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History

History of Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba is a large, man-made lake and reservoir located on the Zambezi river, about halfway between the river’s source and mouth, about 1300 kilometers upstream from the Indian Ocean. The lake lies along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba was filled between 1958 and 1963 following the completion of the Kariba Dam at its northeastern end, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River and displacing large numbers of the local Tonga people.

Lake Kariba is over 220 kilometers (140 mi) long and up to 40 kilometers (20 mi) in width. It covers an area of 5,580 square kilometers (2,150 sq mi) and its storage capacity is an immense 185 cubic kilometers (44.4 cu mi). The mean depth of the lake is 29 meters (95 ft); the maximum depth is 97 meters (320 ft). It is one of the world’s largest man-made reservoirs.[1] The enormous mass of water (approximately 180,000,000,000,000 kilograms, or 180 petagrams [200 billion tons])

The lake is home to several islands, including Chete Island, Sekula, Sampa Karuma, Fothergill, Spurwing, Snake Island, Antilope Island, Bed Island and Chikanka.

Before Lake Kariba was filled, the existing vegetation was burned, creating a thick layer of fertile soil on land that would become the lake bed. As a result the ecology of Lake Kariba is vibrant. A number of fish species have been introduced to the lake, notably the sardine-like kapenta (transported from Lake Tanganyika), which now supports a thriving commercial fishery. Other inhabitants of Lake Kariba include Nile crocodiles and hippopotamuses.

Game fish, particularly Tiger fish, which was among the indigenous species of the Zambezi river system, now thrive on the kapenta. Fish eagles, cormorants and other water birds patrol the shorelines, as do occasional herds of elephants

Along the lake you can witness the “drowned forests”, up to several kilometres wide, containing dead trees standing more than 29 years after the filling of the lake. Many of the animals rescued during “‘Operation Noah” when the lake was filling were released into Matusadona, which now holds strong populations of most mammals occurring in the Zambezi Valley.