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SAMFYA: WHERE THE WATER MEETS THE SKY

Located in the Luapula province of Zambia, Samfya, is a relatively small district with a population of around 160 000. Most of Samfya is covered in water bodies; a lake, swamp and floodplain. In fact, it is located on the south-western shore of the Lake Bangweulu. The town district is about 75 kilometres away from the provincial capital, Mansa.

The phrase “where the water meets the sky” is what the locals describe one of the great lakes in Africa, Lake Bangweulu. This is probably because it is almost impossible to not notice how the lake and the sky share a somewhat similar shade of blue, making them appear to be seemingly connected.

With a long axis of 75 kilometres and a width of up to 40 kilometres, the lake’s permanent open water surface is about 3,000 square kilometres. The combined area of the lake and wetlands reaches 15,000 square kilometres and it has an average depth of only 4 metres.

The lake is major source of fish, habiting at least 80 species with the main catches being Bream, Tigerfish, Yellow Belly and Catfish. Thousands of tonnes of fish are harvested from it each year.

Fishing is not the only activity you can find yourself engaged in while at the lake.

 

There are a number of areas that are safe if you fancy yourself a swim. In some parts of the lake however, the Nile Crocodile is known to be an occasional guest.

CHIPEKWE

The Chipekwe, though not as popular as the legend of the Nyami Nyami (the river god of the Tonga people in Southern Province), is as interesting of a myth as the latter. It is said to be a massive, allegedly reptilian, pachyderm-slaying creature found around and in Lake Bangweulu.

Most encounters consist of unrecognisable spoors or the noise of some large animal splashing through the water. According to legend, the Chipekwe has a hairless, smooth, dark body and a single smooth horn, white as polished ivory.

Chipekwes do not take well to humans invading their territory. Canoes are destroyed and their occupants are killed. Hippos too are victims of  this beast of the water as it kills them by tearing their throats out.

The early 20th century has seen claims about the sighting of the Chipekwe from various people including European settlers near the lake such as Joseph E. Hughes. Hughes gathered several reports, including those of another settler Robert Young, who claimed to have encountered an unseen animal on the lake which left a wake like that of a steamer; and was told that a group of locals who entered the lake to hunt hippos were killed by the ‘Guardian Spirit of the Lake’, which capsized their canoe.

Hughes was also given a third-hand account of a 19th Century chipekwe hunt, in which an animal described as having a smooth dark body without bristles, and a single smooth, polished, white ivory horn upon its head or snout, was speared to death by Aushi hunters, a Bantu group located in Luapula Province. Some other researchers believe the reports may refer to elderly, aggressive hippopotamuses.

 

GETTING THERE

The best mode of transportation to use when going to Samfya is road. The district is on a tarred road opened in 1983 to link the Luapula Province to the Great North Road at Serenje. This includes the longest bridge in Zambia, the Luapula Bridge in the far south-east corner of the district near where four districts meet: Samfya, Mpika, Serenje and the Congo Pedicle, part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Gravel roads also connect Samfya to Twingi, Kapalala, and Lubwe.

Air travel is another option. Proflight Zambia flies periodically to the area, although, this is very much subject to the airline’s current schedule. It is best to contact the airline for their latest flight schedule.

 

WHERE TO STAY

You needn’t worry about accommodation if you want to visit Samfya as there are quite a good number of lodges and guest houses. Some of these include Samfya Waterfront Lodge, Chita lodge, Msangulule Lodge and many others. The best part is, some of these lodging facilities are located near the lake, giving you a great view of where the water meets the sky.

 

THINGS WORTH SEEING AND EXPERIENCING

Game Management Areas

The great Lake Bangweulu is not the only attraction the district has to offer. The district is also made up of some Game Management Areas such as Kalasa Mukoso Game Reserve. The game reserve’s main habitats are a swamp, floodplain, wet and dry grassland, miombo as well as termitaria woodland.

This extraordinarily rich and diverse ecosystem is home to about 400 bird species including the shoebill stork, a host of ungulates like the endemic black lechwe, carnivores like jackals and hyenas, and crocodiles. Other wildlife includes the African Buffalo, bush pig, hippopotamus and a diverse species of antelopes.

The Kwanga Festival

Nature is not the only attraction Samfya has to offer. The Kwanga Festival is an annual festival held in the district every year in October. The N’gumbo tribe gathers in Samfya near the great lake to celebrate this festival. Feasting, drinking, music and intricate dancing by colourful participants are some of the ways that the community celebrates during this colourful festival.

 

ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES

Samfya has a relatively active business community with is an abundance of shops, stalls and souvenirs in the vicinity.

The local restaurants are a culinary delight and there is something for every taste, especially those who favour fish.

The highest amount of rainfall in Luapula Province is recorded in the Northern part of Samfya district making it ideal for agricultural activities. However, seeing as most of the land in the district is lake and swamp, there is very little land left for commercial farming. The current status of the agriculture sector in the district is characterised by subsistence farming.

THINGS WORTH NOTING

In Samfya, the wet season is humid and overcast, the dry season is windy and mostly clear, and it is warm year-round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 51°F to 92°F and is rarely below 47°F or above 96°F. The best time of year to visit Samfya for hot-weather activities is from late August to late October.

Though the majority of the terrain is generally sandy, most parts of the district have tarred roads which make it easy to move around in vehicles.

Written by Andreas

STAYCATIONS: HOLIDAY WITHOUT MOVING LOCATIONS