Kariba dam wall was constructed on the Zambezi River to supply hydroelectric power to Zambia and Zimbabwe. This massive lake, the world’s largest man made reservoir, is 226km long and at its widest, 40km wide, up to 100 metres deep, covering 5500km2, and holding more than 180 billion tonnes of water. When you are out on the dam the sheer size is quite spectacular.
The lake levels in Kariba fluctuate according to the season and the amount of water discharged through the turbines. The Zambezi River Authority rigorously monitor the lake levels throughout the year and the spill gates are only opened when the lake reaches certain levels. The sheer force of water spilling out of the gates when opened (never all 6 at one time) vibrates through your entire body and the static electricity generated is literally hair raising! If you are lucky enough to be around on the rare occasion when they open the gates, it is well worth a visit!
A number of fish have been introduced into the lake including kapenta, a small sardine like fish originally from Lake Tanganyika. A commercial fishing industry has developed to catch the protein rich fish which is sold either fresh or dried. At night the lake resembles a distant town with the twinkling of the lights from the numerous fishing rigs hard at work with huge dip nets and a spotlight to attract the kapenta.
What to do:
A visit to Kariba is wonderfully relaxing and days can be spent winding down on a houseboat, treating yourself to a luxurious cruise on the Southern Belle or fishing for bream or tigerfish which can be either relaxing, exciting or frustrating depending on how well the fish are biting.
Bear in mind Bilharzia is guaranteed and it is advisable to have routine treatment on your return home. It is not a good idea to swim in the lake, no matter how tempting, there are a substantial number of crocodiles and they are not fussy about who or what they eat!
There are two main holiday towns on the banks of Lake Kariba, Siavonga at the dam wall and boarder, and Sinazongwe further up the lake. Both are very small settlements, Siavonga larger than Sinazongwe, with kapenta fishing as their main business with a small tourist industry developing.
Siavonga is the small border town on the Zambian side, Kariba town is located on the Zimbabwean side. Originally the settlement for the dam workers, Siavonga has slowly developed into a small but growing tourist destination.
This is the ideal place to go to visit the dam wall.
Take the T2 Lusaka – Chirundu road. Turn onto the M15 towards Siavonga (61.8km). There is a police roadblock at this turning, generally the police are checking trucks for their import papers and they will just wave you through. Just after a rustic service station turn right – most hotels and lodges are signposted from this point.
Sinazongwe is a tiny town on the shores of the lake roughly equidistant between Livingstone and Siavonga. This small town largely relies on fishing and crocodile farming but in recent years a small tourist industry has blossomed.
Getting there from Lusaka:
T2 Lusaka – Chirundu road, turn on to the T1 Lusaka – Livingstone road, 129km from the Kafue Turnpike, take a left at Batoka where you see the Maamba Mines sign. It is approximately 72km from here to Sinazongwe.
Getting there from Livingstone:
T1 Lusaka – Livingstone road, 190km turn right just after Choma. It is approximately 93km from here to Sinazongwe.