To be honest, this vacation paradise has been doomed and unused for the past five years. I was there in September 2004 and how quiet it was which was great for us but not for the local economy and Zimbabwe. Can you imagine being in the heart of the African desert, nothing around but a huge expanse of water, mountains and the knowledge that on the beach there are really wildlife naturally? For me, Lake Kariba is home to "Houseboat". Since I was a teenager, I've heard of these houseboats. A floating holiday in a huge expanse of water. What I didn't know was the size of these floating hotels and the size of Lake Kariba. In the vast majority of our ports of call, all you can see on the horizon is water.
Landing at Harare Airport is like getting to any third world airport. Nowadays, it is not much different from the first world except that it is much smaller. The train ride to Kariba was quite exciting due to the knowledge of the turbulence in the country and not knowing what to expect, although we had some locals with us and they ensured that everything would be fine. What a change, although it was in Zimbabwe seven years earlier, the degradation came at a price. Most service stations are closed, fenced and locked, waiting for fuel. Driving through the countryside, desolate farms, shells with only shells, the wood and roofs eliminated to create makeshift houses (shacks). Formerly a prosperous agricultural country now reduced to a subsistence-producing nation. The trip to Kariba takes about 5 hours. Three hours more from Harare you enter the national park. Wow – no fences and the game is abundant.
Getting off the main road, otherwise you end up in Zambia, is really amazing. Do not drive too fast, as now you are really in the jungle. We saw plenty of elephant, giraffe and lots of money. What's more, the scenery is picturesque, meandering through hills and mountain passes, flat landscapes with the famous African woods and yet knowing you'll be enjoying the next ten days on a fully stocked paradise boat cruise. Driving down the last mountain pass and seeing the vast expanse of Lake Kariba is magnificent. I could not believe it was so vast, also around the city of Kariba and towards the wall there are mountains overlooking the water. The scenery is breathtaking.
I expected the boat to be small, old and in ruins. What a surprise when I saw her and the crew of four waiting for the welcome drinks. It's hot, very hot. The boat has one floor at water level and one upstairs. Downstairs are the four cabins, kitchen (kitchen) and utility rooms. Upstairs, a vast entertainment area, such as the dining room, all under an open-sided awning, the bridge where the captain drives the boat and then in front of the open air, is this pool. diving. Two soft boats are towed behind this huge house on the water powered by a huge diesel engine.
After all the luggage, food and drink were loaded, the captain took us out of the mini port. I had heard many times about Kariba Lake and the vast expanse of water now sitting in the pool in front of the boat, chilling with a cold beer, and I could not believe the size of the lake. We left the harbor to the open sea and it was vast. The African landscape on the Zimbabwe side is perfect, with the mountains dropping sharply down to the lake around Kariba City and toward the wall. To the south of Kariba City, the mountains are farther from the lake and gradually down towards the African forest than eventually to the coast. An hour later, and still in the pool, relaxing with cold beers not far away, we are warned to put sun protection against the harsh African sun and harsh. We heard shouts of excitement and down the coast we heard huge elephants. The coast of Zimbabwe is about a mile from us. To see them close, you need the binoculars. The coast of Zambia is beyond the water horizon. This gives an idea of how big this lake is. We returned to the shade of the entertainment area and relaxed on the many sun loungers now shaded by the huge awning. This must be one of the most relaxing vacations I've ever been to. Perfect for the afternoon nap. We are sailing to our first port of call. Ports of call are remote stops on cruise on small islands or on the mainland nature reserve. There are no cities or towns, but only wild animals that greet you, that is, no civilization, do not carry your cell phone.
In the late afternoon, another 4 hours of cruising, we hear the engines slow down and realize we have reached our destination. The captain gradually negotiates the boat almost offshore and the crew ties the boat with long mooring ropes. Now we are actually parked on the beach. The captain turns off the engines and there is a silence like you have never experienced. You start listening to nature. Hippos bark and we all look, surely there is a family of hippos. I counted six. Both boats are loaded with drinks, fishing gear and snacks. We choose a boat and there we go. This is the highlight of the trip. Small bays along the coast abound, but the boat captains, one is the boat captain and the other is the housekeeper, knows these areas like the backs of their hands and takes us to the best fishing spots.
As you can imagine, fishing is good (especially sea bream) because you are in the jungle where few humans venture. We keep the biggest catch for dinner and snacks. I was a bit skeptical about eating sea bream, prefer saltwater fish and had never eaten sea bream before. The sun is beginning to set on the horizon over the water. They tell us we should go back. There is nothing like a late afternoon water cruise with a relaxing gin and tonic and the beautiful African sunset. On the boat, we head to the showers. Back on the upper deck, we are greeted with a pre-meal drink and with the darkness approaching, we talk about the events of the day. Suddenly it's dark and the team is summoning us to dinner. Man, they can cook. At eight o'clock in the evening everyone was harassed and went to bed. Most of us slept on the upstairs deck in outdoor mattresses. The older people slept in the cabins downstairs.
At about half past four in the morning, you are awakened by the movement below and a rich aroma of coffee being made. You have twenty minutes to wash, apply generous amounts of sunscreen, and drink coffee and cookies before another adventurous fishing venture on the soft boats. The sun is rising now above the mountains, you can feel the heat and realize that the rest of the day will be a devastating one. Between ten and eleven in the morning, we arrived back with our catch and eager for some food. We are greeted with a magnificent brunch. While we enjoy our brunch, the captain starts the engines and the rest of the crew unties the boat's moorings. It leaves the bay and returns to the vast expanse of Lake Kariba. We are on our way to our next port of call. We finish brunch and some of us take a quick dip in the pool and relax with the gentle movement of the boat across the lake. The rest of the day cruise spreads between naps, catch sight of wildlife on the coast, and play cards and board games.
We arrive at the next port of call with a totally different scenario. A bigger one, but we are greeted with a family of elephants. Now elephants are my favorite animals. Up close and in nature like this is one of the highlights of my vacation. Hippos are there too, along with the wide variety of monies. The routine is the same as the day before, with soft boats and fishing. This is not at all boring, as there is always something to look at, large varieties of birds with elephants popping up from the bush, scattered all over the place and the strange hippo nearby in the water. Crocodiles are also abundant, but it is the hippos you need to keep an eye on, as they carry your boat if you get too close to them. If they do, you will definitely be a meal for crocodiles. After another very successful afternoon fishing, we have another sunset cruise back to the boat.
The rest of the trip is pretty much the same as the first day, but as I said, it's always fun and never boring. So much wildlife, fresh air and days go by. Watching the night stars is amazing, with shooting stars and satellites moving across the sky. With so many hundreds of kilometers between you and the nearest city, you can imagine how many stars you can see. We didn't see the lions, but heard them roar a night or two. The day after the roar we could see the vultures hovering. Residents and staff said they were waiting for the lions to finish their "kill" so that they could move after them. They must be about five hundred meters from us.
Unfortunately, the time has come to return to Kariba City. Some said they had their vacation and now need to get back to their daily lives. I could have stayed longer. I would normally recommend this amazing boat holiday on Lake Kariba to anyone, however considering the state of Zimbabwe at the moment, it's a no-no, unfortunately. Maybe in a moment things might change for the better and that would become a very popular destination?