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Currently listing 84 Quality Houseboats for Safari & Fishing Holidays on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, Africa
Lake Kariba Dam Wall

Lake Kariba

Where is Lake Kariba?

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The Story of The Lake

Read the story of how the lake came to be...

Fishing in Lake Kariba

View fish species that live in the Lake...

A Unique and Inspiring Water Wilderness

Lake Kariba is a unique place of outstanding beauty and unforgettable scenery. This vast man-made lake issurrounded by excellent national parks in both Zimbabwe and Zambia and really is a special place to take a safari, either by boat or on foot.

The lake has a wide range of excitement and wonder to offer the traveller. Whether game viewing from a distance on a houseboat, viewing closer to the shore from a tender or walking into the parks with a professional guide, there really is something for everyone.

Bird watching and fishing are very popular on and around the lake and an annual Tiger Fishing competition is held in October.

The Legend of Nyaminyami and the Kariba Story

The Nyaminyami (Zambezi River God) is a Zimbabwean legendary creature believed in by the Tonga people. The Nyaminyami is a dragon like creature with a snake's torso and the head of a fish.The Nyaminyami is said to reside in the Zambezi River and control the life in and on the river. The spirits of Nyaminyami and his wife residing in the Kariba Gorge are God and Goddess of the underworld. Over the years there have been several sightings of the Nyaminyami by local people but there has never been an official, recorded sighting of the creature.

"The BaTonga People lived in the Zambezi Valley for centuries in peaceful seclusion and with little contact with the outside world. They were simple folk who built their houses in kraal along the banks of the great river and believed that their gods looked after them supplying them with water and food.
But their idealistic lifestyle was to be blown apart. In the early 1940s a report was made about the possibility of a hydro-electric scheme to supply power for the growing industry that colonialism had brought to the federation of countries that were known as Northern Rhodesia on one side of the river and Southern Rhodesia on the other, now Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In 1950 the Kariba Dam project was started.
Heavy earth-moving equipment roared into the valley and tore out thousands of hundred-year-old trees to build roads and settlements to house the workers who poured into the area to build a dam that would harness the powerful river. The BaTonga's peace and solitude was shattered and they were told to leave their homes and move away from the river to avoid the flood that the dam would cause.
The name Kariba comes from the word Kariva, meaning trap, which refers to a rock jutting out from the gorge where the dam wall was to be built. It was believed by the BaTonga to be the home of Nyaminyami, the river god, and they believed that anyone who ventured near the rock was dragged down to spend eternity under the water.
Reluctantly they allowed themselves to be resettled higher up the bank, but they believed that Nyaminyami would never allow the dam to be built and eventually, when the project failed, they would move back to their homes.
In 1957, when the dam was well on its way to completion, Nyaminyami struck. The worst floods ever known on the Zambezi washed away much of the partly built dam and the heavy equipment, killing many of the workers.
Some of those killed were white men whose bodies disappeared mysteriously, and after an extensive search failed to find them, Tonga elders were asked to assist as their tribesmen knew the river better than anyone. The elders explained that Nyaminyami had caused the disaster and in order to appease his wrath a sacrifice should be made.
They weren't taken seriously, but, in desperation, when relatives of the missing workers were due to arrive to claim the bodies of their loved ones, the search party agreed in the hope that the tribesmen would know where the bodies were likely to have been washed to.
A white calf was slaughtered and floated on the river. The next morning the calf was gone and the workers' bodies were in its place. The disappearance of the calf holds no mystery in the crocodile infested river, but the reappearance of the workers' bodies three days after they had disappeared has never been satisfactorily explained.
The Ba Tonga smiled knowingly at each other and waited for the final blow that would send the intruders scurrying back to wherever they came from.
After the disaster, flow patterns of the river were studied to ascertain whether there was a likelihood of another flood and it was agreed that a flood of that intensity would only occur once every thousand years.
The very next rainy season, however, brought further floods even worse than the previous year. Nyaminyami had struck again, destroying the coffer dam, the access bridge and parts of the main wall.
But the project survived and the great river was eventually controlled. In 1960 the generators were switched on and have been supplying electricity to Zimbabwe and Zambia ever since.
The BaTonga still live on the shores of Lake Kariba, and many still believe that one day Nyaminyami will fulfill his promise and they will be able to return to their homes on the banks of the river. They believe that Nyaminyami and his wife were separated by the wall across the river, and the frequent earth tremors felt in the area since the wall was built are caused by the spirit trying to reach his wife, and that one day he will destroy the dam."

