Lake Kariba and Zimbabwe revisited.

Lake Kariba and Zimbabwe revisited, still splendid but so many changes. The thing to remember is, that at the time Lake Kariba was the largest man made lake in the world built and completed by 1959. Something, really something, but as soon as this is accomplished there is always somebody else trying to knock one off top spot, God alone knows why? The principle behind it was to provide hydro-electric power for Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia whom both straddle its banks. However over the years and largely because of international sanctions imposed by the free world whilst they were trying to get a communist dictator into power, how strange, it became a resort for people in a landlocked country to take a well earned break. Hotels, a casino sprung up and a grand time was had by one and all. Fishing, game tours, marvelous sunsets, splendid weather and a people out to have some fun and get away from the chores of the world.

Sadly although many of these hotels still exist they are badly managed, so a new concept sprung up and this was going on what became known as a houseboat. You provide your own food and all else (staff etc) are provided by whoever owns the houseboat. It is a short period of bliss and don’t I know it. Consequently I’m so often surprised that more tourists don’t make use of this especially Americans as the currency is now American dollars?

So come take a short tour with me on my latest trip to Lake Kariba and Zimbabwe revisited. I trust I will be able to do it justice?

A view of the entrance to the hydro electric scheme.

Entrance to hydro-electric scheme is on top of the hill but nobody allowed in still. Believe it or not I once went down there as a teenager when someone who worked for Central African Power Corporation got me a pass inside. Spellbinding it was too. The way the lift went down so fast and so silently, the fantastic colour schemes on the walls surrounding it downstairs and the hum of the generators. Magic man.


The drive to Lake Kariba.

Up very early in the morning and the family we are going with arrive at 0430, and they are providing the food which is packed in the back of the 4 by4. My nephew and I toss in our kit and he drives and the journey begins. It’s still dark and the first thing I notice is that very few of the street lights work any longer, but a few do. I’ve already noticed earlier in my stay, none of them have been painted for the 30 years Mugabe has been in power and they are just rusty heaps and many of them are bent at angles or just lying on the floor. None of the traffic lights really work either. For example, you have one on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle of the road above. Maybe one or two are working but the one above certainly doesn’t, I never saw one work in all my time there. But, this is Africa and a free world were falling over backwards to ensure this type of person took over control of the country. How dreadfully sad, and I still can’t believe this happened. I wonder if Kissinger and his ilk really think this was for the best?

It’s still dark when we pass the old College of Knowledge (Gwebi Agricultural College) where I spent the happiest days of my life, but, I can’t really see it. The dawn is beginning to creep in and a faint tinge of light is spreading across the countryside. It’s a four or five hour drive depending which speedster is at the wheel. I’m riveted looking out the window at the countryside of my old beloved country. It used to consist of vibrant farms all neatly fenced off to stop cattle, sheep etc wandering onto the highway and the grass verges were freshly mown. Mile after mile it continues, not a strand of fencing or a farm to be seen just occasionally a few tattered Maize crops which barely reach waist height. A type of ineffable sadness overcomes me and I can barely stop from weeping. A song I used to love in those far oft days when I could hear enters my head. John Lennon’s classic ‘imagine’. Many people think that is a load of junk but I’m not one, and it strikes me as pertinent here?

” Imagine there’s no countries,

Nothing to kill, or die for,

Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”

Imagine hey?

Somebody shot him as well didn’t they. What on earth has happened to us all?

Now what on earth is this? Why, it is a tollgate, consisting of two poles across the road and a small office to pay in. But there is no one there? Hang on, they are sitting around a log fire outback and lolling around the place even at this hour. Nobody hurries in Africa. Eventually someone strolls over and a dollar is paid, a receipt given and the journey continues. In fairness, they are all very pleasant with wide smiles and laugh easily. The road is not too bad either meaning they are no potholes, the rest of the country is rife with them, more pothole than road even inside the middle of the Capitol. It sure is bumpy though. Traffic is light apart from 30 ton trucks heading to Zambia which is on the up seeing as many of the displaced farmers are now living there and turning it around. Later we go through another tollgate and finally reach Makuti where we turn left and take ‘the long and winding road, that leads, to your door’ and lake kariba. On the journey there and back I never saw any game and again I was thinking of all the Elephant and sometimes even Sable I saw there in the past. I ask my nephew, ” where is all the game?”, he replies, “the authorities have now granted hunting licenses here, so the game is now scared and have moved inland.” Once more, how dreadfully sad? At long last we reach Kariba and the potholes begin again, but we reach Andorra harbour, and an idyllic time commences again.

