Dubbed Africa’s Riviera, Lake Kariba is a very special place indeed. It is vast: one of the four largest man made lakes on Earth and the second largest in Africa, with its widest point spanning 140 miles in length. It almost feels as though you are looking out to sea.
Stretching out across the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, it was constructed in the early 1960s across the Kariba Gorge to harness the river’s flow which generated hydroelectric power for the growing industries of Zimbabwe. Although both local people and wild animals were initially displaced when the dam was filled between 1958 and 1963, safe relocations were made, and the new ecosystem is a blessing to life in many forms. Fishing is a source of livelihood for the local people living along the shores of the lake, not only as food staple but also a steady income. Kapenta, a Sardine-like fish, is caught in high quantities and dried on erected nets, giving the area an unforgettable fishy aroma. Over the years there have been many speculations amongst the residents about the origins of the name Kariba. The most widely believed theory is that it was a mispronunciation by western settlers from the word Kariva, meaning ‘little trap’, where a rock lies at the dam wall resembling a traditional stone trap.
Today, the massive lake covers an area of 5,000 square kilometres and is a watery wildlife wonderland. Here you will find the Big 5 (the Matusadona Wildlife Reserve, on the southern shores of the lake, is home to the highest number of lion per square kilometre of any reserve on the African continent) as well as hundreds of bird species. The lake itself is also home to crocodile and hippo, whilst the banks are teeming with game who come to the shores to quench their thirst. There is also some fantastic fishing, particularly for tiger fish, the annual Tiger Fish Competition takes place in October each year and attracts over 600 contestants of all ages and experience levels. However, the most iconic and spectacular image of Lake Kariba is that of the fish eagle; perched on the branches of fossilised trees, as they hunt for fish their haunting cry echoing off the glassy waters, is a sound that will remain with you forever.
The diverse terrain means that within one day you could travel through thicket of woodland, over rocky hillocks, and across flat shoreline grassland and drowned forests. The lakes stunning views, breathtaking scenery and gorgeous African sunsets makes for a photographer’s dream, and the stargazing is spectacular with the uninterrupted expanse of sky, undimmed by light pollution. The dam wall at the northern tip of the lake is also well worth a visit; an impressive plunging drop into the gorge on one side and the calm lake waters on the other.
The best time to visit Lake Kariba is in the winter months, between April and August, when temperatures average 25 degrees Celsius. Summer time is generally very warm with temperatures reaching up to an average of 38 degrees Celsius. The lake is easily accessible by light aircraft flights and great to combine with Victoria Falls or a safari in Mana Pools.
Features in the following itineraries
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India