Kariba Houseboat Safaris

Lake Kariba Facts

Lake Kariba Facts - The Largest Man Made Lake

Lake Kariba Facts And Information

The Lake Kariba facts are very interesting and the statistics for this landmark are very impressive. 

  • Lake Kariba is a man-made expanse of water and the largest man-made lake in the world.
  • The name Kariba was derived from the Shona word ‘’Kariva’’ which means a little trap or bridge.
  • It is fed by the great Zambezi River which starts its 2700-kilometre journey in north-west Zambia and reaches the Indian Ocean through Mozambique.
  • The lake shelters an area of 5500 square kilometers, and it spreads for an additional 280km. With an extreme width of 40 kilometers, its shore is fragmented by numerous rivers.
  • It is situated halfway amid the source and mouth of the Zambezi River and is 200 kilometers downstream of Victoria Falls.
  • The Kariba Dam consists of a double-arch wall. It is 128meters in height, 617meters lengthy and 13meters wide at its top, and 24meters wide at the base.
  • The wall extends across the Kariba gorge creating a border crossing between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Kariba’s lake volume is 185 billion cubic metres.
  • Lake Kariba is found in Southern Africa, between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • It was created by damming the Zambezi River in the Kariba Gorge. Here the river contracts amid hills of hard rock 400 km below Victoria Falls. 
  • The leading designer was called Andre Coyne. He was a renowned French engineer and inventor. After the Kariba dam construction, he designed 70 dams in 14 countries worldwide.
  • Between 1958 and 1963 the sheer weight of water filling the Kariba dam instigated more than 20 earthquakes. These recorded over 5 magnitude on the Richter scale.
Lake Kariba at Sunset
Lake Kariba At Sunset

Operation Noah

  • Operation Noah was spearheaded by Rupert Fothergill.
  • Operation Noah was a 5-year liberation operation. It successfully relocated more than 6,000 wild animals. Most of the wild animals were relocated to Matusadona National Park. Others were moved to the Chete Safari areas. In 1963, Matusadona National Park was acknowledged as a game reserve.
  • There are several stories about the operation Noah which are hard to ignore, the story of the elephant and leopard.
  • The elephant’s story. During the period when the dam was filling, the elephants swam and followed their annual pilgrimage route. They remembered their migration route despite the circumstances.
  • Another story narrates the story of the leopard. He was trapped on an island as the dam began to be fill. Instead of starving to death, the leopard started hunting fish, displaying its impressive survival skills. Even after the leopard had been rescued and relocated it continued hunting fish.
  • Operation Noah, which rescued thousands of animals, found the leopard and relocated him to a nearby reserve, where, observers reported, he continued to fish – one of the many touching Lake Kariba facts.
Elephants at Kariba
Elephants On The Shore Of Lake Kariba

The Myth Surrounding The Construction Of Kariba Dam

  • One of the modern-day beliefs and local myth of Kariba Dam is the Nyami Nyami.
  • The BaTonga people believe the construction of the Kariba Dam greatly insulted Nyami Nyami. The construction separated him from his wife. The flooding and many deaths during the dam’s construction are credited to his rage.
  • After the Dam construction was complete the Tonga believe that Nyami Nyami left the world of men. It was he who created the minor earthquakes experienced in the area.
  • The BaTonga people believe the quakes are Nyami Nyami trying to see his wife. They believe when he can’t reach his wife, he turns around in anger and the whole earth shakes.