Lake Kariba and Andorra harbour and the houseboat.


Life on a houseboat at Lake Kariba.


So here we are heading out of the harbour and into the Lake Kariba. Three members of staff on board, piloted by Captain Daniel, a cook who is busy rustling up our breakfast, and a general dogsbody. Cookie is also the fattest person on board, how passing strange? Cup of tea in hand a sense of peace and tranquility surrounds us. The only sound being the throb of the diesel engines. Lake Kariba is actually huge and is akin to an inland sea being more or less 162 miles long. It can be very rough but at the moment is pretty calm and smooth.


This then is the type of scene as breakfast arrives and we are passing a small island on our way to a bank somewhere around Matusadona game reserve. A lovely and evocative name. Breakfast consists of bacon, sausage, tomatoe,mushrooms, baked beans, and your choice of egg, as many as you want. Is it any wander then that ‘Cookie’ is so heavy as not many people can finish all this? Of course it is followed by toast, butter, marmalade etc and your feeling of being tranquil is enhanced, all washed down by your choice of beverage. Talk is minimal as people nosh it down but picks up afterwards as the journey continues and one begins to plan your first fishing adventure. Some very tall stories can be heard around this time, but I’m playing quiet, but secretly amused. James, our other guest is waxing lyrical and I am soon to find out, he is actually an ace fisherman who has brought his own speedboat along. We will be mainly fishing for bream, which we will have as an hors doevre at sundowner time as we watch the spectacular Lake Kariba sunset. It’s a hard life hey? The closer we get the smell of Africa becomes stronger, the rich aromas of wild animals, the heat, the dryness. Need I go on?

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Fishing for a spot on Lake Kariba.

Apart from all the Elephant, Hippo and Crocodiles, I was very, very, lucky and guess what I saw? You won’t believe it, yes, a Rhino, an intensely lovely encounter as they have been poached nearly to the point of extinction. All because Easterners believe the horn has aphrodisiac capabilities. How dreadfully sad again. Trouble is, I thought I had it on my camera but oh lo alas, it is a long range snap and barely visible. My nephew had a snazzy camera but, somehow they didn’t come out. Was also late evening with the sun going down. I’m going to put the photo in anyway as such an amazing sight. Look left of my nephews shoulder close to the tree. Left of the uprooted tree stump.


So the same old routine continues. Up early in the morning, a cup of tea, then take the speedboat and find a spot, or a couple of spots (watch out for crocodiles at all times), and then fish until elevenish, then back to the houseboat for breakfast. Then the houseboat leaves for the next spot, then more fishing and return for a shower, a drink, snacks of freshly cooked bream you have caught. Watch the spectacular Lake Kariba sunsets and finally supper.
Before I finally show you the examples of the sunsets, I have to add one more photo of how the locals get around. Mindblowing, and I wonder what they do if later the Lake gets rough which it can do so quickly.

Local guests at Lake Kariba.


It looks like some tin barge and they are using oars to paddle themselves across.

Well I’m browned off, the boat has been booked for five days, but, we have to leave after three as we came in one car, and some of the others have to get back home. After all I came all the way from Ireland for this. So I’m sitting with a case of the severe mutters as we approach Andorra harbour on our way back. I needn’t have worried, fate is on my side. As we pull over for diesel in the harbour my old friends Bruce and Sheila Linforth are sitting in their house which is right on the harbour. They ring the diesel bloke and tell him to send Spook over. There is much merriment as they are flabbergasted and saying to my nephew, “how come when your dad comes here, nobody wants to see him, but when Spook comes here everyone does?” Cookie takes me over in the speedboat to Bruce and Sheila’s house and a terrific reunion occurs. I haven’t seen them for thirty years or more. They tell me my great College of Knowledge friend Tommy is in town. They phone him and he agrees to put me up in his lodge for a few days. They then get hold of my nephew and he drives across and leaves my kit. Yay I’m still at Lake Kariba for a few more days. More importantly, it shows what wonderful people Bruce and Sheila are. They have a couple of houseboats here. I trust I have whet your appetite for a visit? Bookings can be made through Bruce and Sheila at “” Go on and do yourself a favour you will not be sorry. I know.


