Lake Kariba

Last weekend was spent cruising Lake Kariba.

lk-11Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume. It lies 1300 kilometers upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The lake was filled between 1958 and 1963 following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its northeastern end, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River.

Before the lake was filled, the existing vegetation was burned, creating a thick layer of fertile soil on land that would become the lake bed. As a result the ecology of Lake Kariba is vibrant. A number of fish species have been introduced to the lake which now supports a thriving commercial fishery. Other inhabitants of Lake Kariba include Nile crocodilesand hippopotamus. Fish eagles, cormorants and other water birds patrol the shorelines, as do occasional herds of elephants.

lk-21lk-14 Our ship, Lorna D

lk-4 lk-6lk-8The crocs and hippos are everywhere

lk-5lk-12lk-10lk-13lk-18 Local Fishermen


A couple of nesting African Sea Eagles. It’s the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan.

lk-15Buffalo on Antelope Island

lk-16lk-19The Kariba Dam is a hydroelectric dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river and forms Lake Kariba. The dam stands 128 metres tall and 579 metres.  It was opened in 1959.

lkThe dam supplies 1,626 megawatts of electricity to parts of both Zambia and Zimbabwe and generates 6,400 gigawatt-hours per annum. Each country has its own power station on the north and south bank of the dam respectively.

lk-20The creation of the reservoir forced resettlement of about 57,000 Tonga people living along the Zambezi in both Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia. From “The Shadow of The Dam”, a first-hand account written by David Howarth in the 1960s, referring to the situation in Northern Rhodesia:- “Everything that a government can do on a meagre budget is being done. Demonstration gardens have been planted, to try to teach the Tonga more sensible methods of agriculture, and to try to find cash crops which they can grow. The hilly land has been plowed in ridge contours to guard against erosion. In Sinazongwe, an irrigated garden has grown a prodigious crop of pawpaws, bananas, oranges, lemons, and vegetables, and shown that the remains of the valley could be made prolific if only money could be found for irrigation. Cooperative markets have been organized, and Tonga are being taught to run them. Enterprising Tonga have been given loans to set themselves up as farmers. More schools have been built than the Tonga ever had before, and most of the Tonga are now within reach of dispensaries and hospitals.”

There are many different perspectives on how much resettlement aid was given to the displaced tribe. According to anthropologist Thayer Scudder, who has studied these communities since the late 1950s, “Today, most are still ‘development refugees. Many live in less-productive, problem-prone areas, some of which have been so seriously degraded within the last generation that they resemble lands on the edge of the Sahara Desert.”


  1. Your excellent photos and explanation show different sides of the effects, good and bad, of the construction of this dam. It’s quite interesting about how an entire ecosystem was created. Hopefully the lives of the displaced will continue to improve also.
    Thanks so much for following my blog. There are so many amazing places and people in the world, sometimes it’s difficult to choose between experiencing them or writing about them!

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