Operation Noah


No. Saved


No. Saved
Ant-bear 48 Jackal            2
Baboon 268 Klipspringer 28     
Badger 12 Kudu 300
Buffalo 78 Mongoose 14
Bushbaby 1

Night Ape

Bushbuck 320 Porcupine 47
Bushpig 44 Rhinocerous 44
Civet 5 Sable 105
Dassie 21 Ant Eater 6
Duiker 257 Squirrel 6
Elephant 23 Warthog 585
Genet 21 Waterbuck 120
Grysbok 345 Wild Cat 5
Hare 43 Zebra 46
Hyena 3 Monkey 172



In 1958 when the dam was finished, the water began to rise at a rate a couple of metres (several feet) a day and many animals became stranded on rapidly shrinking islands and without help they were doomed to drown.

But a local group of dedicated volunteers set up the Zambian safari rescue initiative called Operation Noah.

The game department in Southern Rhodesia as Zimbabwe was known then, acted quickly. They recruited Rupert Fothergill and 60 wildlife wardens from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia.

In small groups they set out and worked from dawn to dusk. They toiled seven days a week, at various sections on both sides of the lake. The rescue teams worked all through the dry season, from March to December.

They had little specialist equipment. Just a fleet of old, leaking boats and a poor communication network. What they lacked in equipment they made up for in enthusiasm and determination. Their labour is an example of what Zambia safari rescue did for conservation.

They rescued them all, large and small, including birds, snakes and poisonous ones too were not left out. The rescuers discovered that some of the animals could swim. They herded them to safety. Those that could not swim were driven to shallow water where the animals were easily captured and transported to shore.

Word of the operation spread and in February 1959 the British Sunday Mail published details of the rescue. Quickly it caught the world's imagination. Within days reporters, feature writers and film crews were on their way to Kariba.

Soon, there were more media-men than rescuers and frequently their presence hampered operations, But they captured in words and in pictures some of the most dramatic and heart warming sights of the rescued animals, which would have otherwise gone unrecorded and unseen.

The story triggered overseas and public opinion, put pressure on governments to support the rescue project. The rescue mission was increased and supplied with better equipment.

The rescue teams grew more experienced and sophisticate. Animals of all groups and sizes were trapped or darted and transported by boat or raft to higher ground where they were release. Others were roped and towed to safety after being herded into shallow water. Non-swimmers, such as rhino were darted, trussed to raft and floated to higher ground before being freed.

In later stages tranquilliser darting techniques were used to rescue larger ferocious and /or more agile creatures. The rescue teams learnt how to dart, track, and rescue unconscious beasts before the animals recovered their senses.

Fothergill Island and the monument honour these gallant people who finally became experts at their work. The work they enjoyed most to do. Saving wildlife, which we enjoy to watch today and for the sake of future generations.

In total Operation Noah rescued 4,845 wild animals from the Islands.
These detailed...

  • Lake type: Hydroelectric reservoir
  • Catchment area: 663,000 km²
  • Basin countries: Zimbabwe, Zambia
  • Surface area: 5,400 km²
  • Water volume:180 km3 
  • (40 × 1012 gallons)
  • Surface elevation:
  • 485 metres (1,591 ft)
  • Construction began: 1955
  • Opening date: 1959
  • Construction cost: US$480 million
  • Type of dam: Arch dam
  • Height: 128 m (420 ft)
  • Length: 579 m (1,900 ft)
  • Reservoir
  • Creates Lake Kariba
  • Capacity: 180 km3 (43 cu mi)
  • Catchment area:663,000 km2 (256,000 sq mi)
  • Surface area: 5,400 km2 (2,100 sq mi)
  • Max. water depth: 97 m (318 ft)
  • Power station
  • Installed capacity: 1,320 MW
  • Annual generation: 6,400 GWh 

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Quick Houseboat Comparison Table

