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Travel Guide To Kariba

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General Information About Kariba

The town of Kariba, built at the site of the hydro-electric dam across the Zambezi River, is a focus for tourism, and provides a starting point for access to the vast inland sea of Lake Kariba. The little town which developed haphazardly on the hills near the site of the massive hydro-electric dam constructed across the Zambezi River in the 1950s, became known as “Kariba”. The name 'Kariba' is thought to be a corruption of a local word 'Kariva' which means "little trap".  It is believed when those who wished to construct the dam wall wanted to explain the nature of the project to the locals, they emphasised that they wanted to build a little water trap-Kariva. However, the complex pronunciation of the 'v' in Kariva saw the Western constructors produce a sound much like a 'b' hence the creation of the word Kariba. Kariba is now a small and spread-out resort town which is the starting point for tourism activities centered on the lake of the same name. Access: Access is by air into the town's minor airport (from where transfers can be arranged) or by road via a scenic route through the Zambezi escarpment hills about 4-5 hours' drive from Harare. The distance by road from Lusaka (via either Chirundu or Siavonga) is less, but involves border formalities which can cause delays.  It can, however, allow visitors the chance to cross the Zambezi River over the Chirundu Bridge or the awesomely impressive Kariba dam wall.

Activities  in Kariba

Points of interest include the dam wall itself (there is an observation point on the hill above it); The Heights, on a hill 600 m above the lake, with another look-out point, a collection of small shops and craft stalls, the Kariba Club (bar/restaurant/swimming pool) and the extraordinarily beautiful little Chapel of Santa Barbara, built in memory of workers who died during construction of the dam.  Getting around without a car can be tricky because the town is so spread-out. But minibus tours can be arranged from Kariba's main hotels.  Game-viewing tours in the nearby Kaburi Wilderness Area can be arranged via the hotels or through a travel agent, as can boat trips, sunset cruises and canoeing.

Kariba Culture and History

Culture, Legend and Crafts If you are interested in buying local crafts, you can find attractive African prints, crocheted garments, items of local jewellery, and wood and stone carvings at the Dam Wall Observation Point, at the “look-out” point on top of the hill known as The Heights and at various points along the road into the town. A famous feature of Kariba craftwork is the intricately-carved wooden walking stick originally designed by an enterprising Kariba artist/entrepreneur in the 1970s.  The sticks, which can be found on sale at all the craft stalls are an interesting artistic blend of the ancient legend of Nyaminyami – River God (or Spirit) of the Zambezi  and the modern story of the Zambezi’s Tonga people who were displaced by the building of the dam. The sad reality is that when Kariba Dam was built, the huge body of water that flooded the land upstream of it displaced thousands of the Zambezi valley's original inhabitants, the Tonga, who were evacuated from their ancestral, riverside fishing grounds to a harsh new life in arid farmlands inland to the south of the new lake. In Tonga tradition,  Nyaminyami  (a mythical creature with the head of a serpent and the tail of a fish) was a benevolent Spirit, providing for his people in times of drought or flood by offering his flesh for them to eat.    However,  the building of the Kariba dam angered him and separated from his wife who became trapped downstream during its construction.   He vowed to wreak havoc and destroy the wall one day.  He had several attempts - two major floods during construction in the 1950s succeeded in breaching the coffer dam and setting back progress for many months.  However, the Tonga believe that in the end his wrath was overcome and the wall has held back the waters every since. The legend of Nyaminyami  inspires art, sculpture and craft work in the Kariba area and provides a livelihood for local people selling to the tourism industry.   A simple, but beautiful stone Nyaminyami sculpture, strategically positioned at the Kariba Dam Observation Platform has now become a well-known feature in all photographs of the dam taken from this point.

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Rhino Safari Camp Kariba Zimbabwe

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This simple, rustic camp is set in the Matusadona National Park on Rhino Island in the shores of Lake Kariba. The area is isolated and is a designated intensive protection zone making for a very authentic safari experience. The comfortable and welcoming living area and alternative dining areas provide guests with magnificent views of the lake and its inhabitants as they wonder along its shoreline.

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Hornbill Lodge Kariba Zimbabwe

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Hornbill is a boutique lodge offering luxury accommodation for up to 12 people in 5 individual rooms. Situated at the top of Mica Point the lodge has magnificent panoramic views of Lake Kariba. The lodge’s unique design comprises of open-fronted (no door) chalets with uninterrupted views over the lake. Lie back on your bed and watch the sunrise in total comfort! Owner managed the lodge offers the ultimate personal touch, making sure your stay is as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.

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Bumi Hills Safari Lodge Kariba Zimbabwe

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Built on top of a high hill with views that stretches out across the Zambezi escarpment in one direction and the vast expanse that is Lake Kariba to the other. Situated in the Matusadona National Park on the shores of Lake Kariba, The Bumi Hills Safari Lodge not only provides its guests with a more luxurious, less rugged safari experience than its neighbours but the views from the camp cannot be competed wi

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Travellers who seek wilderness and solitude will love Chizarira; there are few visitors, no tarred roads, no accommodation (other than basic campsites) but amazing views, good wildlife and incredible birdlife. Nearly 400 bird species have been recorded within the Chizarira National Park. The Big Five birds of the area include: the African Broadbill, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Emerald Cuckoo and the rare and elusive Angola Pitta. Chizarira is also home to the Taita Falcon which makes its nests within the Park.
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Matusadona National Park is situated on the shores of Lake Kariba but was proclaimed a non-hunting area on 7 November 1958 before the dam was built. It became a Game Reserve in 1963, and in 1975, in terms of the Parks & Wildlife Act, it became a National Park. The Park comprises some 1 400 square kilometers of diverse flora and fauna. Before the lake was built, Matusadonha was a vast, rugged wilderness with limited access.
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