Choosing a Houseboat/ FAQ's
Choosing the right houseboat can be quite a mission in some cases, we have tried here to make this as easy as possible for you so that you can get the best boat that suits your needs. You need to consider a number of things when making a choice as we have over 40 boats on offer!
We try to concentrate on houseboats that we know and have checked-out ourselves and we also only use boat owners that we have confidence in and who we trust to supply excellent value for money. They may NOT be the cheapest but they are hassle free and more importantly, very reliable.
We are constantly looking for new houseboats to add to this website, but checking-out the owners and the boats takes time. If you are looking for a particular houseboat, but it is not yet displayed on our website, get in touch and let us know. We will do our best to help you.
Below are some of the frequently asked questions. If your question is not answered please do not hesitate to contact us.
Q: How do we get to Kariba?
A: All our houseboats are based on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe and not Zambia. Clients may self-drive, fly to Lusaka or Harare and be road transferred to Kariba or fly direct from Harare/Victoria Falls/Lusaka to Kariba on a light aircraft charter. Solenta are operating a 12 seater Cessna Caravan on such routes. Please see our Tours & Transfers and Air charters section for more details.
Q: Can we travel by houseboat from Kariba to Milibizi? (Victoria Falls)
A: No, chartered houseboats are limited to the Eastern basin of Lake Kariba (As far as approx Elephant Point). However, the Kariba Ferry does operate a service from Kariba to Milibizi and return and takes approx. 24hrs. It is possible to put your vehicle on this ferry. The drive from Milibizi to Victoria Falls takes approx. 3 hours.
Q: What is meant by the term "Dry Boat" or "Bare Boat"?
A: Dry boat or bare boat charter means the nightly charter rate does not include fuel, outboard oil, catering, drinks or any other extras. It only includes the houseboat/tender boat charter and crew. All extras must be paid for separately.
Q: How is the fuel for a charter calculated and paid for on non fuel inclusive houseboats?
A: Most houseboats will leave harbour with FULL fuel tanks in both the main vessel and tender boats. Please ensure that one of your party supervises the checking of such fuel levels. On return to harbour after the charter, the houseboat will be moored alongside the fuel jetty and refilled. Clients are then requested to settle in USD cash.
NB Please do not leave harbour without making a note of starting fuel levels and do not hand over cash to any crew members.
Q: Can you organise all the extras such as meals, drinks, ice, fishing equipment and bait etc?
A: Yes, we offer competitive rates on all extras so please ask your consultant for further details or see our catering section.
Q: Can we get a refund on any unopened drinks?
A:Yes, all drinks are sold on a "sale and return" basis as per the terms and conditions of the drinks suppliers. There is normally a 15% handling charge on returns.
Q: Is Kariba a malarial area and what precautions shall I take?
A: Yes, Kariba and the Zambezi valley is a malarial area. Please ensure that you consult your doctor before travelling. All houseboats supply mosquito nets for all guests and most cabins have sliding mosquito screens installed.
Q: What animals and birds am I likely to see?
A: Animals commonly seen are elephant, hippo, zebra, impala, crocodile, monkeys, baboons occasionally lion, sable, waterbuck, buffalo and many more. The most common bird you will see is the fish eagle, but there are also herons, cormorants, king fishers, egrets, gulls to name a few.
Q: When is the best time of year for fishing?
A: It is often said that any month with a "R" in the name is good for Tiger fishing. Generally the hot months at the end of the year are better. Bream fishing is decent all year round.
Q: What are the essential items to pack for a houseboat trip on Lake Kariba?
A:Most houseboats will have a basic first aid kit on board. It is advisable to bring with you the following: first aid kit, any personal medication and toiletries, a wide brimmed hat, high factor sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars, tracksuit for the evenings, sunglasses, torch, camera with spare memory/film/batteries, reading materials and board games.
Q: Can we combine a houseboat charter with a walking safari?
A: Yes, this is an excellent way to get maximum value out of your trip. Guests can be dropped off at one of the Lakeside Safari camps and combine a houseboat holiday with a traditional walking safari.
Alternatively, depending on prior booking and availability, guests may partake on a guided walk or drive with Gache Gache Safari Lodge. This is subject to availability of guides and guest numbers staying at the Lodge. Please let us know if you would like to do this.
Q: How long are we allowed to run the houseboat's generators while it is moored?
A: National Parks stipulate that all generators be switched off at 20 00hrs
Q: Can we run the air conditioning all night?
A: No, most air conditioning units are switched off when the houseboats generators are switched off. Please bear in mind that air conditioning units will increase the overall fuel consumption.
