Houseboating on Lake Kariba: water, wildlife and tranquility

by Fran
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Lake Kariba is a beautiful place where water, wildlife, and tranquility prevails.
Lake Kariba is a beautiful place where water, wildlife, and tranquility prevails.
  • Lake Kariba offers carefree days on this almost inland sea, where time stands still watching sunrises, sunsets and wildlife in-between.
  • There is a huge selection of houseboats and houseboats operators available, including guides and even chefs.
  • Houseboat rates vary between $300 and $700 per day, and can accommodate groups of up to 20 people.
  • Lake Kariba is popular among anglers, photographers, wildlife enthusiasts and those just looking for a peaceful few days.
  • Lake Kariba is not overcrowded with tourists or holiday makers, offering you a perfect quiet spot, the African way!

If you have been on several safari’s, wildlife watching or trekking expeditions, wilderness experiences and other adventure packed African tours and holidays, there is still Lake Kariba.  Covering 5,580 square kilometers (2,150 square miles), Lake Kariba is an impressive piece of man’s design and labor.  Completed in 1958, Lake Kariba was at that time the largest man-made lake.  But do not let the artificial label fool you.  Lake Kariba is fed by the powerful Zambezi River and you will have to look very far to find anything reminding more of nature and its unspoilt beauty and tranquility.  Falling within both Zimbabwean and Zambian borders, Lake Kariba is especially favored for its leisure holidays aboard the famous Lake Kariba houseboats.

House boating on the enormous Lake Kariba is among the best ways to truly unwind in Africa.  Moving extremely close to wildlife including hippos, elephant, zebras, buffalo and many more African giants including the Nile crocodile, house boating is a safe way to get close to the African wildlife.  And with the wildlife accustomed to Lake Kariba’s lingering houseboats, getting real close to wildlife and watching without interruption from the luxury of your cruiser is a real treat.  

For angling enthusiasts, Lake Kariba is an absolute highlight.  The Lake is home to an impressive collection of fish stock, including the extremely fierce Tiger Fish, Nile Bream, Chessa, Nkupe, Kariba Tilapia, and the Catfish.  It is especially the Tiger Fish that attract anglers from afar, being a true game fish that can be hard to find and conquer!  Many of the houseboat operators have a chef on board, thus your catch can be served as a gourmet dinner at the hands of an experienced chef.

Most operators offer two or even three small tender boats as part of the houseboat package.  This allows the houseboat family or group to head to different corners of the lake during the day. Some might want to go fishing while others are more interesting in watching hippos and crocodiles.  The smaller tender boats are convenient, equipped for fishing and easily transports you to your preferred spot on the lake.   

Given the extent of Lake Kariba it is not surprising to find that each section and corner of the lake has something else to offer.  For decades, the Zimbabwean side of Lake Kariba was a more popular holiday destination, particularly among locals, compared to the quieter Zambian side.  But with tourism slowing down in Zimbabwe, the majority of the lake remains undisturbed.  And it is exactly this quietness and solitude that attracts.  On the Zimbabwean side of Lake Kariba, there are plenty of small islands along the shores, a favorite swimming spot for elephants.  Consider yourself quite lucky if you do happen to watch elephants swimming between the shore and small islands.  Photographers in particular appreciate the flow between sky, water and land – for the majority of the lake, boundaries can easily be mistaken especially during early mornings and late afternoons.  But the southern side of Lake Kariba is found against majestic mountains, offering an entirely different landscape.

Rental houseboats usually have comfortable cabins, a fully equipped kitchen, an air-conditioned area and the all favorite deck.  Time is mostly spent on the deck, and some houseboats even have a small pool on the deck for cooling down as swimming in Lake Kariba is not recommended.  Most houseboat operators offer staff (guides, chef) for your houseboat holiday, offering you Lake Kariba in luxury and style.  Houseboats are available to suit every possible need and some offer comfortable accommodation for up to twenty people.

Whether your houseboat party is a small family or cheerful crowd, Lake Kariba will be sure to impress!  Spending a couple of leisurely days on Lake Kariba and watching glorious sunsets with just the sound of water and wildlife is a truly special African experience.

Sources and credits

Photo credits: some rights reserved by Amodiovalerio Verde

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