Lake Kariba is one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. The source of all its water is the Mighty Zambezi River. Over 290km long and 30km wide at its widest, this lake has been described in the past as an inland sea. The reason for this description comes after many studies by the University of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on the fauna living in its ecosystems, from muscles to shrimps, to plankton. The main reason for building this lake originates from the need for a hydroelectric dam. This dam, called the Kariba Dam is a hydroelectric dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is one of the largest dams in the world at 128 m high and 579 m long. Later on, commercial fishing was discussed and thus large areas of bush in the previous Zambezi valley were cleared for this reason. Even today, Kapenta (fresh water sardines) fishing is one of the lake’s major industries, along with tourism, and of course the hydro electric power that supplies both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa surrounded by South Africa in the South, Mozambique in the East, Zambia to the North, and Botswana to the West. The Zambezi River starts its course in the North East of Angola and winds its way South through Zambia reaching Zimbabwe at Kazungula, the place where Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana meet. The Victoria Falls is just 60km downstream from this point. The Zambezi then forms the Northern border between Zimbabwe and Zambia all the way to Chirundu. The lake kariba is between these two locations, Victoria Falls and Chirundu.
There is a host of things to do on Lake Kariba, as well as around it. Of course, the obvious things come to mind such as Tiger fishing, which is one of the most sought after fresh water species to catch. The boating is fantastic for those enthusiasts, game viewing in the Matusadona National Park is also a must. This park is one of Zimbabwe’s most remote parks and well known for their conservation efforts with the Black Rhino. The park boasts the African big five as well. There are a nu mber of accommodation resorts in Kariba Town itself as well as along the lakeshore. Lake Kariba has all the ingredients to make a fantastic African holiday and offers various activities, including:
- Game drives
- Tonga village visits
- Trips to see hot springs
- Fishing excursions
- Canoe safaris
- Houseboat tours
Flora and fauna
The lake also has the most incredible birdlife to be found, rivalled only by the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The land around Lake Kariba on the Zimbabwe side is full of big game, such as:
The reason why there is so much game on the Zimbabwe side is that when the animals were being rescued during Operation Noah, back in 1956 up to 1960, the parks were created on the Zimbabwean side and that is where they were relocated to. The other areas are tribal land belonging to the Tonga people who also had to move when the waters of the Zambezi River were rising. The Matusadona National Park is the centrepiece in this beautiful landscape surrounding the lake, the Chete safari area is also teeming with wildlife. This area is a hunting area in season so the animals are a little bit shyer.
The options for accommodation around Kariba are endless. All the way along the lakeshore there are various camps with various ratings available, from 3 stars to 5 star, remote camps n the wilderness, privately-owned with facilities such as:
- Swimming pools
- Boats to charter
- Game drive options
- Styling rooms
The Matusadona National Park also has some camps to stay, such as Tishinga, there are also 5 star hotels resorts such as Tiger Bay, Musango, Bumi Hills, Charara, and Spurwing Island. Binga town also has many options to stay as well as Milibizi.
The weather at Lake Kariba is generally hot, the so-called suicide month is October, and that is when the rainy season starts, up to about April, the days can be sweltering hot with thunder storms in the early afternoon and in the evening.
The month of May to July are cooler and without the rain storms, the sun still shines and can be a very pleasant time around the lake.
The months of August and September are the windy months and the lake can be very rough at times, although the weather is still sunny and enjoyable.
How to get to Lake Kariba
There are two ways to get to Lake Kariba:
Due to its massive size it all depends on which part of the lake you will be visiting. The Kariba town itself has an international airport, there are other smaller airstrips located at Binga Town, Bumi Hills, and Sijarira. The other ways to get there are by road, coming from Bulawayo you would take the road to Victoria Falls until a place called Dete, take a right here and that road takes you to Binga Town. By road from Harare along the Harare-Chirundu Road at Makuti you will turn at Makuti Hotel and a tarred road leads to Kariba town.