Q: How much is fuel in Kariba?
A: Due to the nature of fuel supplies in Zimbabwe fuel prices often fluctuate so guests should budget on approx. $1.50 per litre for both petrol and diesel.
Q: Can we swim in the lake?
A: No, swimming is entirely at your own risk as the lake has a huge population of Hippos and crocodiles.
Q: What other water sports do you offer?
A:We do not offer any water sports. You are free to bring your own speed boats and jet skis but this is at your own risk.
Q: Are all houseboats crewed?
A: All houseboats come with a full crew, usually comprised of a Captain, Chef and Deckhand. The crew will prepare all meals and take you on fishing and game viewing excursions. Please discuss with the Captain as to what you would like to achieve on your charter. The Captain has the final say when it comes to issues of safety of the vessel and its occupants (eg whether or not to travel in rough weather)
Q: Do all houseboats come with tender boats and what are they used for?
A: Yes, all houseboats come with tender boats. They are used for fishing, game viewing and sunset cruises.
Q: Are guests allowed to drive the tender boats/ houseboats?
A: No, tender boats are driven only by the crew unless you are towing your own speed boat.
Q: Can we tow our own speedboat behind the houseboat?
A: Yes, you may tow your own tender boat behind the mother vessel but this is at your own risk.
Q: What time does the houseboat depart and return to harbour?
A: Houseboats will be ready to depart at 12 00pm on the first day of the charter and will return to harbour no later than 10 00am on last day of the trip.
Q: Can the houseboats travel at night?
A: No, houseboats are not permitted to travel at night. The Latest embarking time in summer is 15 30pm and in the winter months is 15 00pm, to ensure you make the first mooring before dark.
Q: Are you allowed to walk on the shore and make a fire in the evenings?
A: No, we do not recommend that you walk on the shore unless accompanied by a professional, armed Zimbabwean Registered guide, as most wild animals can be dangerous to humans. If you do disembark, it is at your own risk and you may only go 20 metres from your boat.
No fires are allowed on the shore as you are in a National Park and the risk of bush fires is too great.
Q: Are there set routes that the houseboat must follow?
A: Before leaving harbour, discuss with your captain about your requirements, i.e. if you would like to do fishing, or game viewing, or a bit of both. He will recommend the best places to moor for the evenings within manageable sailing distance. A guide line on distances are as follows: -
2 night charter - up to Palm Bay
3 night charter - up to Sanyati West
4 night charter - up to Elephant Point
5 nights and more - up to Ume River
Q: Do all houseboats come with fishing equipment and bait?
A: No, most houseboats do not supply fishing equipment and bait. Your consultant can order any equipment and bait that you may require.
Q: Why do you need ice and how much do you require?
A:Ice is used to cool your food and drinks while the houseboats generators are switched off. There is no mains electricity supply on the lake and ice is an absolute neccessity. As a guide the following amount of ice is recommended:
Winter months: 4 blocks/day
Summer months: 5 blocks/day
Q: Can we self-cater?
A: Yes, all houseboats offer a self-catered option. The on board chef will prepare all meals on your instruction. With this option clients are required to bring with them all items required for the trip including all condiments, cleaning materials, toilet paper, swimming towels, rubbish bags etc.
Q: Do we have to provide cooking utensils on the houseboat?
A: No, all houseboats supply cooking utensils.
Q: Do we have to provide linen and swimming towels?
A: No, all linen is provided however, some houseboats require you to supply your own swimming towels.
Q: Are we allowed to take pets on the houseboat?
A: The majority of houseboats do not allow pets on board however, some owners will allow small pets to be taken with prior permission.
Q: How safe are houseboats for toddlers and young children?
A: If you have young children we recommend you hire a houseboat with mesh railing around the edges of the houseboat. However, children must be carefully watched at all times.
Q: Is there drinking water provided on the houseboat?
A:Most houseboats will supply tap water in coolers. However, we recommend that you order sufficient bottled water for your charter. Lake Kariba is very hot for most of the year so please bear this in mind when you are ordering drinks.
Q: Do you book International flights?
A: No, we do not book international flights. Please contact your nearest travel agent.
Q: How do we confirm a booking?
A: Quotations are valid for 14 days and we require written confirmation of acceptance of quotation within this time to confirm a booking.
Q: Can we pay by credit card?
A: At this stage we cannot accept credit card payments however, we are working to solve this problem.
Q: What if we need to cancel a booking?
A: Please see our cancellation policy which can be found in our Terms & Conditions. We will do our best to re sell your dates.