Matusadona is a safari cruiser unlike any other houseboat on lake Kariba.
This is obvious as the 28-metre cruiser backs out of its mooring in the Kariba town mariner. All the other houseboats seem to look on in envy as she manoeuvres her way to the entrance in slow, graceful movements. Matusadona is fairly new to Kariba, only having launched in 2013, but she steams out of the harbour into open water with the confidence and majesty of an accomplished vessel.
Owners Tim and Sabine Featherby launched Matusadona in 2013 and now charter the boat out to travellers looking for a bit of style and comfort on their Kariba safari – something which Tim believes is hard to come by on Lake Kariba these days.
Matusadona isn’t short of either style or comfort. Four wonderful wood-finished cabins make up the bottom deck of the boat; the central area is made up of an elegant lounge and kitchen area with dining deck out the back. The top deck is the real stunner on this boat: There’s a beautiful open-air lounge with adjacent bar, as well as an elevated Jacuzzi on the bow of the boat.
We spend our first night moored on an isolated island in the middle of Kariba, a glorious sunset from the upper deck bar welcoming us to Kariba. There are many islands dotted around this great lake, the remnants of high points on the land when the area was flooded in the 50’s. Kariba is a wonder of human ingenuity and the history of this section of Zambezi River is almost as fascinating as the lake itself.
A vast lake
After a big breakfast on the central deck, we steam right up the middle of Lake Kariba. I’m completely overwhelmed by the vastness of this body of water. On the southern side the Zambezi Escarpment rises up into the distance, and on the northern side I can barely see Zambia. We sit on the upper deck and take in the dramatic scenery. The purr of the engine is barely audible and the light breeze is welcome relief from the humidity as we make our way steadily up the lake.
This is our captain’s maiden voyage on Matusadona and he manages to find a secluded island on which to anchor for the night. It’s not long before the staff has packed up a boat full of drinks and we head off for an afternoon adventure on the main land.
We find a secluded beach where the deck chairs are set up and we sit sipping on gin and tonics and merrily watching the sun go down on another epic Kariba day.
Matusadona National Park
There’s a herd of about 15 elephants drinking on the lakeshore as we steam past the Matusadona National Park on our second day of the journey. This secluded wilderness on the Zimbabwean side of Kariba preserves some of the biggest prides of lions in Africa as well as elephant, buffalo, leopard and even the rare black rhino.
We anchor at a large inlet on the lakeshore of the park and it’s not long before our host, Scott, is zipping us off on a boat game drive through the pools and inlets in search of birds and wildlife. We also take a few rods along and cast a couple of lines out in the hope that a tiger fish might bite.
We see big herd of impala, a buffalo bull, more elephants and some incredible bird sightings too. One scene is unforgettable: While casting a line out into one of the inlets, a big elephant bull emerges from the bush and starts having a mud bath directly in front of us.
On the way back to the boat we see the emergence of a huge storm cell in the middle of the lake, the dark clouds illuminated by the afternoon light. A lone fish eagle sits on a dead branch in the foreground, seemingly posing for us like a regal statue.
By the time we get back to the boat, dinner is almost ready and we prepare ourselves for a feast on the main deck. We are first given fried yabbies by the bar, which is a type of fresh-water lobster that had been caught just hours before, and then some of Tim’s own Foothills Wines comes out and the scene is set for a glorious evening.
It’s a warm evening and we sit eating, drinking and watching the impressive lighting strikes from the approaching storm in the distance.
We leave the Matusadona National Park in our wake and set a course for home. I’m filled with a new sense of appreciation for the majesty of this incredible place. The history, the beauty, the storms, the sunsets and the animals make this a truly unique safari destination in Africa. Combine this with the style and comfort of Matusadona, helpful staff, plus Tim and Sabine’s incredible hospitality touch – and you’ve got an unparalleled safari experience
Written by Paul Steyn