The Matusadona National Park is one of the Zambezi valley’s wildlife and wilderness treasures. Remote, rugged and accessible only by air charter, 4 x 4 or boat, this wonderful park encompasses Lake Kariba’s most beautiful assets.
Southern shorelines, creeks and bays, a vast flat bush-covered plateau cut by numerous river lines and the wild, wide, 600m-high Matusadona mountain range.
The Park lies about 20km across the lake from the town of Kariba, and is bounded by two spectacularly beautiful rivers, in the west, the Ume, which meets the lake in a wide estuary and in the east, the Sanyati with its magnificent, steep sided, rocky gorge.
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.
With the lake came ecological changes. One in particular, the lake-shore contributed greatly to the increase of large mammal populations in the area, especially elephant and buffalo.
The grass found on the shoreline is Panicum repens and is a rejuvenative grass – needing only fluctuating lake levels to replenish its nutrients. With this ready food source, buffalo, water-buck, zebra, and even impala have thrived and with them the predators.
Many of the wild animals rescued from the rising waters of the newly-formed Lake Kariba by conservationist Rupert Fothergill during the much-publicised Operation Noah in 1958 were released into the Matusadona National Park.
Today, it is an Intensive Protection Zone for the endangered black rhinoceros and one of the few places in Southern Africa where visitors may be lucky enough to see this magnificent animal in the wild.
This park is a treat for visitors wanting to see Africa’s other big mammals including elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah, zebra and various antelope species.
The population of woodland birds, raptors and waterfowl to be found in the Matusadona National Park is staggering: there are more than 240 species. Take binoculars, camera and field guides as essential equipment and be prepared for an ornithological and wildlife extravaganza!
Flora and Fauna
Matusadonha has three distinct ecological areas. First is the lake and shoreline grassland; second, the Zambezi Valley floor, a mass of thick jesse and mopane woodland, and; third, the Escarpment area of Julbernadia and Brachystegia woodlands.
The Jesse/ Mopani area is sparsely grassed, but provides habitat for browsers, most notably the black rhino. Elephants range throughout the Park, seeking the shade of the Jesse in the heat of the day.
The Escarpment rises some 700 metres above the Valley floor and is extremely rugged. Over the years, elephant and fire depredations have caused the once substantial woodlands to dwindle, and in parts, grasslands have taken over.
It became necessary to take control measures to reduce the elephant population to a manageable size. It also became necessary to carry out early burning programmes in the upper escarpment, to prevent later, hot fires from raging through and causing serious damage to tree growth. The effectiveness of the programmes can now be seen by the tremendous regrowth apparent in the Escarpment area.
Animal species that are found in abundance include elephant and buffalo. Other common species are those of: night ape, honey badger, civet, small spotted genet, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, spotted hyena, wild cat, lion, leopard, yellow spotted dassie, black rhinoceros, zebra, warthog, common duiker, grysbok, klipspringer, waterbuck, bushbuck, scrub hare, porcupine, vervet monkey, chacma baboon, side-striped jackal, hippopotamus, roan antelope, kudu and bush squirrel.
Some of the more elusive species include: clawless otter, white-tailed mongoose, reedbuck, sable antelope, eland, civet, rusty spotted genet, caracal and bush pig. Animals that are present but only sighted on rare occasions include wild dog, cheetah, roan and pangolin.
A major attraction of the lake shores of the Matusadona is the fishing. The magnificent tiger fish, endemic to the Zambezi River, is a thrilling sport fish for avid anglers, and the focus of an International Tiger fishing Tournament held on Lake Kariba in October each year.
Various other species including several types of bream make good eating and can be found in abundance among the drowned forests and shallow weed beds all along the shoreline of the National Park.
Attractions & Activities
- Unbridled adventure in the extreme wild
- Hiking and escarpment climbing
- Game viewing along the lake shoreline from the safety of houseboats
- Fishing in the rivers and inlets
- Bird watching in the breath-taking Sanyati Gorge
- Game drives
- Boating and canoeing safaris
Where to stay
The Park has a camping site at Tashinga on the lake shore. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water, showers, toilets, wash basins and baths. Firewood and braai facilities are available. Some of the camping sites have sleeping shelters.
There is a smaller camping site at Sanyati consisting of 6 sites, each with a braai stand. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water and laundry trough.
Changachirere Camping Site is an exclusive camping site that caters for one party of a maximum of 10 persons. The facility has a mini-ablution block and shelter.
