Straddling a portion of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba is the world's largest man-made lake. Its creation provided perfect conditions for wildlife in Matusadona National Park, located on a section of its shore on the Zimbabwean side, to thrive. Game viewing along Lake Kariba's shoreline can be done by houseboat, canoe or boat, and from inside Matusadona on foot; preferably with an expert guide. The roads are rough and gruelling and 4x4 vehicles are required.
- Superb scenery and views
- Relaxed houseboat vacations
- Sunset cruises
- Excellent game viewing and birding
- Tiger fishing
- Uncrowded safari destination
- Superb wildlife viewing inside Matusadona National Park
- Big 5, including black rhino
- One of the highest concentration of lion in Zimbabwe
The construction of Lake Kariba put Matusadona National Park, which is not as well-known as Hwange or Mana Pools, on the map. When the dam that feeds the lake was built and water started to flood huge areas of the valley, the wildlife that hadn't fled, was left stranded on islands. Operation Noah was launched in a bid to rescue those animals, large and small, and repatriate them to Matusandona. No visit to Lake Kariba is complete without a game drive in Matusadona.
Home to the Big 5
Matusadona National Park is one of the few national parks in Zimbabwe where you can still see rhinos (black). Two-thirds of the park is set on high ground, an area above the escarpment to the south of the park, which is very remote and not often visited. The remaining third forms the low-lying land toward the lake shores, and here is where you'll find most of the luxury lodges and the best game viewing areas.
There are vast floodplains with the characteristic mopane tree skeletons dotting the shores. Especially in the dry season, the grasslands attract large herds of buffalo with prides of lion not far behind. There are plenty of elephants and the shallows are alive with hippos and crocodiles. You also have a good chance of spotting hyena (spotted), leopard and the occasional cheetah. Some of the rarer antelope species like the majestic sable and roan also grace these shores. Over 260 bird species have been identified.
The climate is warm to hot, with the warmest months from September to April. Temperatures also vary according to the change in altitude which ranges from sea level to over 1,200 m (4250 ft). The wet season lasts from November to March and usually consists of afternoon rains followed by sunshine. At the peak of the wet season, the lake level can rise substantially, lapping at the edges of the mopane forests, leaving very little floodplains on which the animals can graze and game viewing can be disappointing. Humidity levels are also very high and mosquitos can be a problem. General winter temperatures range from about 11 to 27°C (52 - 81°F) and summer temperatures can fluctuate from 18 to 40°C (64-104°F).
Best time to go
The dry season is more rewarding (June to October) when the lake levels are lower and the floodplains are wide open and inviting for the wildlife. It's also far less humid and insects, particularly pesky mosquitos, are far less evident.
The easiest options are fly-ins from the major centres or by boat from Kariba town, which is only about 17 km away. Road access is only recommended with 4x4 vehicles but during peak wet season, the roads may be impassable.
There are several excellent luxury lodges operating private concessions along the shores of Lake Kariba that offer superb safari experiences by boat and game viewing by open safari vehicles and on foot. Houseboats are also a popular option.
Speak to us about your preferences and we'll gladly give you unbiased recommendations.
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Our 15-Day Southern Africa Signature Safari is what we consider to be an ideal safari itinerary on a mid-range budget to see the best of Southern Africa within a limited time frame. Take in some of Southern Africa's top destinations – the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; Chobe National Park in Botswana; picturesque Cape Town and the Garden Route; the Kruger National Park and the famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa.
Bumi Hills Safari Lodge & Spa is a luxury lodge situated on a high hilltop overlooking the massive expanse of Lake Kariba - the world's largest man-made lake - and it's game-rich shores. Various game activities and excellent tiger fishing are on offer at this tranquil, exclusive lodge.
Sitting atop its very own island in the expanse of Lake Kariba, not far from Bumi Hills, is Musango Safari Camp. As with Bumi Hills, it’s just outside the Matusadona National Park. A small, well-established safari lodge, Musango is owned and run by the well-known Steve Edwards, former conservationist and warden of Matusadona, who personally guides and shares his incredible wealth of knowledge about the area, its wildlife and its history.