The Zambezi River’s Journey Through Zimbabwe

When one thinks of the mighty Zambezi River, images conjure up of powerful white-water currents, rocky ravines, sharp toothed game fish, the boisterous grunt of the ever-present hippos and the angelic cry of the majestic African fish eagle.

The fourth longest river in Africa, its source is the Mwinilungu wetlands in Zambia. This is where the Zambezi begins its long and adventurous journey through six different countries of which Zimbabwe is one of them.

You can take a river cruise upon the Zambezi River just as it starts its journey through Zimbabwe. Here, the river offers plentiful game viewing opportunities that can be enjoyed at different times of day, in comfort, upon the Ra-Ikane.

Ra-Ikane River Cruises Zambezi River

Ra-Ikane Cruises

The Zambezi River soon plummets down one of Seven Wonders of the World, the majestic and powerful Victoria Falls. The falls plunge headlong into a 108 meters vertical chasm, spanning across the one and a half kilometers width of the river.

Immediately after the Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River winds through the Batoka Gorge where you can enjoy many adrenaline activities, as well as exhilarating white water rafting.

Batoka Gorge Zambezi River - Kris Griffiths

Batoka Gorge
Image: Kris Griffiths

As the river heads downward toward the mouth of the Southern point of Lake Kariba, it arrives at another marvel, yet this time man-made.  Kariba, 220 kilometers long and at its widest 40 kilometers, is one of the world’s largest manmade lakes in terms of volume.  At this point the river sits just over 500 meters above sea level after making its way down from the mighty Victoria Falls. It has a splattering of islands along its almost Mediterranean like waters, the smaller populated with exotic birdlife whilst some of the larger have numerous larger animals living on them, including antelope.

Lake Kariba Abercrombie & Kent

Lake Kariba
Image: Abercrombie & Kent

Although the water may look idyllic for swimming, one would be foolish to disregard the cunning and stealth-like crocodile who vastly over populate this mighty space of open water, not to mention the huge hippopotamus pods, who account for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal. Great care must always be taken not just near or on the water, but also on the shoreline due to the constant presence of lions, hyena, elephant and buffalo. The Zambezi, as it travels across Kariba, is an unforgiving place as much as it is beautiful.

The Zambezi River continues its journey through the Kariba dam wall where it enters into its river form once again, swiftly thrashing its way through a narrow chasm of gorges and channels as it winds its way between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Kariba Dam - Marcus Wishart

Kariba Dam Wall
Image: Marcus Wishart

As the river exits the gorge, it turns into a snake-like beast, becoming shallower yet moving at a faster pace through the Mana Pools National Park.

The river meanders along, cutting a course along the banks in its path, ripping land and fauna away. Shifting sands move with the constant current, thus always changing the floor of the river bed and its depth. Crocodiles and hippos once again populate these waters with anglers in boats needing to take extra special caution traversing these shallow channels. But the bounty they chase is reward enough for them by way of the magnificent Tigerfish, as well as other strong fighting fresh water fish. As the sun sets along the banks of the Zambezi one will almost always see herds of elephants coming down to the shoreline to bathe and drink.

And then night falls- lion can be heard in the distance calling out to one another, hippos grunt, and hyena scream into the darkness and the mighty Zambezi carries on its eastward journey into the night.

Ellie along Zambezi banks

Ellie along the Zambezi banks