Kariba Town - what's on offer?

Wild Zambezi • 20 July 2020

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Most people who visit the little lakeside town of Kariba  - sprawled across a line of steep hills flanking the “Kariwa” gorge from where it gets its name - are stopping only briefly to board a boat and set off onto the vast inland sea of Lake Kariba for a few days of fishing or fun relaxation. 

The lake has long been popular with local and regional holidaymakers who hire a fully staffed, self-catering houseboat for a few days and set off from one of the town's four main harbours. Increasingly, international visitors, too, can enjoy a luxury cruise or set off across the lake on a speedboat transfer to a safari lodge in the vicinity of the Matusadona National Park.  

The people who stay longer in Kariba Town itself are usually attending a conference or a wedding at a resort venue, or taking time out to enjoy a tranquil weekend of fishing, game-viewing, birding, or simply relaxing in the little wildlife town which has an attractive, laid-back, tropical, Mediterranean-type atmosphere.  

At the time of writing (mid July 2020), as travel around Zimbabwe begins to open up cautiously from a strict COVID-19 Lockdown, tourism resorts, hotels, lodges, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation facilities in Kariba Town are open for local business.  However, although small fishing and transfer boats are permitted to travel again on Lake Kariba, large cruising or houseboat vessels are still restricted. 

So... if you and your family are desperate to get away for a break to the warm winter sunshine of Kariba, but can't go out on a houseboat - what's on offer?

KARIBA TOWN: WHERE TO STAY?
Kariba offers holidaymakers a variety of choices to suit different pockets, including a large hotel/resort, several lodges, various holiday homes, cottages, self-catering facilities and campsites dotted among the hills, bays and shorelines of the town from where the views of the lake are stunning.

Caribbea Bay Resort – is Kariba’s largest hotel and a popular venue for conferences and large weddings. Situated on the shores of the lake, with lovely views, the resort is designed Sardinian-style with 83 bedrooms and can cater for up to 150 conference delegates or wedding guests.  Facilities are child-friendly, with baby-sitting facilities, a childrens' playground and pool and the nearby Supa-Tube adventure water slide.  

Kariba Safari Lodge -  is set into 33 acres of woodland hillside above Kariba Town, with nine luxury Lodges and eight Suites distributed on various levels down the steep slope to the lake shore and beach area. The main open-plan lounge, restaurant, outdoor patio and bar area is built on an elevated deck with awe-inspiring panoramic views of Lake Kariba.  There is a swimming pool and casual bar with a communal boma area, free Wi-Fi and a separate conference and wedding venue. 

Crowned Eagle Boutique Hotel - is a 13-room colonial-style facility situated on the hilltop of Mica Point.  It shares amenities with the nearby Kariba Safari Lodge.  Its open-plan lounge/dining/bar/pool area is set in tropical gardens with stunning views over Lake Kariba.  It will be opening soon in 2020.

Hornbill Lodge – is an intimate, personalised, owner-managed lodge set atop a hill in Kariba town with stunning views over the lake.  Catering on a full-board basis for up to 12 guests in A-frame thatched chalet en-suite bedrooms, with a central living area/dining room/bar/TV lounge and splash pool set in lush tropical gardens, this place is a little treasure for small groups.   

Kariba Self-catering options – there are a number of private cottages, chalets and houses in Kariba town and in nearby Charara (Wild Heritage/Nzou/Cerruti Lodges) which are available for short-term holiday lets, usually on a self-catering basis.  Many of them have staff available to assist with cooking and household chores. For more information and bookings, contact the following agents who are specialists for Kariba self-catering options:-

Baobab Bookings
Heartveld Adventures
Wild Dog Tours

The two self-catering options below also have camping facilities:-

Lomagundi Lakeside Association chalets & camping - 2-bedroom self-catering chalets, camping, swimming pool and The Dome Restaurant, set in shady, lawned gardens on the shores of Lake Kariba.

ZimParks Nyanyana Lodge & camping - 6-bed self-catering lodge and campsite set within the lakeside Recreational Park a few kilometres outside Kariba Town.


KARIBA TOWN - WHAT TO DO? 
1. Kariba Dam Wall: A must-do activity for everyone visiting Kariba is to see the Kariba Dam Wall. Guided tours are available from some of the larger accommodation facilities in Kariba.  However, if you are an independent traveller, you can view the wall from the Kariba Dam Wall Observation Point  or, if you have more time, obtain a Visitor Pass from the Zimbabwe Customs and Immigration post (you will need to leave your ID or Passport with them).  This allows you to drive your vehicle down to a designated parking spot and access the dam wall itself on foot.

This is well worth the effort, as it gives you a real idea of the enormous scale of this extraordinary engineering feat completed in the late 1950s, and you get to see the awesome view downstream into the Kariba Gorge - where construction work for the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project is currently ongoing. 

2.  Kariba Heights: Take a drive (or a long hard walk) up to the top of the highest hill above the town of Kariba, where there is an awesome view out over the 35km-wide expanse of Lake Kariba with (on a clear day), the mountains of the Matusadona National Park visible on other side.  Visit the craft market and the monument in memory of "Operation Noah" when Rupert Fothergill and his teams of rangers rescued hundreds of wild animals from the rising waters as Lake Kariba filled for the first time in the 1960s upstream of the newly completed dam wall.   

3. Chapel of Santa Barbarathis beautiful little circular Catholic church, constructed by the Italian engineers who built Kariba dam, is dedicated to the memory of employees who lost their lives while working on the wall. Situated near Kariba Heights, it has beautiful stained glass windows and a bell tower and is well worth a visit.  Ask for the friendly caretaker who will let you in if the gate is locked.

3.  Craft markets: 

The people of Kariba have wonderful hand-made crafts for sale at various places in the town.  You can find them at Kariba Heights, at the Dam Wall Observation Point and at the AMC Garage turn-off to Marineland Harbour.    

4. Boating, fishing, sailing & sunset cruises: 

There are a variety of lake-based activities that are accessible from Kariba Town, including boat cruises, sunset cruises and guided fishing trips to catch Tigerfish or Bream.  Some Zimbabwean visitors have their own boats, but fishing or pleasure boats with an experienced skipper are also available for hire at Marineland Harbour.  There are also sailing boats for hire.  Book through your accommodation facility or any of the self-catering Kariba specialist agents mentioned above.

4.  Game-viewing:  Kariba is well-known for being located within a wildife-rich area.  Elephants, zebra, baboons and other animals are often to be seen wandering through the town.  Self-drivers can enjoy wildlife viewing along the  lakeshore in the Kariba Recreational Park (entry via Nyanyana Gate), and guided game drives, game walks, canoeing and day trips can be booked through your accommodation facility or any of the self-catering Kariba specialist agents mentioned above.

5.  Cultural/village tours:  these can be arranged through your accommodation facility or agent.  

6.  Fun for the kids:  The best fun for kids in Kariba Town is to be had at the "Supa Tube" Water Slide and Pool just next to Caribbea Bay Resort.  This will keep them happy for hours, in a safe environment, although it is advisable for parents to be present.   Children also love fishing, especially when the fish are easy to catch.  For a small fee, they can catch delicious edible bream from the Kariba Bream Farm near Chawara Harbour  which allows fishing straight out of their fish ponds, and can also hire you rods, fishing tackle and bait.   

 

Wherever you stay, or whatever you do, a few days away in Kariba Town will be a VERY welcome break for the whole family  We can highly recommend it!

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