Matusadona National Park

Matusadona National ParkMatusadona is situated on the southern shore of Lake Kariba and bounded on the east by the dramatic Sanyati Gorge and the west by the Umi River. The park contains an abundance of wildlife, especially Elephant, Lion, Kudu, Impala and Buffalo. Two thirds of this 1500 km² national park is accessible only by foot. Comprising wooded hills, plateau and shoreline, the park itself is not easy to get to by road, even in a 4×4, and is most easily accessed by boat from Kariba. Matusadona is a melodic word in the local dialect for “constant dripping of dung” in reference to the huge elephant population which took to these high grounds after their relocation in Operation Noah. The rugged mountains of the Zambezi escarpment dominate the backdrop.

The Lake Kariba shoreline is home to large concentrations of Buffalo, Waterbuck, Impala and Zebra, especially during the dry months from May to October. Elephant bulls are almost always in view close to the water. Rhino are present but elusive in the hills and woodland areas. Lion, Leopard, Warthog, Kudu and Bushbuck are endemic. Because of the lake and vegetation diversity, an extraordinary variety of birdlife can be found. Lion are plentiful and on average, a Crocodile inhabits every 200m of shoreline. Birdlife includes Fish Eagles, Storks, Herons and even Flamingos. The Zambezi River is Tiger Fish territory; the Tiger is a renowned fighting fish that can reach 15kg in weight. The dam supports an annual Tiger fishing tournament which is immensely popular. Matusadona is a great spot for guided game walks and its drowned forests, relics of the flooded dam, provide irresistible sunset photo opportunities.

The Kariba Dam and Operation Noah
The Zambezi River has always been the artery of Central Africa. Shortly before World War II a report was made on the possibility of building a hydroelectric scheme in the area and in 1950 a start was made. New settlements were made for the BaTonga people of the valley – it was a heart-rending sight and they were loathe to abandon Nyaminyami, their River God. Between 1956 and 1961 at the head of the deep Kariba Gorge, a 128-metre high concrete dam wall was built. By early 1959 when the dam wall was complete, the plains began to flood. Behind the wall, Lake Kariba was born, stretching back for 290km, covering 6,000 sq km, (42km across at its widest point) with an average depth of 18 metres. One of Africa’s most ambitious projects came to life when Queen Elizabeth officially started the generators on May 16th, 1960.

Operation Noah, was borne in 1959 shortly after the dam wall was completed in 1959. The project was aimed at rescuing wild animals, most of them Sable and other antelopes, which were trapped on many islands by the rising waters of Lake Kariba. As the dam was sealed and the waters began to rise the wild animals in the area gradually made way moving to higher ground. Many of these animals found themselves stranded on islands with little or no hope of getting off, or even of survival. The game departments of the then Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) set out to rescue these animals and Operation Noah was set in motion. By the end of 1959 over 6,000 animals, Elephant, various buck, Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Zebra, Warthog, snakes and thousands of other reptiles, smaller animals and birds had been rescued. Animals were trapped, darted and transported by boat to safety and set free again. Many swam to safety after being herded into the waters, but others which could not swim such as rhino were trussed to rafts and taken to safety.