Chizarira National Park lies in Northern Zimbabwe. At 2,000 square kilometres (490,000 acres), it is one of the larger National Parks, and also one of the least known because of its isolated situation on the Zambezi Escarpment.. It has good wildlife populations and some majestic scenery.
The vegetation ranges from highveld Brachystegia species in the north to lowland mopane scrub and woodland in the south. The escarpment falls steeply through some 600 metres (2,000 ft) to the Zambezi River valley floor and offers magnificent views towards Lake Kariba, 40 kilometres (25 mi) north. Rivers such as the Mcheni and Lwizikululu have cut almost sheer gorges in the escarpment. The park's north-eastern extremity is marked by Tundazi a mountain on which, according to local legend, resides an immense serpent. The southern boundary is marked by the Busi River which is flanked by floodplains supporting Acacia albida woodlands.
Chizarira was gazetted as a non-hunting reserve in 1938 and as a game reserve in 1963; it attained full National Park status under the Parks and Wild Life Act (1975). The park headquarters are at Manzituba.
This remote region, lying right on the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border is well known to many visitors to Zimbabwe hoping to find rare and unusual species, and at one stage was one of the most exciting destinations in this country. Unfortunately in the last few years most of the forest has been chopped out and planted under bananas despite attempts by local NGO's and the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Management to save the designated reserves. It is still possible to see some of the eastern Highland specials in the area, but with some difficulty, and visitors must be prepared to travel along an appalling road for approximately 40 km and a continuous stream of locals chattering gaily as they pass through the remaining patch of forest. Many birders have camped in the Rusitu forest but visitors now do so at their own risk and must ensure that there is always someone on guard at the campsite and around the vehicles because of theft. Almost nothing remains of the Haroni Reserve as most of it is now under bananas and much of the stream-bank is also under cultivation. There is still a very small patch of riverine vegetation at the junction of the Haroni & Rusitu Rivers, and the forest across the Haroni river remains relatively undisturbed. These days it is probably better to go birding in the Honde Valley where all of the Haroni specials plus a few more can be seen in comfort (and along a tar road!).
The cultivated lands along the route into Haroni/Rusitu are good for Blue-spotted Wood-Dove and in the past Southern Banded Snake-Eagle has been seen hunting in this area. Keep an eye out for Black-winged Bishop in these lands - previously very common but now difficult to find. The forest starts just after passing the Vimba School and Black-bellied Starling is sometimes recorded in the trees at the edge of the forest - the only location in Zimbabwe where they have been seen. Green Malkoha are sometimes seen in the creeper tangles over the dead trees and a resident pair of Scaly-throated Honeyguide call regularly from the top of the hill. In the forest canopy look for Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Green-backed Woodpecker, Chirinda Apalis and Stripe-cheeked Greenbul. The distinctive call of the Tiny Greenbul helps you to locate this elusive species in the undergrowth. Black-headed Apalis, Black-and-white Flycatcher, Whitetailed Crested Flycatcher and Pallid Honeyguide occur, but obviously in reduced numbers.Directions: The Haroni/Rusitu area is best approached from near Chimanimani. About 10 km before Chimanimani, turn right just before the sawmill onto Nyahodi Road. At 5.2 km turn right and at 18.1 km turn left onto Ndima Rd. At 27 km turn left over the river bridge and follow your nose to the Vimba School at about 40 km from the tar. The Rusitu forest remnant is 1 km past the school and the Haroni forest about 10 km further on at the end of the road.
Matobo Dam exudes a sense of peace and tranquility just like the rest of the Matobo National Park. The dam provides a view that brings solace to one's heart. Visitors can fish in the dam and those with boats (with electric motor or paddles) are allowed in certain areas of the dam. Pony trails are also available around the Dam area.
By road from Bulawayo: Take Robert Mugabe Way in the city centre; this turns into Matopos Road which continues south some 30Â km to the park boundary. This is a two-lane tarred road. A single lane tarred road continues to Matobo Dam and Rest Camp. The remaining roads in the park are gravel or earth, but suitable for most vehicles.
The undeveloped 3 046 acre Umzingwane Recreational Park is situated about 38 kilometres south-east of Bulawayo. It is based on the Umzingwane Dam and has limited wildlife and some good birdlife. It provides an important recreational facility for watersports such as angling and boating within easy reach of Bulawayo but there are no accommodation facilities.
Umzingwane was designated a Private Game Reserve in 1968 and subsequently a Recreational Park under the Parks and Wild Life Act (1975).
Lake Kariba is among the 4 largest man-made lakes in the world and the second largest in Africa. The shoreline is over 2 000 kilometres long. Kariba is home to numerous species of flora and fauna and is an exciting and unique safari destination.
The Matusadonha National Park is located on the shores of Lake Kariba and several fine lodges and resorts are located here.
