Cruising in Paradise on Lake Kariba: the perfect holiday

Wild Zambezi • 4 March 2019

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Picture the scene:  you are relaxing on the deck of one of Lake Kariba's sleep-aboard safari cruiseboats with a drink in hand and not a care in the world.  A golden sun sinks below the horizon of silken water, the massive sky grows crimson, cormorants settle in the black silhouettes of the trees.  The air is warm.  A fish-eagle's haunting cry pierces the silence of the creek, and the lions stirring from their day-time slumbers, moan, deep-throatedly into the spreading darkness.

You have spent the day on the wide deck of the cruiseboat, with the breeze in your hair as the captain steers the vessel expertly across Lake Kariba to the shores of the Matusadona National Park.  A delicious fresh lunch was served by the staff en route.  Some family members retired to their comfortable ensuite cabins for a short afternoon nap while others lounged on deck, sorting fishing gear, playing card games, chatting, relaxing, unwinding....

As the shoreline approached and the crew searched for a suitable mooring spot, you watched hippos wallowing, a herd of elephant drinking in shallows and huge crocodiles sliding silently off sandbanks into the water.

The active members of the party embarked on the vessel's small tenderboat for an evening's fishing and game-viewing along the shoreline, leaving you to bask in peace until their return at dusk

And now.... safely moored up for the night in one of the myriad secluded creeks of the National Park, you have the sounds and the stars of the African night all to yourselves....

A delicious candelit dinner on deck awaits... a hot shower and then a warm bed and a peaceful sleep, serenaded by the grunting of hippos and the gentle lap of waves against the boat. 

This is the magic of Lake Kariba - truly a holiday paradise: a 280 km-long "inland sea" of sun-dazzled, sparkling blue fresh water, its shorelines abundant with birdlife and wild animals, its waters full of wonderful fish species including the famous fighting Tigerfish of the Zambezi.  It offers a heap of water-based activities to satisfy all tastes and ages. 

And yet, this is one of the most undersold of Zimbabwe's tourism experiences.  Why? 

Firstly, the world famous Victoria Falls with its international airport and relatively easy access, tends to outshine the rest of the region's travel destinations. Lake Kariba, just downstream, is an undiscovered jewel waiting to be unearthed.  

Secondly, there is a branding issue.  Lake Kariba's spacious, fully-crewed cruising vessels that provide such idyllic experiences for families and groups of holidaymakers are called "houseboats" by the locals. 

This terminology is confusing for international visitors, for whom "houseboats" are something entirely different - the water-based equivalent of "mobile homes" - not at all associated with glamorous, fun-filled, cruising holiday experiences.  (See Wild Zambezi's Travel Blog from October 2016: Time to re-brand "Houseboats" .    

So Safari Cruiseboats is a more accurate term.

A family holiday aboard one of these is really one of the best ways to relax, enjoy the natural wonders of the lake and ensure that everyone has fun. 

There are literally dozens of cruiseboats of all different shapes and sizes to choose from – with hire-out rates to suit every pocket.  Most of them are harboured in the town of Kariba itself at the Eastern end of the lake, but you can also hire them from Mlibizi or Binga at the western (Victoria Falls) end.

Most boats have comfortable, fully-equipped cabins, some with en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning or fans.  The larger boats have enough space for guests to sleep on deck in the open air with mattresses and mosquito nets – a refreshing choice in the hot months from September onwards.

You can self-cater (bring all your own provisions, but have meals prepared by the on-board staff) or go for the more luxury, fully-catered, all-inclusive option.  Some of the luxury cruiseboats run on set departure schedules, others are flexible.

The boats are staffed by a captain, assisted by and one or more crew members who undertake cooking and deckhand duties. A tender boat for game viewing and/or fishing is usually included with the boat hire, and you can often hire fishing equipment as well. 

Most boats have on board swimming or plunge pools for cooling off in the heat (a winner with the kids).

In all cases, you can be assured of the most wonderful, stress-free holiday aboard a Kariba cruiseboat.  Once you set off onto the lake, sit back, relax and let Nyaminyami, the river spirit of the Zambezi - part-serpent-part-fish – show you his best water magic! 

Contact the following to book a cruiseboat holiday on Lake Kariba:-

African Dream Cruiseboat
Baobab Bookings
Drifter Houseboat Charters (Chawara Harbour)
Heartveld Adventures
Premier Holidays & Destination Management
Wild Dog Tours
Zambezi Cruise & Safaris


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