Lake Kariba

Africa's Inland Sea

Lake Kariba is the largest artificial lake in the world, measuring approximately 220 km from East to West and up to 40 km wide, covering almost 5,600 square kilometers

Lake Kariba

As a reservoir, Kariba holds some 180 billion tons of water at any time. The Dam was built in the 1950’s for hydro‐electric power generation and was officially opened in 1959.

Operation Noah, a 5‐year wildlife rescue operation, rescued over 6,000 animals, most of which were relocated to the Matusadona National Park whilst the Lake filled up upon completion of the Dam. Besides wildlife, a large number off families were relocated and homed in new towns and villages, now on the shores of the Lake such as Kariba, Binga, Mlibizi and Siavonga. The filling of the Lake between 1958 and 1963 caused more than 20 earthquakes of greater than 5 magnitude on the Richter Scale. The Lake soon became a tourist attraction on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Lake, frequented by local and international visitors. Kariba has many mooring opportunities both on the main land and on islands and offers romantic spots with idyllic waterfalls in places like the Sanyati Gorge.

The Matusadona National Park is the centrepiece in this beautiful landscape surrounding the lake. Kariba also has the most incredible birdlife to be found, rivalled only by the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

The land around Lake Kariba on the Zimbabwe side is full of big game, such as:

  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Rhino
  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Eland

Facts about Kariba

Kariba Dam Wall
Construction 1955 – 1959
Designed by André Coyne
Main Contractors Impresit Costruzioni (Italy)
Original Cost £80-million
Final Cost £122-million – excluding the North Bank power station
Design Type Double Curvature Concrete Arch Dam
Height 128 metres
Crest Length 617 metres
Width at Crest 13 metres
Width at Base 24 metres
Concrete Volume 1,032,000 m³
Flood Gates 6 flood gates measuring 9.0m x 8.8m each
Flood Gate Discharge At maximum retention level, each gate is capable of releasing 1,574 m³/sec or ±9,400 m³/sec with all gates open.
Depth of Stilling Pool Maximum 78 metres with a capacity of 335,000 m³.
Hydro-electric Power South Bank: Originally 6 x 126 MW turbines totalling 750 MW. Expansion of overall capacity to 1,050 MW planned for 2014.
North Bank: Original capacity of 614 MW installed in 1977.
Total: 2,130 MW
Fatalities 86 workers lost their lives during the construction
Lake Kariba
Countries involved Zambia and Zimbabwe
River Basin Zambezi River
Catchment Area 663,848 km²
Length 280 km
Width 40 km
Surface Area 5,580 km²
Average Depth 29 metres
Greatest Depth 120 metres
Water Volume 185 km³ or 185-billion tons of water. With a population of 7.63-mln using an average of 161 litres of water per day, the volume of Kariba could supply Greater London for approximately 412 years.
Water Retention Time ±3.3 years
Maximum Retention Level 487.8 metres above mean sea level
Minimum Operating Level 474.8 metres above mean sea level
Annual Evaporation 1.56 metres or ±8.7 billion cubic metres of water which would expose 236 km² of land


The end of summer and of the rains. It is hot in March and towards the end of April it starts to cool down. From May onwards, bring a jersey for the evenings.
You may experience rains when visiting in March and the first part of April.

Winter, dry. Mornings and evenings are cool to cold, but during the day you will find yourself stripping off to T‐shirts an d shorts. Clear blue skies.

Spring, dry. August is usually a windy month. By the beginning of September, the weather starts to warm up significantlly. Clear blue skies.

Summer. The first rains arrive around mid November. You can expect extremely high temperatures during these months.