Kariba Recreational Park is based around the Zambezi River, which was initially dammed so as to build a hydroelectricity generation utility for the benefit of both Zimbabwe and Zambia. The dam wall with 6 flood gates was built between 1955 and 1959 and is 128 metres high and 617 metres wide. The lake is 282 kilometres long at full level and 32 kilometres across at it's widest point, 116 metres deep and covers an area of 5 180 square kilometres of what once was the Gwembe trough. The weight of the water totals 177 million tons and were all 6 flood gates opened, over 91 500 cubic metres (300 000 cubic feet) of water would surge into the river below each second! 86 men perished during construction of the dam and a church has since been constructed as a memorial to them. The dam wall was designed by Andre Coyne, a Frenchman, and built by a constructor called Impresit from Italy.
There are many stories that are put forward to explain the name Kariba. Some elders in the area note that close to the dam wall lies a rock that resembles a traditional stone trap, riva, hence Kariva, later mispronounced by the Europeans as Kariba. The other version is that the rock was named "Kariva" due to the fact that when the river flooded, the Rock trapped water thereby making it difficult for the locals who often crossed the river to return to either side of the Zambezi.
This is one of the great acts of mankind giving back to nature. When the 2 sluice gates that were used to dam the Zambezi River were closed, the water started rising. Within 24 hours the level had gone up by 6 metres and by September 1959 it had risen by 60 metres. Alarm bells started ringing when it was realised that the dam was creating numerous islands and even submerging some pieces of land thereby threatening the resident animal population that had largely been left behind in the Gwembe Trough even as the local tribes were being forcibly resettled.
A concerted drive was made by the National Parks and Government to rescue the animals from the fast submerging islands. By the end of the operation the Zimbabwean team (then Southern Rhodesia) had rescued nearly 5 000 animals while the Zambian team (then Northern Rhodesia) had rescued about 2 000.
The operation attracted a lot of international attention and it received international publicity and significant material aid from as far afield as the USA and the UK.
The Nyaminyami River God is a major force in the society around the Zambezi Valley. The River God is believed to have supernatural powers. The Nyaminyami is believed to be a dragon-like amphibious being with the head of a fish and a snake's torso. It was believed that the Nyaminyami would occasionally offer charitable appearances and pause for the local villagers to slice pieces of meat from its back before returning to the water.
Folklore has it that the Nyaminyami used to live upstream with his wife but when the dam wall was constructed it separated the two. This infuriated the River God, and as he forced his way back upstream, he was responsible for the collapse of part of the dam wall that killed 86 workmen midway through the project.
The locals and tourists of Kariba look forward to September each year as the Nyaminyami Festivals are held to venerate the River God.
Flora and Fauna
Adapting to the initial flooding and annual fluctuation has caused several changes in the local animal population around the shores of the lake. The shoreline is a rich grazing area for many species, which has in turn attracted the predatory animals that hunt these species.The lake is renowned for its tigerfish but it is also home to over 40 fish species that include nkupe, chessa, bottlenose, vundu, barbell and several types of bream.
The area generally has hot summers averaging 38 degrees Celsius and an average rainfall of 660 millimetres. The winters are usually warm with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.
A slipway has been provided for visitors to Nyanyana to launch their boats, but when the level of the lake is very low the slipway cannot be used.
The lodges at Nyanyana Camp are fully equipped self catering facilities. These lodges are situated at the mouth of the Nyanyana River on the Lake Kariba shore. During the night hippopotamus can often be heard grazing around the lodge area.
There are 20 camping sites available within 100 metres of the lake shore. These facilities together with the caravan sites are serviced by 2 ablution blocks comprising of showers, baths, wash basins and toilets.There are several other camps that are utilized on a seasonal basis. These are much rougher, with very little development and are more ideal for those yearning for a closer encounter with the wild.
There are 15 caravan sites within the vicinity of the lake shore.
From Nyanyana the nearest supplies, foodstuffs, fuel and other necessities are found at Kariba town, just a few minutes drive away. At Kariba, one will find most of the hotels, shops, the main harbours and several other conveniences.
Activities and Attractions
Game viewing - visitors use their own vehicles for transport.
Fishing - visitors bring their own fishing gear and boats.
Guided horse rides
Boat cruises - both day and night
Islands spread out on the lake - There are 102 islands on the lake including: Fothergill, Spurwing, Msambakaruma, Rhino, 126, Long Island, Redcliff, Antelope, Zebra, Kings Camp, 155, Starvation Island, Lubangwa Island, Twin Sisters, Nemambere Island, Partridge Island, Whither Island, Paradise Island, Snake Island, Bed Island, Chete Island among others.
Why Visit Lake Kariba
The Park is rich in wildlife
Beautiful well maintained accommodation
The lake is the largest water body in Zimbabwe
Wide variety of fish
The history and folklore attached to the Lake
How to get to lake Kariba Recreational Park
The Park stretches away from Kariba town and is accessible by all types of vehicles. By road from Harare along the Harare-Chirundu Road at Makuti you will turn at Makuti Hotel and a tarred road leads to Kariba town. If you are going to Nyanyana the turn-off to the camp is approximately 56 kilometres from Makuti and is sign posted. From this turn-off to the camp is 5,5 kilometres of dirt road. Kariba town is only 28 kilometres from the camp.