History Of The Construction Of Lake Kariba Dam Wall

  • Before construction started both Southern Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe), and Northern Rhodesia, (Zambia), were in disagreement.
  • The Kafue River Gorge in Northern Rhodesia was a favorable site as compared to the Kariba site. Hence the two governments were in disagreement. The matter was resolved in 1951. It was agreed that the dam should be erected on the Zambezi River, at the Kariba Gorge site.
  • In August 1955: The Rhodesia Nyasaland Federation invited tenders for the building of the dam.
  • In July 1956: The tender was bestowed to Italian firm Impresit which is presently known as Salini Impregilo
  • In September 1956: Construction of the Kariba dam began with the digging of the foundation.
  • In 1957: Rare flooding befell at Kariba, this calamity destroyed equipment and access to roads.
  • In 1958: Another bigger flood struck Kariba and it destroyed the cofferdam, access to the bridge, and the parts of the chief wall.
  • In December 1958; Zambezi River was dammed at Kariba.
  • In December 1959: The first generator at Kariba was commissioned.
  • On the 17th of May 1960: The Kariba Hydro-Electric Scheme was publicly opened.
  • By 1960, Harare, Bulawayo, and more towns in the south, as well as towns in Zambia were getting electricity provided from Lake Kariba.
  • During the construction period, there was a massive forced relocation operation by the Rhodesia Nyasaland federation. This moved 22,000 into Zimbabwe, and 35,000 people into Zambia. 6000 animals from the river valley were also moved. (Operation Noah )
  • During the first flooding, 11 Italian men were stuck in the concrete wall. However it was too costly to save them, and up to this day, their bodies remain there.
  • In the late 1960s, Kapenta was introduced into Lake Kariba from Lake Tanganyika. This led to one of the biggest commercial fishing industries in Kariba.
  • The introduction of Tilapia fish to the waters gives a 15,000-ton yield once a year.

Activity And General Facts

  • Islands found in Lake Kariba include several on the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides.
  • Islands on the Zimbabwean side include Sampa Karuma, Spurwing, Starvation Island, Bed Island, and Fothergill.
  • Zambian islands include Maaze Island, Mashape, Chete Island, Sekula, and Chikanka.
  • Towns around Lake Kariba on the Zimbabwean side are Binga, Victoria Falls, and Hwange. Zambian towns include Siavonga, Sinazongwe, and Siavonga.
  • Kariba weather is most favorable during the dry winter season. It is cooler and provides good game viewing.
  • It is one of the most famous destinations for anglers in Africa.
  • For anglers the warmer seasons are more favorable
  • The colourful birds such as the Narina trogon, the bee-eaters, kingfishers, weavers, Angola pitta, rollers, flycatchers, sunbirds and parrots abound while there are also many waterfowl and raptors.
  • The banks of the rivers that flow from the Zimbabwe Highlands, such as from the Chizerira National Park provide wonderful viewing of the wildlife. In particular, the Chete Safari Area, the Msumu and Sengwa River mouths, and the Matusadona National Park have prolific wildlife.
  • Just about anywhere alongside the shore of the lake, you can see wild animals. Popular sightings are hippopotamus, elephants, crocodiles, and sporadically a leopard.
  • Lake Kariba is the habitat of several fish species including the famous Tiger fish, Tilapia Bream, Vundu, and Nkupe. The Bottlenose, Barbel, and the Lake Tanganyika sardines are also popular sightings.
  • Kariba is a major source of hydroelectric power for both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
  • Safari areas around Lake Kariba include the Matusadona National Park and Chete Safari Area.
  • Visitors enjoy a wide range of activities at Lake Kariba. Houseboats, game viewing, and fishing offer exciting and memorable recreational activities.

Lake Kariba Facts Conclusion

Kariba dam is not only the largest manmade lake in the world but it is also an oasis for tourism for both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Its capacity is not only centered on tourism but extends to supplying hydroelectric power to both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Lake Kariba is a popular fishing destination for avid and novice fishermen. It continues to be a great source of wealth for the commercial fishing industry.

This destination offers an opportunity for the African eco-tourism enthusiast to take advantage of the beauty, abundant fishing and photography opportunities that this lake offers. Lake Kariba encompasses a quiet beauty and a laidback experience with a slow cruise past the riverbanks and wildlife.

There are few more magical places in Africa for bird viewing. 

So don’t forget to bring your binoculars and your camera. You cannot afford to miss out on the abundance of nature around you.

The wildlife can be viewed leisurely from the comfort of the open-air decks of the houseboat with a cool breeze and drinks to hand.

Kariba has continued to amaze locals and tourists with its beautiful scenery.

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