History of Lake Kariba

There is so much that has been written about Lake Kariba that this website cannot do it justice. However we believe that before travelling to this region it makes it all the more interesting if you do have a slight knowledge on its story.

 The Lake’s construction began in February 1956 with the development of a dam wall site, known as Kariba Gorge along the course of the Zambezi River. At the time Kariba town was one of Rhodesia’s newest towns to house all of the employees of the construction company building the wall. The project would provide electricity to the people of both Zimbabwe and Zambia and was to become the world’s largest man-made Lake!

The wall was designed to be 128 meters high and 579 meters along the crest of the wall, which ended up raising the level of the old river bed over 100 meters. The lake today is 290km long and 30 km wide at it widest.

Many lives were lost during the construction process due to the harsh work conditions and the floods that would frequent the dam site; this was believed by the local Tonga people to be the work of their river god named Nyami-nyami. Eventually the wall was completed in 1960? And with it much excitement, the prospects of commercial fishing were also realized.


It was the commercial fishing that was believed to be a great alternative purpose for the lake’s creation, and it would help the entire local Tonga tribesman find a means of supporting their families. Unfortunately the lake was far too extensive for the Tonga’s with their ineffective canoes. Later the Tanganyika sardine was introduced which gained worldwide publicity, which was not the first time in her history, the other time was when the ‘OPERATION NOAH’ was responsible for saving thousands of species of animals from the rising waters under the then Head Warden Rupert Fothergill.

Financing for the Lake totaled 80 million US $. Many lives were lost during this time, and throughout construction in the late 50’s. The Lake now provides the surrounding communities with year round water supply and commercial fishing opportunities.

The new ecosystem has taken time to settle down due to the incredible changes that took place, from a flowing river to a massive inland sea, (it was described this way because of scientific research around the Lake by the University of Rhodesia discovering many species in the new Lake which were believed to be only marine animals, such as the shrimps, mussels, eels, crustaceans, and plankton, (at the time was thought to have only existed in the oceans of the world)


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