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Kariba

The middle deck of Matusadona is the practical deck where the crew spends much of their time; but it’s also a place to relax during the heat of the day, read or watch television, and feast and drink the night away at the open air dining table.

The captain’s helm and the kitchen are towards the front, and the main dining table at the aft of this elegant cruiser. Here, you will have stunning outside dinners, relax in the main lounge or spend some time viewing wildlife along the side of the boat at eye level.

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The main lounge, where you can relax and read a book, have an afternoon nap or perhaps even watch a dvd on the flat screen television provided.

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The main outside dining table on the aft of the outside deck. This is where the beautiful dinners are served in the evening.

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A fresh lunchtime salad on the middle deck dining table

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Meet the crew at the helm of the Matusadon. Captain, Newturn Jack (Left), Cook, Tendai Mapurazi (Middle) and Steward, Conwell Mapurazi (Right) 

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Kitchen with a view of the helm and beyond.

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In the main lounge is a work desk with lots of space for laptops and photography equipment, including plug points to charge everything.

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If it’s not the best weather outside, eat at the main dining room table with convenient window access to the kitchen.

For enquiries on chartering Matusadona see here. 

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John Kaye and his family recently spent a memorable week on Matusadona and had some wonderful feedback and photos to share:

Obviously the Matusadona is an incredible craft which, despite having seen many photographs of her prior to our arrival, totally exceeded our expectations in terms of her size, comfort and luxury. Similarly, Lake Kariba is a place of breath-taking beauty with its ever-changing landscape, abundant wildlife and spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

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Those wonderful things aside, what made the experience truly unique for us were those people who made it happen: The other organisers, thanks to whom every detail was taken care of and who put together a schedule which ran like clockwork from start to finish; Pascal at CFS who met us at Lanseria on both legs of our journey and made us comfortable and welcome from the outset; Pilot Piers who took great care of us not only in the air but also at Kariba airport and performed the smoothest touchdown that I’ve ever experienced on our return to Lanseria – my Mother-in-law wasn’t even aware that we were in fact on the ground; Our driver to and from the airport Flower (christened Mr Pot) and Maxwell our driver and guide during the game drive at Bumi Hills whose knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area was exceptional and made the drive a fascinating experience.

Then of course there was Scott (Indiana) Brown and his crew Newtern, Tyson and Tendai who were absolutely amazing in fulfilling our every need and creature comfort. Thanks to Tendai (and Sabine’s tuition I believe) the food was absolutely delicious and catered wonderfully for all our diverse culinary requirements and thanks to Scott there was never a dull moment.  We were constantly on the go in the launch exploring the lakeside for game and birdlife, fishing or just watching the sun come up or go down – absolutely fabulous!

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Amongst the five of us I estimate that around 3000 photographs were taken – an indication of the variety of fascinating things to which we were exposed. A few of them are attached: the family and I with Scott at the end of the cruise, and my wife and I in the launch showing that the weather on the second day was untypically wet and cool. Fortunately for the rest of the time the Jacuzzi was the order of the day together with a frosty Bohlinger’s, the local brew of which I became quite fond!

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Then there is a shot selected from the multitude taken of the magnificent sunsets, followed by various examples of the wildlife we encountered, followed by some fishy tales.Firstly me and my first (relatively disappointing) catch followed by something more acceptable, then Scott with the largest ‘Cornish Jack’ that he’s ever caught (16kg plus) followed by a distinctly cheesed off baby whose mother we thankfully didn’t encounter.

Finally a shot of one of the many commercial fishing rigs that net fish from the lake by lamplight at night followed by the reason for it all – the remarkable Kariba Dam wall.

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Sadly, now we are back in Gauteng it seems like a dream but we have our photos and many, many wonderful memories of a truly memorable trip for which we cannot thank De Vere enough.

Below are a few more pics from our wonderful time on Matusadona.

For enquiries about chartering Matusadona, click here:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wonderful food

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.

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Homeward bound

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

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As early as 1941, funds were allocated to conduct a survey of Kariba Gorge for a possible ground-breaking hydroelectric dam site on the Zambezi River. 

