Lake Kariba itself was formed when a dam flooded much of the Zambezi Valley in 1958. As the world’s greatest manmade lake was formed, 175 miles long and up to 20 miles wide, Operation Noah saved the lives of around 5,000 animals, many of which were placed in Matusadona National Park. The park covers a range of 1,407 square kilometres, two thirds of which lie south of the Zambezi Escarpment. Here the open woodlands and mountain acacias mark their territory, yet the other side of the escarpment, the ground is abruptly flat, characterised by mopane scrub and woodland. The park is bordered to the west by the Umi River, to the east by the theatrical Sanyati Gorge and to the north by Lake Karibu itself.
Known for being one of the last wild sanctuaries for the endangered black rhino, this is one of the best wildlife spots in Africa. Around the lake, the healthy populations of hippo and crocodiles dot the waters and the sun-bleached trees that drowned all those years ago are still standing strong, breaking the surface to become birdlife magnets, especially for fish eagles, cormorants and other water birds. Further inland, it is possible to see the ‘Big Five’ and the buffalo and antelope (sable & roan) attract a good number of predators, especially big cats. At one point the park was thought to have the highest density of lions in Africa, which has changed due to the growing populations elsewhere, but they are still here in great numbers. It is possible to see leopard too, but they remain as elusive as ever.
Other wildlife frequently seen includes baboons, small antelope, zebra and giraffe, as well as elephants that are often seen swimming the waters of the lake.