Houseboat NameHull TypePassengersCabinsFuel IncludedAirconSwimming FacilitiesCost/nightStar Rating
25 Seater BusPontoon250NAPOA2 STAR RATING
African QueenPontoon124Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
AlisterCruiser103Splash Pool US$480.003 STAR RATING
Ambuya DambudzoPontoon03NonePOA3 STAR RATING
Announcement from Zimbabwe Tourism AuthorityPontoon00NonePOA3 STAR RATING
BaobabCruiser124PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
BateleurPontoon123Jacuzzi pool US$760.003 STAR RATING
Big DaddyPontoon205JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
Bizzy LizzieCruiser81NoPOA3 STAR RATING
CarolinaCruiser83No swimming facilities US$330.003 STAR RATING
ConquestCruiser81POA3 STAR RATING
CorsaroCruiser83JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
Den MarynePontoon182Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
DombaCruiser83Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
DrifterPontoon164Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
DriftwoodCruiser83No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
EdenPontoon123Swimming cage US$450.003 STAR RATING
FreestatePontoon164Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Golden MarinerPontoon164Splash pool on top deckPOA4 STAR RATING
HarmonyCruiser124No swimming FacilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
IliosPontoon123Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
JessamineCruiser83No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
KarabeziPontoon155JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
Kariba HouseboatsPontoon00tbaPOA4 STAR RATING
Kariba StarCruiser82No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
KaribeerPontoon143Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
Lady JacquelineCruiser154tbcPOA3 STAR RATING
Lady MayCruiser84JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
Lady RueCruiser83NonePOA3 STAR RATING
Liberty BellPontoon84Jacuzzi US$995.004 STAR RATING
Little MermaidPontoon41No swimming facilities US$320.003 STAR RATING
Lorna DCruiser103No swimming facilitiesPOA4 STAR RATING
MakuluPontoon164Splash Pool US$675.003 STAR RATING
MalachitePontoon144Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
MANZIPontoon103Splash Pool US$43000.003 STAR RATING
MatusadonaPontoon03Swimming cagePOA4 STAR RATING
MbuyaCruiser82POA3 STAR RATING
MbuyaCruiser82None US$400.003 STAR RATING
MeremaidPontoon126JacuzziPOA4 STAR RATING
MirabelCruiser123JacuzziPOA4 STAR RATING
MirimbaCruiser124NonePOA4 STAR RATING
MtepatepaPontoon123JacuzziPOA3 STAR RATING
NyatiPontoon144Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
OB JoyfulPontoon124Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
OspreyPontoon2612Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
P-TENCruiser165JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
Par ExcellenceCruiser84JacuzziPOA5 STAR RATING
PeregrinePontoon166Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
PeregrinePontoon166Splash Pool US$500.003 STAR RATING
PhiladelphiaPontoon124Large Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
PhillipaPontoon124Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
PontyPontoon145Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Power SailsCruiser103No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
ProdataCruiser42NonePOA3 STAR RATING
RendezvousPontoon125Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Return to EdenPontoon166Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
Royal GameCruiser83No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
SahwiraPontoon2613Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
Salon PriveCruiser104JacuzziPOA4 STAR RATING
Sheer MagicPontoon164Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
ShikraPontoon2010Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Silver FoxCruiser62NonePOA3 STAR RATING
Southern BellePontoon4422Splash PoolPOA5 STAR RATING
SovereignPontoon2010Splash PoolPOA5 STAR RATING
SundownerPontoon164Swimming pool on upper deck and cage on the backPOA5 STAR RATING
TaipanPontoon103Blow Up Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Take it AwayPontoon124Swimming cage US$675.003 STAR RATING
TantalikaPontoon124Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
TehillaPontoon124Swimming CagePOA3 STAR RATING
The RoyaleCruiser63NonePOA4 STAR RATING
This Is ItPontoon126Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
TitambereiCruiser82No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
UmbozhaPontoon289Large poolPOA5 STAR RATING
UniquePontoon124Splash Pool US$1150.005 STAR RATING
UtopiaCruiser124No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
VikingCruiser82No swimming facilitiesPOA3 STAR RATING
VundufulPontoon204Splash PoolPOA4 STAR RATING
What a PleasurePontoon123Splash PoolPOA3 STAR RATING
Zambezi Cruise & SafariPontoon00tbaPOA5 STAR RATING
Zambezi TraderPontoon5224Splash PoolPOA5 STAR RATING
Zambezi TraderPontoon00tbcPOA5 STAR RATING
ZambukaPontoon164Splash Pool & Swimming CagePOA4 STAR RATING