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Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe (Photo Diary)


Bow Wow dog watching hippos at Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

"What the?!" - We captured Bow Wow's first encounter with hippos at Charara Fishing Camp by Lake Kariba. He was utterly transfixed by these strange stone like creatures, blowing bubbles and flicking their undersized ears.


Hippos in water at Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

We drove in to the bush for sun-downers and watched more hippos wallowing in the shallows. It was wonderful to hear their grunting laughter rising above the white noise of the jungle.


Lucie girl sitting on Lula Land Rover drinking Savana Dry at Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Lula the Landy protected Bow Wow from the sun while we savoured the moment and a cold Savanna Dry. "It doesn't get much better than this." we sighed in agreement.


Three zebra galloping by Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

But it did! Suddenly a dazzle of zebras tore past, seemingly in hot pursuit of a rebellious young foal.


Four zebra galloping by Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

The effect of this cavalcade was like a floating zebra carousel.


Young Zebra in field on Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

With striped limbs flailing, the foal managed to spurt away from its elders' nipping gnashers. A game of tag or a telling off? We'll never know.


Dead Trees, Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

These trees are dead, but have remained standing since the Zambezi Valley was flooded between 1958 and 1963 in order to generate hydroelectricity and forming Lake Kariba.


Bird flying over Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Incredibly, according to Wikipedia, this enormous mass of water (200 billion tons) is believed to have caused over 20 earthquakes of greater than 5 magnitude on the Richter Scale!


Bird standing in water at Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

We headed back to camp and dined on freshly caught bream beneath the stars.


Angry elephant by Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Next morning, we set off along the scarcely populated southern shores of Lake Kariba. This elephant saw us off the premises, mock charging the Landy with a threatening blast of his trumpet.


This is not a popular route, the road is notoriously awful and we knew that there was a large possibility that the few camps marked on our map may have closed due to a lack of tourism. We were happy to bush camp until we met some trail bike riders coming towards us. They told us that they’d just seen lion (it turns out this area has the second greatest natural population density of lion in Africa) and bush camping was not advisable. Especially not with Bow Wow a.k.a Leopard Bait. They suggested we turn back but retracing our tread-marks on this terrible road was not an option.


Tortoise hiding in shell on dirt road, Zimbabwe

"Nothing to see here, move along!" Soon we would envy this tortoise's fool proof central locking system.


The rough dirt road was so bad that the passenger door became unhinged, would no longer close and was in danger of falling off all together. We did a quick duct tape patch up, all the while looking out for predators and hoping that it would hold until we could fix it safely.


Large lonely tree on road to Binga, Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe


All of the camps had long gone and we didn’t pass another soul. It was beginning to get dark. We could see Matusadona National Park on the map and reckoned that was our best hope. Because of the corrugated road, our average speed was only 30km an hour and we still had another 150km to go, it was going to be a long night.


Driving on road to Binga with sunset, Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe


Stressed and tired of being shaken about, we turned a corner to see a procession of great ghost like elephants. They appeared luminous white in our beam, just like the ghoulish dream sequence in Disney’s Dumbo.

We stopped bickering and watched in awed silence as they passed – that image will be etched in our minds forever.

We’d heard that overlanders count seeing an owl as a bad luck omen and a sign to stop driving. Well, we accidentally hit and killed a lovely bird called a night jar. When Lachlan put on the brakes for it to slide off the bonnet, it’s corpse got stuck in the grill and it was as though it was looking at us! From Disney to suddenly Hitchcock – “What kind of omen is this?” we despaired.

Eventually we found our way to the national park and found a solitary little house surrounded by dense bush. We knocked on the door and a man answered. He told us we could camp near his house for $11 but to watch the dog for lions.


Lula Land Rover and camp setup at Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe


It’s not just Bow Wow who benefits from his Hill’s Pet Nutrition deal. Warthogs, jackals and mongoose have all appreciated it’s crunchy goodness on our travels. While camping by Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, Lachlan noticed that a hungry army of ants had formed an inefficient supply chain from Bow Wow’s bowl to their colony. In one move, he upped productivity and introduced thousands of new devotees to Hill’s!


We fixed the passenger door the next day to the sound of chatting and laughter. Some of the ranger’s friends had arrived and there was a lovely festive atmosphere as we smiled back at their curious glances. When we were all packed up, we went to thank them and pay but instead of being $11 as agreed, the price had shot up over night to $79! The ranger held up a ripped piece of cardboard displaying the newly scrawled prices which included extra fees for the dog, the car, camping and park entrance. This was what the laughing had been about! He had to be joking; there wasn’t even any running water, let alone a loo. He eventually accepted the $11 with a philosophical shrug. It was worth a shot.


Tonga homestead on the way to Binga, Zimbabwe

As we neared Binga, small homesteads started coming into view. Lake Kariba was made by damming the mighty Zambezi River and flooding the valley which was home to a people called the Tonga tribe. After the flooding they resettled on higher ground around Binga.


Crocodile farm, Binga, Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe


We camped at Binga next to a crocodile farm. A worker told us that some of Mugabe’s war veterans had pitched up one day thinking that it was an agricultural farm and wanting to claim the land for their own. The owner of the crocodile farm stood back and said ‘Go ahead, be my guest. The water’s lovely!’. Needless to say, once they discovered the true nature of the farm, they lost interest.

(So much of Zimbabwe’s once productive farmland lies dormant since Mugabe’s redistribution of land. An incredible documentary to watch is Mugabe and the White African – it is a story of moral courage about a family who stood up against the Zimbabwean government, refusing to leave their farm or desert their workforce. They suffered terrible beatings at the hands of Mugabe loyalists and tragically, last month, the patriarch of the family, Mike Campbell, died as a result of these beatings.)


Fisherman Les holding fish bait on Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Lachlan set off across the great inland sea with a local man called Les, hoping for some sport with tiger fish and to bring back more delicious bream.


View from boat on Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Les told Lachlan about the most dangerous crocodile in the area, a 16 metre brute known as the Harbour Master who has developed a taste for children, dogs and even horses. "Venture too near the water's edge at your peril." he warned.


Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

However, according to Les, crocodiles are allergic to cats and that eating a fluffy feline is usually fatal! The owner of the crocodile farm euthanises stray moggies because they are so damaging to his croc crop.


Lachlan man in boat on Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

Cruising Lake Kariba. No biting but plenty of yapping and drinking beer.


Storm approaching over Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

That night there was a violent storm that shook and lashed our little tent. It was impossible to sleep and so we watched the lightning illuminate the heavens like a firework display. Lovely weather for crocodiles...

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2 Responses to “Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe (Photo Diary)”

  1. Hannah says:

    Absolutely awesome story and what beautiful photos!

  2. Anthony says:

    Great article and I can’t keep my eyes off those zebra shots they are amazing.

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