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Town Kariba

ID: w146968 View large map

Located in Zimbabwe :: Mashonaland  :: Kariba
Category: Places :: Town


When the construction of the Kariba dam wall began in 1956, workers stayed in a small village nearby. Once the dam wall was complete, the little town which was by then known as Kariba, remained, and has become a small tourist town at the lake’s eastern end.

Traveller Description

Once the dam wall was completed in 1958, the sluice gates were closed and the lake began to fill. Soon it was realized that many animals, fleeing the rising water, were becoming stranded on newly-formed islands. A massive rescue operation, ‘Operation Noah’ was put into play by Zimbabwe National Parks over the next six years to rescue the stranded animals.

Over this period, nearly 6 000 animals were rescued and placed in Matusadona National Park and surrounding areas. Animals rescued included elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and many other species, including the highly venomous black mamba. Many of the lake’s remaining islands are named after the animals rescued: Zebra Island, Rhino Island, Antelope Island, etc. Fothergill Island is named after Rupert Fothergill who was in charge of Operation Noah. Numerous game capture techniques are based on lessons learned by his team during Operation Noah.

The local Tonga tribe believed that the Nyami Nyami River God used to live under a rock near the dam wall. When you approached the rock in your canoe, you were sucked down in a whirlpool, never to reappear. The rock was called ‘Kariwa’ meaning ‘the trap’, but Europeans struggling with the pronunciation, changed it to Kariba which then became the name of the lake. Tonga legend also has it that Nyami Nyami is married, and that the building of the dam wall separated him from his wife, and that he would bring misfortune on those building the wall.

Dismissing the legend of Nyami Nyami as folklore, the Europeans continued with the building of the dam wall. Soon after the survey work began in February 1950, a cyclone swept through the Zambezi Valley, bringing with it the mother of all cloud bursts. The river rose seven metres overnight, washing away villages. The bodies of the survey team were found covered by a landslide, while dead animals were left suspended in the treetops.

A few years later the building of the wall began but in December 1955, another unprecedented flood washed away the coffer dam and pontoon bridge. Almost a year later, in November 1956, the annual rains arrived a month early and in January of 1957 the Sanyati River which entered the Zambezi near the dam wall, rose almost six metres, overflowed the coffer dam, taking with it most of the equipment. Work would only continue after the water levels subsided in March.

A year later, in January 1958, another flood swept down the Zambezi Valley, taking with it the suspension bridge, the north tower and part of the wall. By the time the wall was completed in December that year, it had taken the lives of 86 people. A Catholic Church was built in honour of Santa Barbara, the patron saint of engineers on top of Kariba Heights Hill. There’s also a display depicting the dam’s history; a statue of Nyami Nyami can be seen at the Kariba Wall viewpoint.

For a great view over the dam wall, travel up to the Kariba viewpoint on top of the hill. Take your passport as you’ll be passing through a police checkpoint where you’ll be issued with a temporary visitor’s pass – you’re in no-man’s-land now! Further south, the Kariba Heights Viewpoint allows magnificent views over the Lake. There’s also a memorial commemorating Operation Noah.

In the late 1960s, Kapenta fish from Lake Tanganyika were released in Lake Kariba. Although not indigenous to the region, they’re the basis of today’s commercial fishing industry here. At night you’ll see the lights of the kapenta fishing boats spread across the lake. Kapenta are a food source for people and other fish - tiger fish thrive on them. Lake Kariba is a popular venue for fishing, tiger as well as other species like bream!

Address :  Kariba Publicity Association, Zambia
Contact :  Kariba Publicity Association
Tel :  +263(0)61 2277
Tel2 :  +263(0)61 2498
Cell :  +263(0)77 232 9751
Cellphone Reception :  Good Main Cellular Network :  Telecel. Netone & Econet

Destination Information
Police Hospital Doctor Tourist Information Office Petrol Diesel Gas Refill Laundromat Shops Shopping Centre Bank ATM Foreign Exchange Internet Cafe Lodging Camping Butchery Bakery Liquor Restaurant Pharmacy Airport Tyre Repair Tyre Sales Mechanical Repair Towing Service
Facilities :  Tour Services
Police Telephone :  +263(0)61 214 6457
Hospital Telephone :  +263(0)61 214 2263
Doctor Telephone :  +263(0)61 214 6003
Tourist Information Telephone :  +263(0)61 214 6276
Towing Service Telephone :  +263(0)61 214 6525 (AMC Garage)
Petrol Type :  ULP/LRP
Diesel Type :  Diesel 93/E10

Other Facilities :  Carwash. Travel Agency. Hydro Electrical Plant/Watermill. Industrial Offices.

Game Viewing Game Drives Quad Bikes Tours and Excursions Hiking Trails Guided Walks Fishing Swimming Canoeing Boat Trips Bird Watching Stargazing
Night Drives, Picnics, Water Skiing, Sailing
More Activities :  Tour of the Kariba dam walls. Visit the crocodile park.
Notes on Activities :  (Some activities are offered nearby).

Travelling Information

Self Drive Access :  Yes
Vehicle Type :  ALL

Tow-in services: Try +260(0)97 473 7848 / +260(0)96 676 1647 (Based in Lusaka).

For pharmaceutical services there is a Southbank pharmacy and Good shepherd pharmacy in the town.

If you want to travel from Kariba around the lake to Mlibizi in the southwest, you’ll be using a road which becomes very, very challenging in the rainy season. To save time, you might consider taking the Kariba Ferry, this voyage takes approximately 22 hours. You might even see some game along the way and you’ll definitely enjoy a magnificent sunset over the lake. But check the schedule and make a provisional booking online (; and remember, departures aren’t guaranteed! This alternative isn’t cheap but then it does include three meals and coffee breaks!

On the lake there are many water-related activities. Fishing and boating, or spend a few nights on a houseboat and take in some game viewing along the shores of Matusadona National Park.

A small touristy town, Kariba has a fuel station, some small (but mostly well-stocked) supermarkets, an ATM and plenty of lodges and campsites to choose from.

Dunlop Tyres - Chilanga Tyres along Kafue Road.

 Travel Tip!

If you’re travelling between Kariba and the area south and west of the lake, the gravel road between Karoi and the Sanyati river is badly washed away. Allow extra time for travelling this road, or else take the road through the Charara Safari Area towards Gache Gache Lodge, and then follow the escarpment road south towards Sanyati Lodge. Here you will join the gravel road and can turn westwards towards Matusadona and Chizarira or onwards towards Binga or Hwange.

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