Lake Kashiba: a travel guide and history of the sunken lake in Mpongwe, Copperbelt, Zambia
Lake Kashiba, Copperbelt, Zambia
Lake Kashiba is a national monument and the most well known sunken lake of the Copperbelt, located about 30km outside of Mpongwe. This geological phenomenon happens when limestone erodes overtime, first creating caves in the earth that then eventually fall out completely to create a sunken lake. There is no exact depth known of this lake as it is said to have no bottom but the sides of the lake are at least 100 metres in depth. Not only is the geology of the lake itself somewhat of a mystery, the oral history that surrounds this lake is full of even more mystery and wonder.
Myths and Legends of Lake Kashiba
Stories have circulated and many people have heard of the mysterious sunken lake full of legends and myths that often keep people from swimming and enjoying much of its beauty due to fear of the unknown. I had the opportunity to speak with Kenneth, the caretaker over this lake who also grew up in this village, in order to understand more about its natural wonder. He said this story is the one they have been told since they were young children and most people believe it as part of the history of this area.
The length of time ago is unknown but it is thought to be at least hundreds of years ago when a son killed his own father, Chief Chipembe. The community knew it was not just the boy alone so they sought who would have helped and found out that Abena Mbushi (the goat by clan) was speaking with spirits and they were the ones responsible for the chief’s death. The entire clan was ordered to a cleansing by death.
The story goes that they walked for many days until they found the lake. They tied a long rope and the clan had to go down the rope to their death. One person took pity on a pregnant woman who was dangling at the bottom of the rope, he swiftly got the rope to save her and her baby. The rest of the clan was cleansed to their deaths. It is said that a spirit or force pulled the whole clan under which is how not one of them who went into the water survived. The descendants of the pregnant woman whose life was spared are still alive today and live nearby. Their name is still Abena Mbushi which translates to the goat by clan and the few of them are all that is left of this clan from the time of the son killing his father, the chief.
Some say the whole village still lives underwater but the caretakers of Lake Kashiba are not convinced. Kenneth and Gabriel grew up in the village and Kenneth has now been the guide over the national monument site for the past 4 years. Although he has never seen any spirits or mysterious sightings, he says many people who come to visit say that they see a face, a mermaid or other spirits. The face is known to be the mother, and some say they see the mermaid in the water.
It has also been said that the first canoe built to use on the lake was swallowed under by the same spirits or potentially by the clan for those who believe they live underwater. Today, however, it is safe to paddle, canoe and swim across and no sightings of any problems for at least 4 years.
One phenomenon that has remained a mystery to Kenneth and his team, is how the many leaves of the trees disappear every morning. Whether one believes in the spirits and legends of lake Kashiba or not, there is a scientific and geological force that cannot be argued with.
Recommended time of year to visit
The dry season, especially August-October is best for the roads, swimming, camping and the colour of the lake, but all year round it is open to visit. If going in the wet season, be aware of the some difficult parts in the road and a rocky stream as you get close to the lake. As far as driving here, a mid-size to full-size SUV is required. If you wish to go with a small car, there is a mission and hospital nearby which allow parking and then it is about a 15 minute walk down to the lake.
Recommended amount of time to spend
A day trip will do but an overnight camping trip is highly recommended to experience the lake in its beauty at different times of the day. Every hour has a different way in which the water reflects its surroundings. The night sky is particularly spectacular to experience with no light pollution.
This is a very remote style of camping without any chalets or facilities available. There is a covered pit latrine and a small cement area with some coverage.
Nature trail hike around the lake
Braii over firewood
“The national heritage conservation commission and Sr. Chief Ndubeni of the Lima tribe welcomes you to the Lake Kashiba national monument”