National Park on the southern shores of Lake Kariba, offering wildlife and water-based activities. Fabulous birdlife and great tigerfishing. This is a favourite destination for houseboat holidays.

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 southern shorelines, creeks and bays, a vast flat bush-covered plateau cut by numerous riverlines and the wild, wide, 600m-high Matusadona mountain range which divides the Zambezi valley from the upland farmlands behind. 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.

Many of the wild animals rescued from the rising waters of the newly-formed Lake Kariba by conservationist Rupert Fothergill and his teams 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!

A major attraction of the lake shores of the Matusadona is the fishing. The magnificent tigerfish, endemic to the Zambezi River, is a thrilling sport fish for avid anglers, and the focus of an International Tigerfishing 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 weedbeds all along the shoreline of the National Park.

Visitors to the Matusadona can expect a truly wild safari experience. Once you have left Kariba, facilities are limited. There are no shops, electricity supply is usually by generator, and although cellphone networks are available, the signal can be erratic. Accommodation choices, in addition to chartered houseboats, vary from private luxury safari lodges and tented bush camps to basic self-catering accommodation and camping. If you are walking in the wild, it is advisable to ensure that you are accompanied by a qualified and experienced professional guide or National Parks ranger who can ensure your safety and enhance your enjoyment of this magnificent wilderness. Note that, for safety reasons, passengers on houseboats are not allowed off the boats unless an armed guide is employed to accompany them.

Swimming anywhere in the lake, although tempting, is extremely foolish because of the presence of crocodiles. Most safari lodges have swimming pools, as do the larger houseboats. Some of the latter have safe swimming cages in which the intrepid are lowered into the water over the side of the boat! In all other cases, the best option for cooling down is to use a bucket shower!

If you want to get away from it all and enjoy a wilderness experience which combines the harsh beauty of the African bush with the wide horizons of a vast inland lake, the Matusadona National Park is for you.

Linked stories:

Latest ZimParks Fees  (Travel Advice)

The legend of Rupert Fothergill  (Oct 2017)

Where dinosaurs roamed:  the Matusadona reveals its fossil treasures  (April 2017)

UNESCO declares Zambezi Valley a Biosphere Reserve - June 2010

Cheetah where there were none before - Jan 2010


Travel listings for this area

Premier Travel and Tours/Premier Holidays and Destination Management

Top Harare-based travel agent providing a "one-stop-shop" travel & holiday service throughout Zimbabwe

Changa Safari Camp

Lake Kariba shoreline luxury tented camp within the Matusadona National Park

ZimParks - Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority

Self-catering lodges/chalets, tented camp, campsites & picnic sites within the Zambezi Valley's major National Parks and Protected Areas.

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge (African Bush Camps)

Iconic hilltop lodge overlooking Lake Kariba west of the Matusadona National Park.

Rhino Safari Camp

An authentic, luxury-rustic bushcamp on the shores of Lake Kariba in the Matusadona National Park. No fences, just pure nature.


Zimbabwe-based DMC-Travel Planner specialising in high-end, luxury travel experiences throughout Southern Africa

John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa

Bespoke safaris in the Zambezi Valley and elsewhere in Africa, led by an experienced professional guide of international repute.

Safari Logistics

Victoria-Falls-based company handling trip logistics, including seat-rate & private air charter, road transfers, meet & greet & activities.

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