About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
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18 Responses to Lake Kariba and Zimbabwe revisited.

  1. I once did a catamaran vacation on a 44′ Voyager touring the British Virgin Islands. So, I can imagine your joy in your houseboat travels of Lake Kariba. How impressive – did you say some 165 miles and the largest man-made lake in the world? Amazing … and amazing that the lake was filled with water. I’ve often wondered about living on a houseboat.

  2. Julie says:

    “the locals get around” on the Binga side always remember them like that, very relaxed. Kariba I visited 10 times as you say very much a Hotel, holiday resort back then and from Byo had to be a long weekend. My brother had an army stint there too – so another visit. Ah you see what happens when I read your blog, so many flash backs. Thanks muchly Spook for the trip

  3. Jill Creane says:

    Thanks for the memories, Spook. Lovely to see Kariba again – what an idyllic spot. Have been there many times – but mostly in cottages and chalets – only once on a houseboat. On that occasion we had a farmer with us who started drinking beer at breakfast time while observing tht he never drank before sundown – but SOMEWHERE in the world it was sundown right now! The cook on that trip produced enormous meals too, which left us stuffed to the gunwales. We had an Englishman with us who somehow managed to get himself locked in the loo and was in there for some time until he managed to attract the attention of the general dogsbody, who heard him as he leaned out of the window and hammered on the side of the boat. After wrestling fruitlessly with the lock from the outside of the door, said dogsbody then climbed over the side of the boat and lowered himself to the window, wriggled through and managed to undo the lock from the inside. Our Pommie friend emerged red-faced and discomfited while the men in the group treated him to catcalls and rude comments.

    We have a daughter and son-in-law who live in Harare and go up there regtularly with friends to spend a week or even just a week-end there. He has two speedboats which they take up with them – they are keen fishermen and have caught some tiger of spectacular size.

    We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of the underground hydro electrical scheme while the dam was being built. My husband was Assistant Trade Commissioner for the Federation at the time, based in Johannesburg and had to take a delegation of SA businessmen to view the underground mechanics of the scheme. I recall plenty of pristine while tiles everywhere and huge turbines. It was most impressive.

    A super article with lovely photos to stir up the nostalgia. Many thanks again!

  4. Ian Neill says:

    Thanks got the memories, some disappointing like the lights and robots, but overall was great, could even taste the bream.

  5. Thank you for describing your travelling to Kariba- what you saw – the changes- since the dictator got the power- makes a heart heavy. I mean not seeing Elephants, or buck etc- no fences, no neat farms- crops- etc. Even the lack of paint, or robot lights……..
    But Kariba has luckily ” not” changed- the bream is still there- the crocodiles- the good life as we knew when we went fishing.
    It must have been such a great meet up with old friends, and all the kindness that they still have.
    If I ever win the lottery I will visit your friends Sheila and Bruce- and if I don’t win a lottery I will just have to dream away by reading your blog.
    So special that you had a chance to see the hydro electric scheme – a chance not many people have had.I just wish my family had gone to see more places when we were still living in Rhodesia- by reading blogs like these, I get the feeling I missed too much.
    I love your pictures, they are gorgeous. Sorry but I couldn’t spot the Rhino, maybe my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be- but I can imagine there was one out there. Sigh,… I want to go home- to the place it used to be.
    Keep on writing Spook, your stories are pages of love of a once wonderful place.

  6. frankiekay says:

    We went on the Somabula – which belonged to our neighbours – in October!!! Imagine the heat! I hooked a tiger but it got away and we caught lots of bream -its what comes out of going on a fishing trip with fishermen – they know where to fish!

  7. Thanks for bringing back so many lovely memories! Beautifully written, as always 🙂

  8. Harry Whitehead says:

    Thanks for that Spook. I am due to visit friends and family in Zim shortly after having been away for 12 years. I think you might just have softened the blow for me as I cannot imagine what to expect. We are sure to take in a Kariba trip.

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