TRAVEL ADVICE FOR SELF-DRIVERS: Tackling the remote "Back Route": Victoria Falls/Hwange to Kariba/Mana Pools

Wild Zambezi • 2 May 2017

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NOTE: This article has been updated (latest version July 2021)

Wild Zambezi has many requests from self-drive visitors to Zimbabwe about the road network linking Victoria Falls & Hwange with Kariba Town or Mana Pools, along the southern edge of Lake Kariba.   

We always warn that this route is for adventurous, self-sufficient travellers ONLY.
Here are some tips:-

ROAD CONDITIONS: This is a long, slow and very remote journey - mostly along unpaved roads which can be in poor condition especially after the rainy season.  Potholes and river crossings can prove challenging.

4x4 ONLY is advisable even in the dry months.  Travellers should be totally self-sufficient (with food, water and vehicle spares) in case of breakdowns.  It is advisable to travel in convoy with at least one other vehicle, because of the remote nature of this journey.

FUEL is only  available in the main centres (Vic Falls, Hwange, Mlibizi, Binga, Karoi, Kariba, Chirundu). Selected filling stations take payments in US$ cash for fuel.  Seek local advice on availability. 

DISTANCE:  Victoria  Falls - Kariba is roughly 770kms (480 miles); Vic Falls - Mana Pools, is about 800 kms (500 miles). 

TIME is the real problem.  It is not advisable (or safe) to attempt to do this trip in one day.  Break  the journey with an overnight stop in Binga (lodges, chalets and/or camping available),or Chizarira (remote camping only) before tackling the long journey south of Lake Kariba to Karoi, where you join the main highway north to Chirundu, with turn-offs to Kariba and/or Mana Pools.  In the dry season, you can make Kariba in one very long day from Binga/Chizarira.  However, you will not make it to Mana Pools because of National Park cut-off times for entry into the Park.  You will need to spend a second night en route either at Makuti Travel Lodge (chalets), Marongora (camping only) or at Chirundu (various options). 

MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK:  We are delighted to report that, thanks to the work of African Parks who have partnered with ZimParks to manage the Matusadona National Park, the access road into the Park from this "back" road, has been improved considerably and is once again accessible for self-sufficient, adventurous travellers with sturdy 4x4 vehicles.  Allow half a day to traverse the Park to the lakeshore at Tashinga HQ in the dry season.  During the rains this road becomes impassable due to the river crossings.  

Wild Zambezi has been fortunate enough to experience the long self-drive route along the southern shore of Lake Kariba several times.  We can certainly vouch for it as a true adventure for those who are independent and very well prepared. 

However,  for a more convenient way of getting you and your vehicle between Victoria Falls and Kariba or Mana Pools (or vice versa), there are two possible options:-

a) Kariba car and passenger ferry.

Kariba Ferries offer a fully-catered overnight journey of 22 hours along the length of Lake Kariba, from Mlibizi  to Kariba (or the other way).  

b) Transcruiser coming in 2021: 
Lake Kariba cruise operators, Zambezi Cruise & Safaris will be launching the MV Zambezi Adventurer - a new 28-cabin "transcruiser" with space to carry 4x4 overland or saloon vehicles on the lower deck.  Passengers will be able to travel with their vehicles, undertaking a 2-3night cruise linking one end of Lake Kariba with the other, (Binga-Kariba or vice versa). 


See also these related articles in Wild Zambezi's Travel Advice section:-

Self-Driving - Routes through the Zambezi Valley 

Self-Driving - Tips and Practical Advice

Comments (2)

FYI, if travelling the Vic Falls - Deka or Hwange -Deka route through to Crossroads Dete - Mlibizi/Binga road there is also great accommodation on the Zambezi at Msuna.

Jeff Deetlefs3 July 2018
Thanks for this, Jeff! Yes, check out Msuna on Wild Zambezi here:

Great advice. There is also the Vic Falls to Deka road that follows/is close to the Zambezi meeting the Hwange road where a left turn will take you past the Olive Beadle/Msuna turnoff and on to the Dete Crossroads to Binga road close to Mlibizi.

Peter Ward26 March 2018
Thanks Peter :-)

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