Matusadona National Park

The Matusadona National Park is one of the Zambezi valley's wildlife and wilderness treasures. Remote, rugged and accessible only by air charter, 4 x 4 or boat, this wonderful park encompasses Lake Kariba's most beautiful assets. Southern shorelines, creeks and bays, a vast flat bush-covered plateau cut by numerous riverlines and the wild, wide, 600m-high Matusadona mountain range.

About Matusadona National Park

The Park lies about 20km across the lake from the town of Kariba, and is bounded by two spectacularly beautiful rivers, in the west, the Ume, which meets the lake in a wide estuary and in the east, the Sanyati with its magnificent, steep sided, rocky gorge.

The Park comprises some 1,400 square kilometers of diverse flora and fauna. Before the lake was built, Matusadonha was a vast, rugged wilderness with limited access.

With the lake came ecological changes. One in particular, the lakeshore contributed greatly to the increase of large mammal populations in the area, especially elephant and buffalo. The grass found on the shoreline is Panicum repens and is a rejuvenative grass - needing only fluctuating lake levels to replenish its nutrients. With this ready food source, buffalo, waterbuck, zebra, and even impala have thrived and with them the predators.

Wildlife

Matusadona National Park SunsetMany of the wild animals rescued from the rising waters of the newly-formed Lake Kariba by conservationist Rupert Fothergill during the much-publicised Operation Noah in 1958 were released into the Matusadona National Park. Today, it is an Intensive Protection Zone for the endangered black rhinoceros and one of the few places in Southern Africa where visitors may be lucky enough to see this magnificent animal in the wild. This park is a treat for visitors wanting to see Africa's other big mammals including elephant, buffalo, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah, zebra and various antelope species.

The population of woodland birds, raptors and waterfowl to be found in the Matusadona National Park is staggering: there are more than 240 species. Take binoculars, camera and field guides as essential equipment and be prepared for an ornithological and wildlife extravaganza!

Flora and Fauna

Matusadonha has three distinct ecological areas. First is the lake and shoreline grassland; second, the Zambezi Valley floor, a mass of thick jesse and mopane woodland, and; third, the Escarpment area of Julbernadia and Brachystegia woodlands. The Jesse/ Mopani area is sparsely grassed, but provides habitat for browsers, most notably the black rhino. Elephants range throughout the Park, seeking the shade of the Jesse in the heat of the day.

The Escarpment rises some 700 metres above the Valley floor and is extremely rugged. Over the years, elephant and fire depredations have caused the once substantial woodlands to dwindle, and in parts, grasslands have taken over. It became necessary to take control measures to reduce the elephant population to a manageable size. It also became necessary to carry out early burning programmes in the upper escarpment, to prevent later, hot fires from raging through and causing serious damage to tree growth. The effectiveness of the programmes can now be seen by the tremendous regrowth apparent in the Escarpment area.

Animal species that are found in abundance include elephant and buffalo. Other common species are those of: night ape, honey badger, civet, small spotted genet, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, spotted hyaena, wild cat, lion, leopard, yellow spotted dassie, black rhinoceros, zebra, warthog, common duiker, grysbok, klipspringer, waterbuck, bushbuck, scrub hare, porcupine, vervet monkey, chacma baboon, side-striped jackal, hippopotamus, roan antelope, kudu and bush squirrel. Some of the more elusive species include: clawless otter, white-tailed mongoose, reedbuck, sable antelope, eland, civet, rusty spotted genet, caracal and bush pig. Animals that are present but only sighted on rare occasions include wild dog, cheetah, roan and pangolin.

Fishing

A major attraction of the lake shores of the Matusadona is the fishing. The magnificent tigerfish, endemic to the Zambezi River, is a thrilling sport fish for avid anglers, and the focus of an International Tigerfishing Tournament held on Lake Kariba in October each year. Various other species including several types of bream make good eating and can be found in abundance among the drowned forests and shallow weedbeds all along the shoreline of the National Park.

Facilities

Matusadona National Park Black RhinosVisitors to the Matusadona can expect a truly wild safari experience. Once you have left Kariba, facilities are limited. There are no shops, electricity supply is usually by generator, and although cellphone networks are available, the signal can be erratic. Accommodation choices, in addition to chartered houseboats, vary from private luxury safari lodges and tented bush camps to basic self-catering accommodation and camping. If you are walking in the wild, it is advisable to ensure that you are accompanied by a qualified and experienced professional guide or National Parks ranger who can ensure your safety and enhance your enjoyment of this magnificent wilderness. Note that, for safety reasons, passengers on houseboats are not allowed off the boats unless an armed guide is employed to accompany them.

Swimming anywhere in the lake, although tempting, is extremely foolish because of the presence of crocodiles. Most safari lodges have swimming pools, as do the larger houseboats. Some of the latter have safe swimming cages in which the intrepid are lowered into the water over the side of the boat! In all other cases, the best option for cooling down is to use a bucket shower!

If you want to get away from it all and enjoy a wilderness experience which combines the harsh beauty of the African bush with the wide horizons of a vast inland lake, the Matusadona National Park is for you.

The closest convenience shops are found in Kariba town, therefore, visitors are advised to thoroughly pack for the trip. Petrol, diesel and oil are sometimes available at Bumi Harbour but supplies are not always reliable.

Campsites

Tashinga Camp
The Park has a camping site at Tashinga on the lake shore. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water, showers, toilets, wash basins and baths. Firewood and braai facilities are available. Some of the camping sites have sleeping shelters.

Sanyati Camp
There is a smaller camping site at Sanyati consisting of 6 sites, each with a braai stand. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water and laundry trough.

Changachirere Camp
Changachirere Camping Site is an exclusive camping site that caters for one party of a maximum of 10 persons. The facility has a mini-ablution block and shelter.

Undeveloped Bush Camps
There are also 2 totally undeveloped bush camping sites at Jenje and Kanjedza for up to a maximum of 10 persons per camp. Visitors must be fully equipped and have a four wheel drive vehicle for this section.

Exclusive Campsites

Ume
Situated close to Tashinga airstrip on the east bank of the Bumi River, 55 kilometres from Kariba by boat.

Muuyu
Situated at Elephant Point, 44 kilometres from Kariba by boat.

Mbalabala
Also situated on the Bumi River upstream around 300 metres beyond Ume Camp.

Other exclusive camp sites can be found at Maronga close to the Chifudzi substation and Kautsiga sited on the escarpment which is ideal for hikers and climbers.

Attractions & Activities

  • Unbridled adventure in the extreme wild
  • Hiking and escarpment climbing
  • Game viewing along the lake shoreline from the safety of houseboats
  • Fishing in the rivers and inlets
  • Bird watching in the breathtaking Sanyati Gorge
  • Game drives
  • Boating and canoeing safaris
     

Information on this page has been kindly contributed by www.zimparks.org and www.wildzambezi.com