Source of the Zambezi – Zambia - Atlas Obscura

Source of the Zambezi

Africa's fourth longest river originates from a burbling spring in a secluded stretch of woods.  


A small spring gurgles within a lush forest. It may seem humble, but it’s actually the origin of a mighty waterway.

The Zambezi is Zambia’s most important river. It gives the country its name, and it most famously flows over Victoria Falls. Along the Barotse floodplain, it’s the location of Zambia’s most famous cultural ceremony, the Kuomboka of the Litunga. It’s the fourth longest river in Africa, and it gets its start along its 1,677-mile (2,700-kilometer) journey to the Indian Ocean from a small spring in the Northwestern corner of Zambia.

The Source of the Zambezi is located in a small protected forest. It’s surrounded by a rich Miombo woodland and a strip of Mushitu forest. The area is rich in biodiversity, with nearly 200 bird species and mammals including the Tree Pangolin, Long Footed Rat, Red-Tailed Monkey, and African Palm Civet.

Within the protected forest, elevated wooden walkways lead to the source and follow the path of the river down the valley for some distance. The source itself is a small spring that bubbles beneath the bottom of a fallen tree.

A visitor’s center explains the importance of the Zambezi River, and provides information on the forest environment. The site also includes a monument to mark the Independence of Zambia, unveiled on 24th October 1964.

Know Before You Go

The site is located approximately 34 miles (54 kilometers) from Mwinilunga along a dirt road that is in the process of being improved. The best way to reach the source would be to take a taxi from Mwinilunga, or to drive a private vehicle with four-wheel drive. There is a sign to mark the turnoff to the source along the Mwinilunga-Ikilenge road. Camping is available at the site.

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February 19, 2019

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