Game Viewing, Birding and Fishing - A truly unique safari experience.
Kariba Houseboats & Zimbabwe Safari Holiday Guide
- Why a Kariba Houseboat Safari on Kariba?
- Kariba: Safari, Bird & Wildlife Photo Gallery
- Wildlife Sightings on a Kariba Houseboat Safaris
- Fishing on Lake Kariba
- Types of Houseboats on Kariba
- How much does a Houseboat Safari Cost?
- How to Book a Houseboat on Kariba
- Kariba Houseboat Trip Report: March 2009
I recently went on holiday to The Gambia where we traveled inland up the river Gambia to a remote location and whilst the trip was excellent it did make me realise just how special combining a houseboat and safari holiday in Zimbabwe could and is. Whilst the Gambia makes for an excellent holiday, I was a little disappointed by the lack of wildlife. The Gambia river is truly massive and we traveled over 200 miles inland, mostly on the river where we spotted 1 bloat of hippos (yes that is a correct term for a group of hippos!), 1 dead crocodile, dolphins in the estuary of the river, chimpanzees, baboons and a couple of species of monkeys. The birdlife in the Gambia was great and we saw many new species and plenty of old favorites. The accommodation in The Gambia was adequate, but for what you pay for, I would suggest that in Zimbabwe for the same price, the standard is much higher. I am not going to make out that Zimbabwe is perfect, far from it and if you visit in the current climate, things like electricity and water in some locations may be a problem but Zimbabwe still has some truly wild locations, with an abundance of wildlife and spectacular scenery that will take your breath away.
Kariba Houseboat and Safari Holiday
During most of my life my parents have owned a boat in Kariba and I have spent many holidays fishing and game viewing on Lake Kariba. A houseboat holiday on Kariba offers a unique type of Safari, it combines the relaxation that only water can give, whilst still the possibility of game viewing, excellent birdwatching and fishing. Game viewing on the lake is limited mostly to water dependant animals and thus you won't see as huge a variety that you would on a traditional vehicle safari on land (see below for common animal sightings), that is why in this guide I suggest combining a houseboat holiday on Kariba and a Safari holiday at one of Zimbabwe's many National parks or reserves. That way you get the best of both worlds and if you are a keen birder, you will get to see both water and land birds. There are also Kariba Houseboats that you can book with a Safari Guide who will come with you, they can then take you on foot into the bush in the Matusadona National Park, this is an excellent option for those who are looking to combine a walking safari with a houseboat safari.
Kariba is a wonderful location for taking scenery as well as wildlife photographs. To give you a flavour of what the views are like in Kariba, take a look at the Kariba Photo Gallery, where all the photos were taken whilst on a Kariba Houseboat Holiday.
If you like your Elephants (and who doesn't), then a houseboat Safari on Lake Kariba is a must, there are parts of the lake where you are almost guaranteed to see elephants coming down to the waters edge to drink. What I have also found interesting is, because you are on the water, many animals including elephants don't see you as a threat and close encounters happen often.
Some of my best Elephant Photographs were taken from a Houseboat on Kariba.
Other large mammal sightings are mostly of those that spend much of their time in and around water, so sightings of animals like Buffalo, Impala and Waterbuck are common.
Then there are the large animals that live within the water of Kariba, like the Hippos and Crocodiles, sightings of both are common as well as Terrapins.
Kariba has many National Parks and reserves on its shores (Charara Safari Area, Matusadona National Park & Chete Safari Area) and as such you never know when you may spot Lion, Giraffe, Kudu or any of the other many species that they contain. Below I have listed the most common animal sightings from a houseboat on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe.
Common Lake Kariba Mammal Sightings:
- Vervet Monkey
- Plains Zebra (Burchell's Zebra)
Common Lake Kariba Reptile Sightings:
- Nile Crocodile
- Water Monitor (Nile Monitor - Varanus niloticus )
Common Lake Kariba Bird Sightings:
Lake Kariba is a fantastic birding holiday location, especially if you are after water birds. Just as an example, below are all the birds that I identified on a 5 night trip on Kariba in March 2009.
