Zambia’s Sunken Lakes:
Nostalgia Memories of Eerie and Strange Lakes

Neiles Billany remembers Zambia.

“ …I know how beautiful Zambia is and I know that the best game safari parks in Africa, in the world are in Zambia," says Neiles Billany , an ex North Sea diver who explored many Zambian sunken lakes grew up in Zambia.

I asked Neiles to explain and tell it all. I warned him I was going to publish a page or two on my web site. This is how he remembers Zambia Safari

"I am pleased you find my information useful. I had a computer crash a few months ago and lost all my photos. I will dig out the originals this weekend and rescan them. Unfortunately I do not have many photos of the lakes as at that time the police were very jumpy about people taking pictures because of the Rhodesia situation. (Editor’s note: liberation war for Zimbabwe’s independence).

A few people had been arrested if they were not careful about what was in the background of the pictures or if they were near a bridge, electricity pylon, etc, with a camera. So I did not use the camera much. (Editor’s note: what a shame, imagine the information that was never collected)

Mpambu is a small lake not far from Lake Kashiba . It was ideal for diver training as it was small and safe. It is located a few miles before Kashiba (maybe 10 miles I can't really be sure). There was a track on the left and about a mile or two down this track was Mpambu.

It was long and narrow, about 600 metres long but only 20 wide. It looked like a gorge.

Mpambu was about 25 metres deep, although there was a small cave if you knew were to look that opened into a cavern that was about 35 metres deep. There was also a small separate pool at one end. It was a great place to train new divers. I know that in my last year the area was being developed for farming and perhaps it is now a private property, but it would be a shame if divers could no longer enjoy it.

Ishiku was a strange lake. It was near Ndola and it was a private property. I think it belonged to the mine and they used to pump water from it. (Editor’s note: I think it’s the closed Bwana Mkumbwa mine. First Quantum are now reworking the old tailings).

Werner Hock through his connections in the mining industry obtained permission for the diving club to use it. He obtained a key for the gate, but it was only for experienced divers. Only a small number of us went there.

The lake was an inverted cone shape. A huge cavern where only a small section of the roof about 80 metres wide had collapsed. The sides sloped steeply inward and if the water was below the rim (which was always the case except late in the rainy season).

There was only one place (in the northern corner) where you could get down to the water and a rope was usually required for assistance. The bottom when full was 60 metres. The cavern extended in all directions and there was a small shallow pool to the west (about 70 metres away), which we eventually found was linked to the main cavern.

Werner Hock and myself were the first to dive from the small pool through caves and passages that led to the main underground cavern; from where we could swim to the main lake. This required many exploration dives and guidelines, torches and compass were required. It was a far greater achievement for me than the bottom of Kashiba. The roof of the cavern was about 35 metres below the surface and it was 30 metres further to the floor.

Because of the topology the lake was very eerie to dive in, the walls sloped away so you did not have the comfort of a sidewall and the water was dark as light was restricted. One new diver dived in it once and would not do so again. When we searched in the silt at the bottom we found many animal bones from large beasts (possibly elephants etc). In the past game must have smelt the water in the dry season and fallen in and could not escape.

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