All the lodges on Lake Kariba are situated to take in the beauty and breathtaking panorama of the wide expanse of water of the Lake. To experience this another way is to holiday on a houseboat that takes you out onto the water. Don’t miss the golden African sunsets over the water – a sight you will never forget.
Kariba, in Zimbabwe, is one of the largest man-made dams in the world and is an impressive sight to behold. The numerous islands support an abundant bird-life with the edges of the lake providing wildlife viewing opportunities.
Fishing is an all-time favorite pastime with visitors – especially the Tiger Fish which is famous in these waters.
The History of Lake Kariba
The Zambezi River is famous both in and out of Africa and has been for hundreds of years. The legends surrounding the river go back in time to Solomon’s rule – suggesting that the Zambezi was a gateway to the gold and riches of that kingdom.
There is much evidence of early occupation along the river’s banks although some of the areas have been almost uninhabitable due to heat and disease.
With the development of the region and the population growth, the need for permanent electricity supplies was imperative. In 1955 a specific area on the Zambezi River locally known as “kariwa” was designated the point for the current Kariba dam wall.
The name possibly came about as there is a nearby rock that looks like a traditional stone trap called a ‘riva’ – which means “a trap” in the local language. Thus Kariba was born when mispronounced by Europeans.
On completion of the great wall in 1958 and the subsequent filling of the dam – the world-famous Operation Noah was launched in the early 1960s. Operation Noah was one of the biggest animal rescue attempts that have happened worldwide, to date.
When the waters started rising the water level had risen an incredible 6 metres within 24 hours. The continuing rise started creating islands that animals were being trapped on with nowhere to go.
This mobilised teams on both the Zimbabwean side and the Zambian side to rescue these animals from the disappearing islands. The wildlife being saved from the rising waters of the Lake were relocated to Matusadona National Park and the surrounds.
By the end of the operation over 7,000 animals had been rescued. Nearly 5,000 in Zimbabwe and approximately 2,000 from the Zambian waters.
Lake Kariba – One of the Largest Lakes in the World
Lake Kariba is now amongst the 4 largest man-made lakes in the world and is the second-largest in Africa. The shoreline stretches over 2,000 kilometres and the lake is home to numerous species of flora and fauna making it a unique tourist destination.
The Kariba dam wall has 6 flood gates and is 128 metres high and 617 metres wide. This has created a lake 282 kilometres long when full and 32 kilometres at its widest point. It reaches a depth of 116 metres and covers an area of 5,180 square kilometres.
There are still many islands throughout the lake. All in all, there are 102 islands with the well-known ones including Fothergill, Spurwing, Msambakaruma, Long Island, Rhino, Kings Camp, 126, Redcliff, Antelope, Zebra, 155, Starvation Island, Lubangwa Island, Partridge Island, Whither Island, Twin Sisters, Nemambere Island, Snake Island, Bed Island, Paradise Island, Chete Island, and others within Kariba Dam.
The best Lake Kariba accommodation available is on a houseboat – this will give you access to cruising the edges of the lake looking at wildlife and the best fishing spots.
The Nyami Nyami
The Nyami Nyami River god has a significant entity in the local tribes that live around the Lake. The River god is believed to have supernatural powers and look like a dragon amphibian. He has the head of a fish and a snake’s torso.
Stories state that the Nyami Nyami lived upstream with his wife but the dam wall construction separated them. Folklore stories say he was responsible for the collapse of a part of the dam wall, unfortunately, killed 86 workmen during construction as he forced his way back upstream in his fury at this.
There is a Nyami Nyami Festival held every September by locals to appease and venerate the River god.
Tourists are welcome to attend and it is a tradition that is worth taking part in.
Lake Kariba is a National Park and protected, making a sanctuary for the local animals and birds – creating boundless photographic opportunities.
The wildlife around the whole lake boasts prolific species of birds – a birding paradise for birding enthusiasts.
You will see regular sightings of elephants on the river bank and maybe swimming and bathing too. Hippos and crocodiles are permanent features in the waters. Buffalo and plains game regularly come to drink at the water edge in the early morning and evening – perfect for game viewing opportunities.
Lake Kariba Fishing – Tiger and Bream
The lake is famous for its Tiger fish. But there are several other fish species that have made Kariba their home. Bream fishing is also extremely popular and makes a good fish dinner.
The 40 Kariba fish species include several species of bream, nkupe, chessa, bottlenose, vundu, and of course barbel.
Be sure to check the temperatures at the time of year you are thinking of booking Kariba accommodation.
Kariba boasts very hot summers with an average temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. The average rainfall reaches 660 millimetres. The winter months are usually warm with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius making it a perfect winter destination.
Kariba Activities and Attractions
- Game viewing
- Guided walks
- Guided horse rides
- Scenic views
- Boat cruises
Kariba town is the perfect point to set off into the beautiful wildlife areas of Chizarira, the scenic Matusadona, and beautiful Mana Pools. These areas of the middle and lower Zambezi Valley are rich in wildlife and offer first-class safaris and holidays.
There is plenty of accommodation along the shores of Lake Kariba available to take advantage of the beautiful sights.