Raptors & Owls:
- African Fish-Eagle
- Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk)
- (Western) Redfooted Falcon
- Martial Eagle
- Bateleur Eagle
- White-Headed Vulture
- Pearl-spotted Owlet (heard not seen)
- Cattle Egret
- Great White Egret
- Grey Heron
- Black Heron
- Green-backed Heron
- Dwarf Bittern
- African Openbilled Stork
- Saddle-Billed Stork
- Woolly-necked Stork
- African Sacred Ibis
- Pied Kingfisher
- Malachite Kingfisher
- Crowned Lapwing (Plovers)
- Blacksmith Lapwing (Plovers)
- African Wattled Lapwing (Plover)
- African Jacana
- Grey-headed Gull
- Reed Cormorant
- African Darter
- Egyptian Goose
- White-faced Duck
- Common Sandpiper
- Spotted Thick-Knee (Dikkop)
- Golden Weaver Bird
- Lilac-breasted Roller
- Wire-tailed Swallow
- African Pied Wagtail
- Cape Glossy Starling
- Greyheaded Sparrows
- Redbilled Wood-Hoopoe
- Burchell's Coucal
- Little Bee-eater
- Red-billed Hornbill
- White-Browed Sparrow-Weaver
Kariba has to be one of the best fresh water fishing destinations in Africa, with a wide variety of species that include Tiger fish, Bream, Chessa, Nkupe, Tilapia, Catfish, Barbel and Cornish Jack.
Many say that the Tiger fish is pound for pound, the finest game fish. They are plentiful in lake Kariba and wilst probably a little more sluggish than those in the Zambezi river, they are often bigger and will give you an excellent fight. Bream fishing is also popular and at night, you can put out a line for Vundu, which can reach sizes of over 100 lbs, Barbel and other species of catfish.
There are two basic types of "houseboats" on Lake Kariba, the Cruiser Houseboat and a the Pontoon Houseboat.
Cruiser Houseboats have a single hull and are generally faster, but carry fewer people than the big Pontoon boats. Cruiser's are probably best for families or small groups and corporate conferences.
Pontoon Houseboats basically look like a floating house sitting on top of two or three pontoons (catamarans) Perfect for larger groups as they tend to be larger and have more room than Cruiser houseboats.
There are both Cruiser and Pontoon housboats available for hire on Lake kariba to suit most tastes and budgets. From luxury houseboats with air conditioning, a splash pool, toilet and shower in each cabin to more basic options, where sleeping under the African sky is the order of the day.
Tender boats: Make sure that your Houseboat comes with atleast 1 tender boat, these are towed behind the houseboat and are used for fishing and getting closer to the shore for game viewing.
The price of hiring a houseboat is usually quoted for the whole boat and not per person, per night and can range from around US$400 per night right up to US$2000 per night.
When comparing the price of chartering a houseboat on Lake Kariba, it is important to take note of what is included in the price as some houseboats only include the boat rental where as others include the fuel and still others are fully Inclusive, which means the price includes the boat, fuel, drinks and all your food.
Food: A chef or deckhand is usuallly part of the houseboat crew and will prepare your meals even if you take the self catering option.
You can book a houseboat through:
54 lawson ave, Milton Park
Phone: +263 4703533
To get more of an idea as to what a Kariba Houseboat Safari can offer you why not take a look at the links below to a report I made on Houseboat trip to Kariba in March 2009.
- Day 1 - Harare to Kariba to Antelope Island
- Day 2 - Antelope Island to Palm Bay
- Day 3 - Palm Bay
- Day 4 - Palm Bay to Spurwing Island, Kariba
- Day 5 & Day 6 - Spurwing Island to Antelope Island to Kariba
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