Zimbabwe's Kariba Dam and the remote Matusadona National Park
Lake Kariba: Zimbabwe's wildlife and birding paradise
Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe is the largest man-made reservoir in the world. With its length of approx. 270 km and a width of up to 40 km, it has the highest volume of all dams in the world. The Zambezi River, which forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, was dammed here in the late 1950s.
Lake Kariba provides a habitat for a large number of animals and birds, especially in the nature reserves on its southern shore in Zimbabwe. An increasing number of people on both sides of the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia make a living from fishing in Lake Kariba. Here, you can find more facts about Lake Kariba.
Matusadona National Park, rugged hills and deep ravines
Matusadona National Park, located on the southern shore of Lake Kariba, is one of the rarely visited protected areas in Zimbabwe. This is due to its rugged inaccessibility, at least by land. You can reach the park by car but it is a strain for humans and machines. The access by small airplane or by boat is considerably more pleasant and faster. More information about this unique park can be found on the zimbabwetravel.de website under Matusadona National Park.
On the Zimbabwean south side of Lake Kariba, there are only a few small towns. The most important are Kariba, Mlibizi and Binga. Between Kariba and Mlibizi there is a reasonably regular car ferry. I write "reasonably" because the tours depend on the number of bookings. If there are not enough bookings, the respective sailing date will not be confirmed.
As an individual traveller you can take the ferry from Kariba to Mlibizi or vice versa. The ferry crosses the lake in about 22 hours without stopping. You spend the night on deck chairs or mattresses.
Binga is a tiny place, which serves mainly the administration of the area at the western end of the lake. But Binga is also increasingly becoming a leisure port for anglers and houseboats.
Why you should plan to visit Lake Kariba during your trip to Zimbabwe
International travellers in Zimbabwe often do not consider visiting this part of the country due to lack of time. On the second visit in Zimbabwe one should stop resisting the charm of the gigantic lake and its legendary sunsets.
There are strong arguments for a stay on Lake Kariba and in Matusadona National Park. If you are in Zimbabwe for 14 days or 3 weeks, you will have gone on a few safaris and often been up very early. You will have spent a lot of time in off-road vehicles on bumpy, dusty or muddy tracks. Although this is very exciting and most visitors enjoy it a lot, it is also undeniably exhausting and tiring.
Comfortable boat cruises on Lake Kariba
A few days on Lake Kariba on a houseboat are relaxing and recreative without being at all boring. Early in the morning and in the evening you go game watching with the tender boat along the shore of the lake. The animals don’t let the boats disturb them at all. This way, you can discover Matusadona National Park from the lakeshore, without any more bumpy dirt roads.
A combination of boat cruise and safari on land is also possible. You can go on game drives or guided walks at one of the lodges in the national park then return to the boat.
If you feel like a fishing trip, you can try your luck catching the famous Zambezi bream for dinner or sundowner snacks.
Another option for houseboat travelers is a visit to a fishing village on the shore of the lake and on the edge of Matusadona National Park. You will have the opportunity to chat with the residents of the village and see how the fishermen live and work here.
Crossing Lake Kariba by cruiseboat - relaxing and exciting
A very attractive option is to cross the lake either from Kariba to Binga or vice versa on board a very comfortable houseboat. This is possible as part of a group tour with various European tour operators. The boats are very comfortable with air-conditioned cabins that have their own showers and toilets. A swimming pool is available for the hot afternoons on the lake, the food is very good.
The crossing by cruiseboat usually takes 2-3 days at a leisurely pace, with tender boat trips early in the morning and in the evening. In the afternoon there is plenty of time to relax. One such cruiseboat is "The Umbozha" run by Zambezi Cruise & Safaris.
"Zambezi Adventurer" -the best of both worlds
In 2020 a "hybrid" between ferry and houseboat will be added to the fleet. This is a TransCruiser with very comfortable cabins and space for several vehicles. The boat is under construction this year and is expected to be launched during 2019. The boat will also cross the lake in 2-3 days. Tender boat activities and full catering will be offered, in the same style as with the cruiseboat crossings.
At each end of the lake there are wonderful lodges that will get you in the right mood for the start of the mini-cruise, or to make leaving the cruiseboat and its friendly crew a little easier.
Attractive Lodges on the shores of Lake Kariba
In Kariba you will find the newly built Kariba Safari Lodge with its 9 lodges and 8 suites directly by the shore of the lake. All individual bungalows are privately located under beautiful shade trees. A special attraction is the teak veranda with a 180° view over the lake and the surrounding hills. Here, you can enjoy your sundowner and look forward to your time on board. You can also take a half-day guided tour of the town of Kariba and learn about the history of this unique place.
Masumu River Lodge in Binga is as spectacularly situated with views over a wide bay of Lake Kariba and beyond to the mountains of Zambia. Here, too, you will find very comfortable lodges, each with its own view of the lake and en-suite bathrooms. From here, a guided visit to an original Tonga village is very much worth your while. Here, you will get to know the people, see how they live and even get to taste their food.
From Binga, you can reach Hwange National Park by road transfer in about 3 hours, if you would like to enjoy some more game watching. If you don't have the time, a transfer will take you to Victoria Falls in about 5 hours and you can visit one of Zimbabwe's greatest highlights.