First of all, I would like to thank the Chiwaridzo family for inviting me on their annual trip to Lake Kariba. It was one of the best trips I had been on and I am grateful for the opportunity of being on a house boat. Houseboats are the new holiday destination.
Kariba had been a destination I longed to go to. Having gone to Kariba for camp over 15 years ago, I really did want to return but as a tourist. The opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it with both hands. The trip went from the road and onto water, and I was looking forward to the experience of living on the lake.
The houseboat had four rooms and could accommodate more people on the main level and extras on the top for when the day came to rest. Kariba is known to be hot and the area did not fail on its promise. The sun made its presence known and the aircon on the houseboat was put to good use. In as much as being cool was the preferred option, the top deck was everything I wanted it to be – serene.
The trip initiated with a four hour cruise to an island and the cruise was full of bliss. The open water, a summery blaze from the sun and a cold beer in the hand combined to form the perfect Kariba cocktail. Quality conversation was had in pockets of the houseboat, some people napped in their chosen spots, whilst the opportunity was taken to pull out a book and to indulge in the drug of literature. Bliss!
We arrived at our destination and I couldn’t help but marvel over how large Lake Kariba is. I was convinced we were near Zambia but to my surprise, we weren’t even close. Nonetheless the island where we docked we shared with hippos, elephants and crocodiles that were nestled a distance away from where we were. The theme of the trip was fishing and soon after arriving, people went fishing.
The nights were peaceful and at this time of the year and the area we were in, there were no mosquitos. However, there were other insects that were seduced by the lights of the boat and followed the light as if in a trance. I enjoyed sleeping under the night sky with the moon and the stars making my ceiling to look up to. Hippos could be heard in the distance as the Kariba’s residents serenaded throughout the night.
Fishing was extremely fun. Having not fished in over 15 years, I felt a little rusty. But I believe “what is learned cannot be unlearned” (I learnt that in my psych lectures) so I was excited for the upcoming challenge. Having been told that last year someone did not have a single catch the entire trip, I felt no pressure. I was given easy to follow instructions on how to fish and within minutes, I opened the account for my boat. From then on, our boat was making it look easy. I’m glad I opened my account really early. For every fish I caught, I would either cast out into a tree or I lost the worm (yes, it’s a mystery to me too). The tiger fish was the prize catch of the trip. The highly talked about fish was the target in many eyes, for me, I was happy not to be losing worms.
We took the smaller boats to find our fishing spots and along the way, the residents came out to welcome us to the neighbourhood. Hippos were the most prominent residents and were very cold in their greetings. As we coasted by, a few of them would look out at us with unwelcoming eyes and occasionally spray water in our direction. Rude! Antelopes were a bit more friendly but did not hesitate to greet us then move along with their lives. The more accommodating residents were the lionesses we went to visit on our way back from a fishing trip. Like housewives enjoying sundowners in the back garden, these majestic beasts were exciting to see. We were once visited by baboons and they looked eager to join us on the boat. A little too eager! On another fishing trip we spotted buffaloes in the distance and went to say hi. They were neither interested or phased of our presence. Crocodiles were common in the area but seemed to ignore our curious advances. Let’s just say the residents of Kariba prefer to be left alone and admired from a distance.
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On one of our earlier fishing trips, we found an uncharted spot where we did most of our fishing. On our way there we passed a hippo that was enjoying the day in its own company. When we passed it was about five metres away, bathing in Lake Kariba. We coasted by so as not to startle the fantastic beast. We made it past and proceeded to our spot to fish. About an hour later, I felt a tug on my line. Having been struggling for a catch and losing worms, I pounced on the opportunity of catching a big one. It was a struggle! I tried reeling it in. Nothing! I tried changing my technique. Nothing! I called for assistance (thinking maybe this is the tiger fish) and we couldn’t understand how this creature was resisting the charm of my line. Eventually the line snapped (yes I lost another worm) and to my surprise the guide said jokingly, “You tried to catch a hippo.” I failed to see the joke. With the stories I have heard of hippos, it was the last animal I wanted to encounter. Soon after he said that, the hippo popped up 20 to 30 metres away from us. The hippo was underwater when it passed but due to my excitement, the boat was distracted and assumed I had the catch of the day, meanwhile it was a hippo going on about its day. From then on, I monitored its movements. I wasn’t about to let it fool me again.
What I praised about Kariba was the stillness of the water. It makes a world of difference if you are not sure if you will be affected by the waves. I do recommend you monitor the amount of beers you have on the water. Just because you’re still, doesn’t mean you can handle the ride back.
Lake Kariba is a great place to visit. Venture onto the water and cruise for a couple of hours, spend a few nights on the various islands and enjoy the serenity of the place. Wake up to marvelous sun rises and end the day with romantic sun sets. Experience the beauty of Zimbabwe on one of Africa’s largest man-made lakes.