MARGARET CHISANGA, Sioma
WATER is a major ingredient in Zambia’s tourism appeal and Sioma has plenty of it. The district is small, and seems surrounded by water from the mighty Zambezi River as it continues on its journey to make the spectacular leap off the Victoria Falls roughly 330 kilometres away.
In this tiny district, the Zambezi River cascades over a 20 metre drop creating the horse-shoe shaped Ngonye Falls, which also goes by the name of Sioma Falls. Everywhere you go in Sioma, the Zambezi’s waters seem to announce its dominating presence. Sometimes framed by the massive trees set on the edges of the river, other times decorated by the site of children playing water games where the waters are shallow. Even when it is not within sight, its reminder is set in the sound of tourist speedboats ripping through its dark waters. At one spot, as one leaves the town enroute to Sesheke, the river reveals its magnificent beauty as one drives down the highway from a higher ground, as though inviting viewers to drive right into its awesome beauty and become one with it. Many tourists, and visitors to the city stop here to take in the spectacular beauty and confirm that indeed, here lays a gem that the whole world needs to see. Southern Province minister, Edify Hamukale made the stop recently. “You know, I have been here many times, but it always feels like the first time. And it is precisely this kind of beauty that we need to advertise to thousands of tourists who are willing to come to Zambia because their presence will contribute to development of our country,” he said. He is not the only leader enchanted by the beauty of the district. While taking in the sunset by the fine white sands on the beach at Sioma Country Lodge, member of Parliament for Bangweulu, Anthony Kasandwe and his Nchelenge counterpart, Anthony Malama cannot help but share their master plans for developing the tourism sector in their areas. “Tourism is among the four sectors that we have prioritised in Bangweulu. We are making serious efforts to promote it, especially because that area is not as well marketed as it should be,” Mr Malama said. His constituency is named after Lake Bangweulu, one of the country’s largest lakes famed as the place where ‘the water meets the sky.’ Besides the Sioma Country Lodge, where most of the delegates on a World Wild fund for Nature (WWF) tour of integrated agriculture practices are staying, Sioma district also boasts of other beautiful lodging places with access to the beautiful white sand beach from which spectacular sunset can be gazed at. Right next to the Country Lodge is the Ngonye camp site, which offers chalets as well as tents for the adventurous souls who desire to be as close to nature as possible by pitching up tents on the higher ground overlooking the beach and sleeping under the cover of the galaxy. A few kilometres from the camp site is Ubuntu Lodges, set out on a sprawling piece of land with executive chalets erected with minimal disturbance to the natural setup of the environment. Ubuntu also boasts of a unique view of the river over a balcony that would add a very romantic touch to anyone hoping to host a wedding. Ikeleng’i member of Parliament, Elijah Muchima, who prides himself in representing the birthplace of the mighty Zambezi River, is astounded at the marvels it seems to create as it meanders through three provinces of the country. “You see this river you are looking at is the fourth longest river in Africa, and yet when you see where it begins, it’s such a simple and yet elegant looking place that you will not believe it grows this big and does all these wonders along the way,’ he says. Mr Muchima proposes a deliberate policy to improve the country’s tourism and ensure that the whole world knows about Zambia as a preferred tourist destination. “The best way to do this is approach tourists that we have not captured already even as we are robustly advertising in areas that the nation is known already. There is so much untapped tourism potential out there and we are working on strategies to get to them,” says Dr Hamukale said. The members of Parliament (MP) are part of the Zambian Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (ZPCC). This is an initiative of MPs inspired by a belief that conservation is a fundamental component of sustainable development, poverty alleviation, conflict prevention, good governance and regional security so as to promote sound, long-term policies of sustainable land, forest, water and biodiversity management. On this particular tour of WWF Interpreted agricultural conservation, the team comprises of Luapula Province Minister, Nixon Chilangwa, Southern Province Minister Mr Hamukale, Sesheke MP Frank Kufakwandi, Mr Muchima, Nangoma MP Boyd Hamusonde, Mr Anthony and Nchelenge MP Anthony Malama, Sioma MP, Mbololwa Subulwa, joined the team as a host. Mrs Subulwa is a good host, as she ensures that the entourage gets the best that the district has to offer, from the food comprising fresh breams, to the Sioma Ngwezi National Park and the twilight views of the sunset chatting to the beach. But in true perfect host style, Mrs Subulwa ensures all work is done and dusted before holding up her last card to this enchanting district: A trip to the Ngonye Falls. At the Ngonye Falls, the waters cascading from 3 different places traps all the civic leaders into its beauty. They all promise to come back to this tiny, beautiful and enchanting place.