Both Southern and Norther Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia as they are today) were in contention as it was theorised that the Kafue site in Northern Rhodesia was a better position to the one on the Zambezi. The question was solved by a board of experts who agreed that the dam should be built on the Zambezi River. In August 1955 the then Federal Government of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, called for tenders for the construction of the dam wall.

The contract for the construction of Kariba township was awarded to Richard Costain, and the main contract for the wall and transmission lines to the Italian consortium, Imprasit. The Kariba South Bank Power Station of the Kariba Dam hydroelectric scheme was officially opened by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 17th May, 1960.

THE DAM

The dam wall of Lake Kariba is located at the former Kriwa (Kariba) gorge, it is the largest man-made dam wall in the world, standing 128 m (420 ft) tall and 579 m (1,900 ft) long. It is a concrete double curvature arch dam, of mass concrete construction reinforced around the spillway gates.

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During the construction of Kariba Gorge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Kariba was designed for the safe passage of a 10 000 year flood, based on river flow data available at the time. In the original design of the dam, the spillway had been designed for a 3-month flood of volume 68km3. During construction, in 1957, a peak flood occurred, the highest on record and created vast amounts of damage to the wall and the building equipment.

As a result, the dam engineers revised their spillway design to a 3-month flood of 74km3. In the following season, 1958, a peak flood was once again recorded. This led to further revision of the spillway design to it’s preset capacity of 92 km3.

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The Kariba Dam wall. Photo Wikimedia Commons

OPERATION NOAH

Kariba’s rising waters put the lives of thousands of animals in danger. This prompted the most extensive and courageous rescue operation ever undertaken.

As the dam wall closed and the waters rose, milliards of large crickets, mice, rats, and the like emerged and scurried away from the encroaching waters. The skies above were blackened by swarms of birds sating themselves on the harvest. In the water the voracious tiger fish rampaged and, glutted with drowning insects, died. Many animals, notably the larger carnivores, retreated inland. Others, however, instinctively made for high ground to wait out another seasonal flood, and were trapped on temporary islands created by the unrelenting upsurge as Lake Kariba filled.

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A satellite view of Lake Kariba. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Senior ranger Rupert Fothergill, Brian Hughes (an ex-fireman who could not swim) and their assistants arrived. Under-manned and under-equipped, Operation Noah had begun.

They began by trying to manoeuvre the large animals into the water and sheaparding them to safety. In so doing, it was revealed that many mammals could swim long distances – waterbuck a full mile and baboon 400 yards, for instance. They also discovered that hornless female buck could paddle further than the males. And they observed instances of intelligent, adaptive behaviour such as waterbuck ferrying offspring on their backs and large horned bull antelope supporting their heads on logs, or testing them on others’ backs, during their journey to safety.

Others, declining the swim, were driven into the water for easier capture before being trussed and transported to shore. During this time tranquilliser darting techniques were pioneered.

This was a heroic period, when a handful of men drove themselves to the verge of collapse whilst their gains were pathetically small as thousands of animals drowned or died from shock or injuries sustained during the rescue operations.

Rupert & Len Harvey releasing a waterbuck from net during Operation Noah, where many game capture techniques were pioneered during the rising water from Lake Kariba.

Rupert & Len Harvey releasing a waterbuck from net during Operation Noah, where many game capture techniques were pioneered during the rising water from Lake Kariba.

Through the British Sunday Mail (February 15 1959) the story of Operation Noah fired the sentimental imagination of the world. Soon there were more feature writers, television cameramen, do-gooders, and inquisitive officials than there were designated rescuers and their intrusion severely hampered operations. A request for and nylon stockings to plait as replacements for the ropes which burnt captured animals, saw millions of pairs inundate the locals SPCA in another unstoppable flood.

Provoked by pressures of a press-fed public and humanitarian organisations, the task force was increased and better equipped by the Southern Rhodesia government. Overseas financial aid was refused, however, because of the danger of donors deeming it their right to intervene in the project. These funds were diverted to Northern Rhodesia (Now Zambia) and used to launch their participation in the rescue campaign.

Operation Noah, the largest animal rescue ever undertaken, saved over 5000 animals, including 50 black rhino between 1960 and 62. How many creatures died will never be known. Ironically, in the 12 years up till then, over 300 000 animals had been killed as part of the programme to control the spread of Tsetsi fly in Southern Rhodesia.

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