Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Kalambo Falls

Date of Submission: 10/03/2009
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
National Heritage Conservation Commission
State, Province or Region:
Zambia, Northern Province
Ref.: 5426

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Kalambo falls is not only known in Africa as the second deepest fall, but also as a cultural site rich in archaeological resource. It measures 221 metres deep and uninterrupted waterfalls.  The falls is situated on the edge of the Tanganyika Rift Escarpment near the Southeastern corner of Lake Tanganyika at the altitude of 1150m and are about 35 kilometres north of Mbala District in northern Zambia.

The site has a number of seasonal streams, which flow into Kalambo River. The prominent stream is the Kansama, which flows from the west and joins the Kalambo at the last 'bent' before the fall. The rocks (geology) are mostly sandstone, quartzite and shales belonging to the Katanga/Kundelungu system of the pre-Cambrian age through which have been introduced sandstones, dolorites and porphyries. The falls is located at an elevation of about 1390 metres above sea level on latitude 08º 35' South and 37º 14' East. The physiograghy of the Kalambo falls National Monument is dominated by undulating landscape of scarps and valleys.

The  lush green vegetation of ferns, elephant ear grass (Colocasia antiquorum) and the wild bananas clinging to the black shale rock that underlies the quartzite in the gorge are supported by water spray at the bottom of the falls. The Kalambo River meanders through interlocking spurs in the north-east direction for 8 km before making a small delta with Lake Tanganyika. The average slopes of the hill and minor slopes within the monument area are predominantly slopes of over 16%. It is associated with orthic-dystic LEPTOSOLS soils.

The climate of the site is seasonal with a wet season from November to April and dry season from May to October. The wet season has a mean monthly temperature of 19.7º C with mean maximum temperature of 36º C, which occurs in months of September and October. The minimum temperatures are experienced in June/July and averages 10º C.

The Kalambo falls lie just within the rain shadow of Lake Tanganyika. However the mean annual rainfall is 1200mm with 75% of it coming in the months of December to March. Rainfall statistics for the last twenty months (1981 to 2000) show that the maximum rainfall recorded during the period was in 1986 (1700.5mm) while the minimum recorded during the same period was in 1992 (687.0mm).

The relative humidity is low during the dry season except during early morning hours. During the rainy season humidity is quite high. Wind directions are predominantly East to South - East except during the rain season when they are quite variable with north to north-west direction most frequent.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Kalambo falls are known to be the second highest waterfalls in Africa and the twelfth in the world measuring about 221 metres high. Besides, the site has one of the longest history of human occupation in sub-sahara Africa. The last radiocarbon dating and amino acid racemisation has indicated an age of more than 100 000 years. The site has a wide range of tools, showing diversity in typology representing different cultural assemblage ranging from Stone Age to Iron Age groupings. There are a lot of archaeological artefacts present at the site and these include hand axe, cleavers, litchis, iron slag, cores, etc.

A number of crudely and finely made artefacts were discovered at Kalambo including the first authentic early stone industry, the Acheulian. This Acheulian Industry takes its name from the gravel pits of Saint Acheul in the Somme Valley of Northern France, which is one of the places where these characteristic stone artefacts were first recognised. The most outstanding and easily recognisable artefact in this Early Stone Age Industry was the pear-shaped, artificially trimmed stone hand axe.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

As a result of the archaeological work done at Kalambo over the years, there is now the most complete, uninterrupted stratified sequence of cultural history from any site in Southern Africa and a continuous record stretching from approximately 60,000 years up to the present day.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Stone Age remains at Kalambo are of international importance for they represent links between similar sites in the region as well as outside. For example, they have links with those in East-Africa's Olduval Stage and Northern France's Saint Acheul in the Somme Valley.