Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe was formed when the Zambezi river was dammed in the late 1950’s. This has brought not only hydroelectricity. It has also created a particularly beautiful and atmospheric lake with wildlife sanctuaries, mesmerizing sunsets and wraparound views. Now Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake in the world, 200km long and 40km at its widest point. This shimmering lake, with its characteristic silhouettes of dead trees, is mezmerising. And the Matusadona mountains provide a beautiful backdrop. So a Lake Kariba safari offers a paradise for photographers, particularly at sunset.
Matusadona National Park
Visitors come to Lake Kariba mainly for the wildlife of the surrounding Matusadona National Park. When the river was dammed the wildlife congregated on the southern shores of Lake Kariba. And the Matusadona National Park was created to protect it.
Before the ground was flooded by the dam, the existing vegetation was also burnt. This created a layer of fertile soil on both the lake bed and surrounding floodplains. So now the lake has a vibrant ecology with plenty of hippos and crocodiles. Plus the kapenta and tiger fish attract large numbers of fish eagles, cormorants and other birdlife.
A safari in Matusadona affords superb game viewing on both land and water. Elephant, buffalo and black rhino roam in large numbers on the flood plains. (The melodious Matusadona actually means ‘constant dripping of dung’ which refers, rather unmusically, to the huge elephant population!)
Fishing on Lake Kariba
Lake Kariba supports more than forty species of fish, most notably the famous fighting tiger fish, as well as plentiful hippo and crocodiles. The birdlife is excellent in the Matusadona due to the diversity of terrain (wooded hills, plateau and lakeshore) and the plentiful fish on offer. There are plenty of African fish eagles with their distinctive haunting call. You may also spot other raptors such as the harrier hawk, martial eagle and bateleur eagle. Many other water birds such as grey heron, open-billed stork, saddle-billed stork, sacred ibis, malachite kingfisher and even flamingos can be seen.
When to stay on Lake Kariba
Lake Kariba safari lodges range from romantic hillside game lodges to tented camps overlooking the lake. Game drives and bush walks are on offer as well as boating trips and canoeing to explore the lakes’ islands and creeks.
Though it is a year round destination, the best time to visit is in the dry winter months. November to February tend to be very hot and wet.