Want to know about Zambia? The Kuomboka festival exposes Zambia’s culture and wildlife

The Lozi term “Kuomboka,” from which it derives its name, literally means “to get out of water” and “leave the barotse flood plains.” The Queen’s regal barge is decked with a pelican bird, while the King’s barge is painted black and white like Zambia’s coat of arms and pulls a massive elephant facsimile. Royal paddlers wear animal skins and crimson berets as part of their regalia, which is partly a holdover from the British Empire. The ritual, which has been performed for more than 300 years, is now a renowned cultural occasion that draws people from all over the world

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The festival offers a wonderful opportunity to experience Zambian culture and wildlife, and April is the best month to visit Zambia’s Bangweulu Swamps and possibly spot the elusive shoebill stork, black lechwe, and countless waterbirds. April is also the best month to spot abundant wildlife and birdlife near the swollen Luangwa River. The festival takes place in conjunction with the debut of Norman Carr Safari’s newest resort, King Lewanika Lodge. The lodge is located in the Luiwa Plains National Park, making the most of the huge plains, and provides luxurious lodging for only 15 guests in the shape of 6 roomy raised villas (including one 2-bedroom family villa).


King Lewanika, the most well-known supreme leader of the Lozi people who lived around the turn of the twentieth century, inspired the naming of the lodge. Liuwa Plain was first protected in the 1880s when King Lewanika designated it as a royal hunting area. Later, he petitioned Queen Victoria to declare all of Barotseland a British Protectorate, effectively the western portion of modern-day Zambia. In order to accomplish this, he eventually traveled to London in 1902 and requested an audience with Edward VII. One of the few significant customs from southern Africa still practiced today is the Kuomboka Ceremony. The event, which is held by the Lozi people of Western Zambia, occurs following the flooding of the upper Zambezi River.

Photo credit: Deanna dent

The event, which is held by the Lozi people of Western Zambia, occurs following the flooding of the upper Zambezi River.The Chief and his entourage travel in the Nalikwanda, a big black and white barge, as thousands of spectators line the banks of the Zambezi to watch them. About 100 men row the barge, and being an oarsman is seen as a tremendous honor.

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