The Kariba Guide – Birds, Lions and Tiger Fish galore.

Kariba is one of the most underrated yet extremely endowed resort town in Zimbabwe. This is one place where nature lovers can experience a full range of spectacle which rarely can be found anywhere else in the world. A place where you could literally be watching a crocodile drag an antelope while a fish eagle is aiming for a bream before both are disturbed by a water-splitting roar of an offended lion.

The town contains the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir which has attracted tourists over the years. The lake was filled between 1958 and 1963 after the completion of the wall. The purpose of this lake was to generate hydroelectric power for Zambia and Zimbabwe. Travelling along the town, one can observe huge power stations. The town was built mainly for construction workers but it has now evolved into a bustling center with many converging cultures and experiences.

Kariba dam wall

The place has a blend of the modern world and has also preserved
its culture. Local curios sell African crafts including the Nyaminyami stick. The stick expresses a story of how the Tonga people who resided in the Zambezi valley looked up to Nyaminyami as their River God. Nyaminyami was a River God who had a head of a snake and a body of a fish who provided for his people in time of need. Apart from the interesting legends you get to learn from the town, Kariba is located in a wildlife area. Animals like elephants, zebras, baboons, monkeys or even giraffes can be seen roaming in the nearby vicinity. The scenic view of the lake, the stories the town tells, and the abundant wildlife Kariba has, makes it one of the best tourist towns in Kariba.

Getting to Kariba

There are no direct flights to Kariba, however you can land in Harare-Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls -Zimbabwe or Lusaka in Zambia. Depending on where you are coming in from , there are options.

  • From Harare The distance is 365km. You can charter a plane from Harare to Kariba for about $400. Alternatively you can drive. The road is tarred but has sections that have some potholes. Generally there is a lot of traffic between Harare and Chinhoyi. Best times to start the journey is between 6 and 10am. The journey is about 5-6hrs, ideally get to Makuti during the day as that leg of the journey tends to have animals on the road.
  • From Victoria Falls. You might want to take a charter plane from Victoria Falls to Kariba. This fare is about $450/person. Driving could be another option. The easiest is to drive to Mlibizi which is at the western tip of the dam. From there you can take a ferry to Kariba. The disadvantage is the long travel time, and also the ferry schedules may not be predictable. You can also cross into Zambia and travel from Livingstone to Siavonga then cross into Zimbabwe which is about 7hrs.
  • From Lusaka. There are buses from Lusaka to Siavonga which is on the other side of the dam wall. Ideally you might want to drive . A rental might set you back between $80-100/day.
A typical charter plane. Image rights belong to Wilderness Air which operates in the area

Getting around Kariba

  • Personal Vehicle
    One can get around using their personal cars. There are several fuel stations across town.
  • Tour Guides
    There are different tour guides in Kariba who can assist in getting around and providing information.
  • Commuter Omnibus/ Kombi
    This is public transportation which also reaches desired destinations.
  • Rental Cars
    Kariba has several agents that rent out cars at a reasonable price.
  • Taxis/ Cabs

What to do in Kariba

Bird viewing experience is great from the lake
  • Kariba Dam wall
    The dam can be viewed from an Observation Point known as The Heights or you can walk to the dam itself. You pass through immigration to get a temporary visitor’s pass. Along the bridge one can find displays that explain or provide information on how the dam was built, the years it took to complete and some other interesting facts
  • Chapel of Santa Barbara
    This is a historical site which was built in memory of the construction workers who died during the construction of the dam
  • Game Viewing People can go for game viewing tours which can be done on foot, by boat or by vehicle. These are arranged through travel agents or the different hotels and lodges people reside in who might have discounts for the entrance fees.
  • Boat Cruise/ Sunset Cruise
    The boat cruise or sunset cruise gives an unforgettable experience. One gets to cruise in the lake and admire the beautiful view of the water. The cruises are also arranged by travel agents or accommodation hosts
  • Camping
    There are various safe places that people can go for camping and enjoy nature.
  • Crocodile Farm
    Visiting the crocodile farm is an adventure on its own. One gets to learn how these reptiles are kept and if you are lucky, you can get to hold one
  • Fishing Kariba
    Kariba has some of the best waters and provide a good catch for fish lovers including the tiger fish or breams.

Where to stay

Kariba has a number of small hotels, lodges, self-catering accommodation, holiday cottages, campsites or houseboating. All these are characterized by excellent service and provide a great Kariba experience. Most of these housings overlook the lake which gives an unforgettable scenetic view. These include Caribbea Bay Resort, Hornbill Lodge, Warthogs Bush Camp, Luna Accommodation, Rhino Safari Camp, Tamarind Lodge Kariba, Cutty Sark Hotel, Zimre Lodge and houseboats, Changa Safari Camp, Kariba Safari Lodge and many more.

A houseboat on the banks of Kariba overlooking the Matusadona National Park – One f the most pristine nature sanctuary in Southern Africa