Where is Lake Kariba?
Read the story of how the lake came to be...
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."
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.
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