Kariba Dam, lying on the great Zambezi River separating Zambia and Zimbabwe, was constructed to provide hydro-electricity to the region, and today is a favoured African safari destination.
Kariba was at the time of its construction the largest man-made lake in the world and at more than 270 km long it still ranks in the top echelons according to size. Built to provide power for the soon to be broken Central African Federation, made up of Nyasaland [Malawi], Northern Rhodesia [Zambia] and Southern Rhodesia [Zimbabwe], the lake now provides for wildlife and humans alike in the form of food and recreation.
In the early years after construction Operation Noah was a conservation effort by local conservationists to save animals stranded on rapidly diminishing islands by the rising waters of the new dam. Heroic tales of saving large animals such as elephant and rhino, and other dangerous creatures such as deadly snakes, have become part of Kariba folklore.
Game Viewing from the Water
The lakeshore of Kariba is a wildlife haven in many places with a number of parks and wilderness areas allocated along the lake. With the presence of permanent water animals are drawn to the lake during the dry season, many not venturing far from the shoreline to feed. The shoreline floodplains provide food for herbivores, which in turn fall prey to the predators.
Cruising close to the shore in a boat gives a unique perspective of the wildlife that inhabiting the reserves of Kariba. Elephants are numerous and it is even possible to see lions from the safety of the water.
Death of a Civilization
With the construction of such a large dam there has to be displacement of people and in the case of Kariba the construction resulted in the death of a whole culture. The Tonga people lived in the valley that is now the lake, and survived from what the river provided but today they are living in hope that promises made to them will come to pass.
The sadness of a people having to leave their spiritual grounds can still be seen in many of the displaced Tonga now eking out an existence in villages far from the water's edge.
Once part of the great Zambezi Valley these people live on broken promises and a hope that sometime in the future the mighty river god Nyaminyami will help them to return to the great valley. After all Nyaminyami was separated from his wife with the flooding of the valley as the dam filled and many say that he will still be reunited with her in the future.