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

Wild Zambezi • 2 May 2017

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)

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:   It is currently not possible (or advisable) to attempt to self-drive the back road into the Matusadona National Park on the southern shore of Lake Kariba (even in a 4x4).  This route had been severely damaged in the 2017 rains and is best avoided.  It should certainly NOT be undertaken by vehicles travelling alone. A better way to reach this wonderful destination is to drive to Kariba and take a boat or air transfer across the lake to one of the safari camps in the Park.

OUR ADVICE:  TAKE THE KARIBA CAR & PASSENGER FERRY
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 much more convenient way of getting you and your vehicle between Victoria Falls and Kariba or Mana Pools (or vice versa), we would not hesitate in recommending the large 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).  We can assure you that this option is stress-free and considerably reduces wear-and-tear on your vehicle!

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

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