Undeveloped Bush Camps
There are also 2 totally undeveloped bush camping sites at Jenje and Kanjedza for up to a maximum of 10 persons per camp. Visitors must be fully equipped and have a four wheel drive vehicle for this section.
Reminiscent of a Mediterranean resort with facilities and entertainment for the whole family. Caribbea Bay Resort, situated right on the short overlooking the vast Lake Kariba, offers guests a sun-filled holiday in relaxed comfort. Linger over sun downers at the pool deck and enjoy an informal dinner in the restaurant.
Just because Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in the middle of Southern Africa doesn’t mean it lacks a coastline. Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake on the African continent after Egypt’s Aswan Dam and Cahora Bassa in Mozambique.
Bordered by Zimbabwe and Zambia, and fed by the mighty Zambezi River, Lake Kariba not only generates impressive amounts of electricity, but Kariba town, near the massive dam wall, has become a tourist resort in its own right.
A short drive from the town, on the shore of the lake, is a sight more in keeping with the blue waters of the Mediterranean than the heart of Southern Africa.
African Sun’s Caribbea Bay Resort, with its unashamedly Sardinian-style architecture and feel, great climate all year round and a host of water sports on hand, is a favourite playground for Zimbabweans, as well as visitors to the country.
Caribbea Bay Resort is an ideal base from which to explore this unique part of Zimbabwe or just enjoy a sun-filled holiday in relaxed comfort.
Sun downers on the pool deck, followed by an informal dinner in the Terrace Restaurant, then playing the tables at the intimate casino into the small hours, is only one of the leisure and lifestyle experiences awaiting guests.
Bumi Hills Safari lodge boasts one of Africa’s finest wilderness locations with an elevated position on a remote range of hills in Zimbabwe, overlooking the vastness of Lake Kariba.
Bumi is easily accessed by light aircraft and boat, allowing you to be swiftly transported into paradise without the stress of a long journey. You are welcomed into luxurious comfort by a team of friendly and committed staff.
Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is situated on top of a hill approximately 55km south west of Kariba town. With the Zambezi escarpment as its backdrop, the well-known Bumi Hills Safari Lodge overlooks the foreshore below and the vastness of Lake Kariba.
The Lodge offers a variety of activities which include game viewing in open safari vehicles, on foot accompanied by a professional guide and by boat.
The sunset cruise provides guests with wonderful photographic opportunities especially of the famous Kariba sunsets. Bird watching, hide sits and casual fishing are also available.
Jecha Point Fishing Lodge is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River below Chirundu on the Zimbabwean side. They offer the discerning traveler a chance to experience the beauty of the middle Zambezi valley river system and it’s surrounds from the comfort of a quiet, wild and exclusive lodge.
From candlelit dinners to afternoon sun downers on sandbanks, we offer you the full ‘unwind and relax’ package. Come and experience an affordable, comfortable and accessible getaway for the whole family.
The lodge can comfortably accommodate up to 12 guests. Fully catered and semi-self-catered options are available. There are 4 chalets sleeping 2 guests each and a family chalet which sleeps 4 adults.
The Zambezi Trader is a luxury passenger ship situated on one of Africa’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Kariba on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Its waters provide enthusiasts with phenomenal fishing with its southern shore offering stunning savannah wilderness teaming with magnificent game, from frisky impala to the indomitable elephant. The ship is ideal for wedding celebrations & conferences or just gathering of friends & family.
The Zambezi Trader house boat is 160ft long and can accommodate 50 passengers in 2 four berth family cabins, 16 1st class twin cabins with en-suite bathrooms and 5 luxury spacious cabins situated on the top deck.
The core concept behind the design of the boat was to allow as much fresh air and natural light in as possible. As a result guests can relax and enjoy the comfort of the spacious public areas whilst experiencing the lake to its full potential.
The Zambezi Trader is perfect for Conferences & Events, Day Cruises, Group Holidays, Joint Ventures, Transfers and Weddings & Celebrations.
The Zambezi Trader composes of twin steel catamaran hulls 3 decks on top. The ship is powered by two 200hp Diesel marine Cummins engines. A-deck has 16 en suite twin cabins, 3 public bathrooms, the galley, a large cold room and the two generator rooms.
From front to back B-deck comprises of a pool/sun deck, an expansive lounge/bar/dance floor area, two x 4 sleeper family bunk cabins, a double en suite cabin, a conference room, the scullery and a dining saloon with two exquisite protruding 12 seated verandas.
C-deck is where our 5 luxury double en suite cabins all with their own private balconies are located and a large open air sun downer deck with a bar. The wheelhouse is situated on D-deck.