ntumbachushi Falls?

Mutati: In Luapula and Kawambwa in particular, we have the right ingredients to construct a very effect tourist product. God has favoured us with this very unique falls that you can gaze in wonder. The only tragedy and contradiction is that we are gazing in wonder on how poverty has been our challenge and how tourism has the potential, yet we are given this opportunity by God that we can answer to the very challenges we talk about.

We have the Umutomboko ceremony which is very rich and brings together people from near and far. This ceremony is connected to the Ntumbachushi Falls because historically, the rituals for the Umutomboko have been done here and that in itself is a tourist product but we are failing to create the connectivity.

Sunday Nation: The Ntumbachushi Falls is seemingly not significantly marketed among tourist destinations in Zambia. What could be the problem?

Mutati: The embarrassment we all have is that KK left a few structures and those are the only ones up to today. That is embarrassing. We have not added much to the product. We have the policy framework that is sound, but suffers from implementation. The issue here is not about Government but us the Zambians, particularly those that have the capabilities to invest in this place.

The opportunity and the foundation is solid and already laid down. We have a habit as Zambians to always point to Government why it has not done anything. Surely, does it need Government to construct a small lodge connected to the Umutomboko ceremony? No! It requires a young Zambian entrepreneur to do something. Sadly, that same entrepreneur is investing time mourning about what Government has not done to enable him invest.

Sunday Nation: What investment opportunities can investors exploit here to connect the Umutomboko ceremony and this falls?

Mutati: Accommodation during the Umutomboko ceremony is one of the biggest challenges and a variety of things that people who attend the Umutomboko ceremony need is lacking. You will find that after the ceremony, there is nothing else to do yet a few kilometres from the palace, we have such a beautiful falls which has remained underutilised.

Why can’t we package it as a total tourism product with a historical explanation of the rituals leading to Umutomboko ceremony which defines the Lunda people and the depth of the culture? Why can’t we define the preservation of the falls? All we are getting is that tourism has the greatest potential of employment opportunities but when it comes to action, we end at conversation.

Next year, we will recycle the same conversation. There must be something wrong with us that while God has given us so much, we are not exploiting what he has given us and appreciate this tremendous opportunity.

It is not always about making a lot of money. Sometimes, it must be about preserving our culture by passing on history to future generations and making it the product that can make all of us come and enjoy. This view is so refreshing.

Sunday Nation: We have Ronald Chitotela as new Minister of Tourism. What advice would you give to him on giving prominence to tourist attractions which haven’t been given the exposure they deserve?

Mutati: My call to the new Minister of Tourism is that his constituency is a few kilometres from the falls and if there is any legacy that he wants to leave, it is about bringing excitement to the Ntumbachushi Falls by bringing investment to this area.

Investment is not just about manufacturing. In fact, in advanced economies, you make more money out of providing services

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