Lake Kariba lies approximately 350km West of Harare (Zimbabwe’s capital city) and along the border of Zambia.  The Lake is 40km wide, 280km long and is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

The Lake was created in the 1950s primarily as a source of hydroelectric power that could be harnessed to feed industry in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The dam wall comprises a 126 metre high, 21 metre thick concrete arch that runs 600 metres across the narrow gorge from one bank of the Zambezi to the other.

Many animals and several people died in the creation of the Lake and a native tribe known as the Batonga were slowly driven off their ancestral lands.  It is said that the angered river-god “Nyaminyami” would destroy the dam project and in July 1957 a freak storm saw the Zambezi burst through the cofferdam to destroy months of work.  Several other unexplained incidents occurred but eventually the wall was completed.

When the Zambezi Valley flooded in 1959, the Matusadona and Chete Safari Area received some of the 5000 animals rescued by the rangers during the huge relocation scheme known as “Operation Noah”.  

This scheme was mounted by conservationist Rupert Fothergill who rescued not only big game such as elephant, but the less obvious snakes and other reptilian family members, tortoises etc.

Today, Lake Kariba is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest tourist attractions offering the visitor excellent fishing, superb game and birdlife viewing and magnificent scenic views of the surrounding Matusadona Mountains, sunsets and sunrises.

Cruising the Lake

Houseboats and Cabin Cruisers are available for hire for cruises along the shorelines of Kariba.  One can hire a boat for three or four nights and travel into the Eastern Basin of Kariba where everyday the Captain of the boat can drive you to a new position.

The boats range in size starting with 45ft. cruisers to 85ft. houseboats, each boat, depending on its size offers a lounge, dining and kitchen area, bathrooms (mainly showers onboard) and cabins as well as top deck entertainment area.  Some of these boats have Jacuzzis or splash pools whilst others have swimming cages which enable the visitor to swim in the Lake’s waters, however guests swim in the cages at their own Risk.

Each boat is equipped with gas stoves, cooler boxes and freezers and all linen, crockery, cutlery and a crew consisting of captain, chef and deckhand.  The smaller boats have only a Captain and Chef who is trained in the Deckhands’ duties.  These boats all tow smaller boats behind them known as “tenders” which take the visitor for game drives and to fishing spots in little bays along the shoreline.

The difference between Cabin Cruisers and Houseboats is that of the size – Houseboats are much bigger than Cruisers, giving the visitor more space to move around and the Houseboats are built on pontoons that raise them slightly out of the water and enables the boats to enter very shallow waters.

Cruisers however tend to travel at faster speeds.