What to do on Lake Kariba

L
ake Kariba is one of Zambia’s most popular attractions due to its vast size. In 1958 it became the world’s largest man-made lake and provided hydroelectricity to Zimbabwe and Zambia. The lake is 280 kms long and 40 kms at its widest. The Italian company who built the dam wall employed over 7000 men over six years to build, and during which 86 men lost their lives. In 1958 to 1964 during the filling of the dam, Operation Noah was tasked to rescue the wildlife that were getting trapped on the ever diminishing islands. More than 6000 animals were saved and relocated to the mainland during this time. As with most areas with such a great quantity of water, most activities in the area are based on the water.

Activities

Many people come to Kariba to experience the beauty of this massive expanse of water which affords spectacular sunsets, watersports and good fishing.   Kariba makes a great getaway from Lusaka as it is only a 3 hour drive. Here are some   things to do while you are in the area:

Houseboats – If you have never been on a houseboat, living on the water for a few days is certainly something to experience. Try fishing, gaming-viewing or just relax as you explore the vast lake or sip on an ice-cold beer as the sun goes down. There are various houseboats for hire for small groups or larger ones like the Southern Belle Cruiser which has 21 ensuite cabins,  and  offers two-night tours of Lake Kariba , cruising around  the spectacular archipelago of islands located in the Lake and around the Chete Island game reserve.Fishing – Lake Kariba is well known for its fishing and especially sport-fishing! The tiger fish is a very popular catch and the lake boasts the annual Tiger Fishing competition in May in search of this fighting fish. Bream are very tasty and are very common in the lake. Lake Kariba Inn and Lake Safari Lodge supply tackle and boats.

Water sports – traditional water sports are available on the lake in designated areas such as wake- boarding, canoeing   and speed- boating.

Game viewing –  .. Lake Kariba’s banks are often lined with big crocodiles so it is best not to get in the water Its 2000 kilometres of shoreline offers a spectacular variety of estuaries that lead from the surrounding bush. The entire region abounds with bird life.  Sadly much of the ’big game’ on the Zambian side of the Lake has disappeared, although this can still be found west of the Kota Kota peninsula. Hippopotamus and the Nile crocodile are frequently seen and if you are lucky, a variety of small mammals can be spotted.

Crocodile Farm – Located in the town of Siavonga, this is one of the largest crocodile farms in the world, supplying some of the best quality skins to the fashion industries worldwide.

Visits to the Dam Wall – the Dam stands at almost 130 metres high and spans a length of over 1/2 kilometre with a berth roadway 12 metres thick. The electrical power output for the region is 1,180 million kilowatts per year.  The story of its construction is depicted on a plaque on the Zambian side.

Cultural Excursions – This part of Zambia is home to the Tonga people. They have resided in the Kariba area for centuries and have preserved many ancient traditions. An opportunity to explore one of these communities will definitely be insightful. Kariba is a special place to the locals and tourists can see why after visiting the area.   As the Lake was flooded, the forest land in the valley was inundated with water. Much of the forest can still be seen rising above the vast waters of the Lake. After being submerged for over 50 years the trees still stand as monuments to the history of the Zambezi valley. At sunset the trees create   breathtaking scenery.   What Lake Kariba lacks in wildlife, it certainly makes up for in scenic beauty, birdlife, lake activities, and affordable accommodation.  It has become a very popular overnight conference destination due to its proximity to Lusaka.