Lake Kariba and Matusadona: Safari Lodges and camps in the Eastern Basin

Wild Zambezi • 31 August 2015

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In this series of blogs we feature Wild Zambezi’s network partners offering travel opportunities along the Zambezi River within Zimbabwe. Check out our location maps, images and the links provided below to these beautiful places – all reliant on the wonderful wilderness surrounds of this magnificent river. 

LAKE KARIBA and MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK are featured in this Blog.

Most people visiting Lake Kariba  embark from Kariba Town  to spend a few days in the Lake's Eastern Basin.  They either take a leisurely cruise on a houseboat, or stay at one of the safari lodges or fishing camps along the lakeshore, on an island or in the Matusadona National Park .   

This is the part of the lake most familiar to tourism from the sunset images of silhouetted “drowned forests” against a backdrop of blue mountains, with elephants grazing peacefully at the water's edge.   

The Matusadona National Park lies on Lake Kariba's southern shore, bounded by the Ume River in the west and the Sanyati River in the east.  The Park started its life as a Game Reserve for many of the wild animals rescued from the rising waters as Lake Kariba filled after completion of the dam wall in the late 1950s.  

There are five excellent safari establishments in its vicinity as well as basic self-catering accommodation at the Park headquarters at Tashinga.  Here they are, listed from west to east on the map:-

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge – is stunningly located on top of a hill with magnificent views over Lake Kariba to the north and west of the Matusadona National Park and the wide estuary of the Ume River.  This iconic 20-bed Kariba lodge offers high standards of luxury, including an al fresco dining deck and infinity pool with a view to-die-for and a lake-facing spa, and is a popular venue for weddings and small conferences.  Access is by air charter to the Bumi Hills airstrip or by boat transfer from Kariba town.  Activities include game viewing by vehicle and boat, fishing, sunset cruising and cultural encounters. (EDITOR'S NOTE:  APRIL 2017 THIS LODGE IS CURRENTLY UNDER RE-FURBISHMENT)

Musango Island Safari Camp – as its name implies, is situated on its own island at the edge of the Ume River estuary   This intimate, relaxed, family-run camp sleeps 16 in tent and stone-under-thatch chalets looking out over the lake.  Guiding at Musango is of the highest quality, under the leadership of Steve Edwards, an ex-Warden of the Matusadona National Park and a veteran professional guide of some 35 years.  On offer at Musango are walking safaris and ‘Big Five’ game drives, tiger fishing, village tours, sailing, specialist birding trips, and fascinating archaeological insights into dinosaur fossils and Stone Age tools found in the area.  Access is by air charter into Bumi Hills airstrip (with a short boat trip to the island) or by boat transfer from Kariba

ZimParks Lodges at Tashinga –There are two basic 9-bed brick-under-thatch rondavel-style “lodges” at Tashinga the headquarters of the Matusadona National Park, as well as a beautiful, shady and spacious lakeside campsite.  The lodges overlook the Ume River estuary and consist of two sleeping rondavels housing a bathroom and two bedrooms on either side of a central kitchen/living rondavel with a spacious verandah.  The lodges are unfenced, so wildlife is all around and can approach at any time.  Access is possible by 4x4 through the Matusadona Park, but be warned, the roads are bad and should only be attempted by very intrepid adventurers.  Allow a minimum two-night stay to make the long and challenging journey in and out worthwhile.  Speedboat charters to Tashinga are available from Kariba town via Marineland.

Rhino Safari Camp – is a delightful, intimate, rustic bushcamp located in the Matusadona National Park and overlooking the lake.  It sleeps 14 people in 7 twin-bedded, thatched platforms which are raised above the ground on wooden stilts and are open-to-the air at the sides.  Each has its own en-suite bathroom, and hot water and lighting is provided via solar power.  A central thatched double-decked “boma” provides a spacious living/dining/bar area with a splash pool.  This camp has no fences, and prides itself on offering a very personalised and back to nature wilderness experience where close encounters with wildlife are always possible.  On offer in this Big Five area are game drives and excellent walks with a professional guide, fishing, birding, al fresco dining and star-gazing.  Access is by air charter to either of the two nearby airstrips or by speedboat transfer from Kariba town.

Spurwing Island – is a relaxed, family-friendly resort situated on an island-spit just off the mainland of the Matusadona National Park only a 20-minute speedboat ride across the lake from Kariba town.  The resort is able to accommodate up to 40 guests in a variety of under-thatch accommodation, which includes 11 tents, 6 cabins and 3 chalets all with en suite bathrooms.  The thatched dining room is open to the breeze with a view of the surrounding lake.  There is a large swimming pool and a bar area looking out towards the Matusadona Mountains in the distance.  Activities include scenic boat trips, game viewing in the Matusadona National Park by foot, boat or vehicle and fishing in the many gorgeous spots on the lake.   Access is by air charter to the nearby Fothergill Airstrip or by speedboat from Kariba town

Changa Safari Camp– is a luxury safari camp within a private concession in the Matusadona National Park.  The camp sleeps up to 20 guests in spacious, de luxe, East African-style tented suites (6 double/twin and 2 family suites) each with its own private deck set into the bush, with stunning views of the lake and a backdrop of the Matusadona mountains.  The central living area consists of a lounge / library, separate dining room, separate bar, swimming pool and deck, all beautifully appointed around a natural sandy beach.  The camp offers guided walks in the National Park, game drives, boat cruises, sailing and fishing.  Access is by air via Kariba or Fothergill airstrip and a speedboat transfer to the camp.

Gache Gache
The Gache Gache River is one of the major river systems entering Lake Kariba at its extreme south-eastern corner.  This is a scenically beautiful area and one of Lake Kariba’s finest destinations for fishing, especially for the famous tigerfish.
Thanks to the persistent and determined efforts of the Gache Gache Wilderness Area Anti-Poaching Unit (WEPU)  - an anti-poaching team formed by the owners of the local tourism lodge in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority and the local community - fish and wildlife populations are being protected in the area.  In recent years, the fishing has improved immeasurably and healthy populations of elephant, buffalo and large antelope as well as the major carnivores have been returning to the area.  

Gache Gache Lodge – is located on a private concession within the Gache Gache community conservation area up the estuary of the Gache Gache River.  The lodge has 10 double or twin en-suite brick-under-thatch chalets and a central living/dining/bar area with pool, overlooking the river estuary.  There is a shady, lawned campsite for self-drivers with its own separate ablutions. The lodge offers guided fishing (or you can bring your own boat); game viewing by vehicle or pontoon boat, guided walking and bush dinners.   Access is by air charter or a half-hour speedboat transfer from Kariba town.

Related Blogs:

Kariba town - hotels, lodges & self-catering options 

Chirundu area - River Lodges & Camps along the Zambezi

Mana Pools area: River Lodges & Camps along the Zambezi

Middle-Lower Zambezi Area: River Lodges & Camps along the Zambezi River

Victoria Falls area:  River Lodges & Camps along the Zambezi



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