Kariba is a resort town located in Mashonaland West province of Zimbabwe. The town, built near the site of the hydro-electric Kariba dam, near the Zambian border, provides a starting point for access to the vast Lake Kariba. The name Kariba was derived from the Shona word “Kariva” meaning little trap in reference to a rock jutting out from the gorge where the dam wall was to be built.
Visitors can access Kariba by air, landing at the Kariba Airport where transfers will then be arranged. Most tour operators as well as hotels and lodges offer air, boat or vehicle transfers for their guests.
One can also access Kariba by road via a picturesque route through the Zambezi escarpment hills, driving for 4 to 5 hours from Harare or fewer hours driving from Lusaka via either Chirundu or Siavonga though this route include crossing the border and formalities that follow.
There are also long-haul luxury buses from Zimbabwe’s cities like Harare, Bulawayo, and Victoria Falls as well as basic buses and commuter omnibuses that also ply those routes.
There are close places that visitors can cover on foot but for remote areas such as Matusadona, Chewore and Mana Pools, there are air charters in light aircraft available.
There are also cruise boats that regularly traverse the length of Lake Kariba linking Binga with Kariba Town as well as stopping at safari camp destinations.
Kariba Ferries runs a car and passenger ferry service on Lake Kariba, between Mlibizi and Kariba Town, usually once a week. DDF Ferry also runs between Kariba town and Chilala and drops off cars and passengers in the Matusadona/Bumi Hills area if necessary.
There are several hotels, lodges, holiday cottages, self-catering facilities and campsites scattered among the hills, coves and shorelines of Kariba town with stunning views of the Lake.
African Sun’s Caribbea Bay Resort, a short drive from the town, is an ideal location for visitors to enjoy a sun-filled holiday. This resort has 83 well-appointed rooms, seven of which are suites and also offers The Terrace Patio, a welcoming dining area serving three meals a day, and offering an extensive and varied a la carte menu including the famed Kariba Bream; the Poolside eating area for relaxed afternoon lunches in the open air, the Casino Bar set in the down stairs casino, Jacana Bar, located on the patio overlooking the Lake, the Service Bar in the Terrace Patio restaurant, ideal for pre-dinner drinks or a casual drinks after meals as well as the Round Bar at the poolside offering wide range of drinks .Caribbea Bay offers guided tours into the Mutusadona Game Reserve and the crocodile farm. It also offers water sports like canoeing and water skiing as well as water polo matches.
Tamarind Lodges is another amazing place to stay at when one is in Kariba. The establishment has one and two bedroom chalets, the Green Lodge, a charming 4 bedroom lodge located about 400m away from the main location as well as suites located next to the dining area in a double story building. Tamarind Lodges offers activities that include swimming, boat cruises, house boating, game drives, Crocodile Farm tour, Dam wall tour, sailing, fishing, canoeing, Kariba village tour, Mana pools day trip, visits to the Banana plantation and the Kariba fisheries.
The restaurant serves Starters of Chicken wings, Fresh Fried Kapenta and Soups; Main courses of Rump Steak-Bone Steak, Pork Chops, Pork Ribs, Kariba Bream Fillet, Kariba Whole Bream, Stewed beef and Chicken hotpot, African cuisine including Local road runner, Meaty beef bones, Mazondo ,Maguru and Matumbu (Tripe and Casings) and more.
There is also Country Hotels and Suites which offers a variety of dining options including fine dining, in-room dining and buffets.
Another accommodation option is that of ‘floating hotels’ that can be hired either on a full-board or self-catering basis.
Apart from in-house restaurants at hotels, there are also eateries found in and around the resort town and these include The Dome, a great hangout place where one can get good food and a cold beer whilst enjoying the cooling breeze from the Lake and Polly’s Takeaway.
Food is available in supermarkets in Mahombekombe and Nyamhunga. Fuel, though there have been shortages, can be found at the local fuel stations or from boat harbours spread along the shoreline. For those interested in buying handicrafts, The Heights an observation point at the Dam Wall has a wide array of wood and stone carvings, local jewellery, African prints and more.
The Kariba Dam is one of the main attractions where visitors can view it from the Observation Point up on the hill above, walk or drive down to the wall itself, viewing, at the entrance, a captivating exhibition showing how the wall was built. On The Heights, on a hill 600 m above the lake, visitors can also access small shops and craft stalls, the Kariba Club with a bar, restaurant and a swimming pool as well as the extremely striking little Chapel of Santa Barbara, built in memory of workers who died during building of the dam.
Fishing is a common sport in Lake Kariba’s waters with the Zambezi River filled with the Lung fish, Electric fish, the Cornish Jack, Bream, Tilapia, Eel, Vundu as well as the famed Tiger fish, the focus of an International Tiger fishing Tournament held in Kariba in October each year. Visitors can also visit Kuburi Wilderness, the Zimbabwe Wildlife Society’s effort to safeguard the varied eco-systems east of Kariba town. The Wilderness is made up of hills and rivers and a good place to spot the lion and the elephant roaming the Mopane forests.
Located in the Zambezi Valley, Kariba is generally hot all year round though hottest period is from October to April. The rain season starts in late October till around April and the rains are usually short, intense afternoon thunderstorms interspersed with periods of sunshine.
Best times to visit
Considering the weather, the best time to visit Kariba is between May and July, when it is dry and slightly cooler. For Tiger fishing, one can visit at any time of the year though September to December is usually considered the best time. Bird watchers could find the rainy season the best time to visit whilst game viewers would opt for the dry season where vegetation is thinner and animal spotting easier.