When Lake Kariba was contructed in 1959 it was the largest man-made lake in the world and still remains the largest by volume. For first time visitors, the magnitude of this aqua marine lake is comparable to the size of an ocean. Nowhere else in Africa can one cruise these vast distances upon such a remote and untouched wilderness. A photographer’s paradise, wide sweeping landscapes and stunning sunsets with the backdrop of the Zambezi Escarpment are renowned as some of the best in the world.
The name Kariba comes from the local word Kariva or karinga, meaning “trap”, which refers to a rock that was thrust out of the swirling water at the entrance of the gorge, where the dam wall was to be built.
The double curvature concrete arch dam was designed by Coyne et Bellier and constructed between 1955 and 1959. The filling of Lake Kariba between 1958 and 1963 caused more than 20 earthquakes of greater than 5 magnitude on the Richter Scale.
Operation Noah, a 5‐year wildlife rescue operation, successfully relocated over 6,000 animals, mostly to the Matusadona National Park, whilst Lake Kariba was filling up after the completion of the dam wall.
The dam stands 128 metres (420 ft) tall and 579 metres (1,900 ft) long. The dam forms Lake Kariba, which extends for 280 kilometres (170 mi) and holds 185 cubic kilometres (150,000,000 acre⋅ft) of water.
Lake Kariba is home to a wide variety of fish species including the famous Tiger fish, Tilapia Bream, Catfish and the mighty Vundu. Birding and game-viewing are also popular activities on Lake Kariba. The most rewarding area for safari trips is Matusadona National Park, Charara Safari Area and Chete Safari Area.
Best time to travel
Lake Kariba is generally hot all year round. The hottest weather is during the southern hemisphere summer (October to April), with peak humidity occurring with the start of the rainy season in October. The rains usually last until April, which normally consist of short intense afternoon thunderstorms interspersed with periods of sunshine.
The best time to travel to Lake Kariba is between May and July, when the weather is dry, calm and slightly cooler. Tiger fishing is good throughout the year on Lake Kariba, although the best season is usually considered to be early summer (September to December). The rainy season is best for birding, and the dry season (May to September) is best for land-based game viewing. There isn’t a bad time to visit Kariba – there are just times that are better for some activities than others.