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Siavonga - Lake Kariba

Siavonga, Zambia
Tourist attractions
The town of Siavonga lies on the edge of the beautiful Lake Kariba, a popular retreat for families, holiday makers and a choice destination for business gatherings and company outings. It is also becoming a select place for second home getaways. Situated on the north shore of Lake Kariba, it is the second largest tourist destination and place to visit in Southern Province. The Siavonga town is only two and a half hours from Lusaka with several comfortable places to stay.

Tourist attraction

There are several comfortable hotels, lodges and guesthouses that cater for a variety of needs and a range of budgets. These include: Eagles Rest Resort, Lake Kariba Inn, Lake Safari Lodge and more. There are also various events that take place throughout the year like the tiger challenge which takes place early December.

Another event that takes place is the Siavonga "Mosi" Canoe Challenge which takes place in June and other months. All activities around the events include loads of fun, music, barbecue and plenty of refreshments.

The Lwiindi traditional ceremony is an annual ancient Tonga cultural ceremony to honour the spirits of the ancestors and celebrate the onset of a new rainy season. The ceremony takes place late November or early December.

Zambian wildlife in the area

Unfortunately, much of the 'big game' on the Zambian side of the lake has disappeared, although the area west of the Kota Kota peninsular still has some wildlife. The lake is host to a wide variety of fish species including the Zambezi Tiger fish, various species of Tilapia and Nembwe, as well as the colossal Vundu and Barbel. The area is exceptionally rich in bird life that live well off the food generated from such a wide expanse of water. Hippopotamus and the Nile crocodile are also frequently seen. As the lake was flooded, much of the forest can still be seen rising above the vast waters of the lake – stark monuments to the history of what once was the Zambezi valley. The lake and its landscapes make an incredible canvas for the artist and photographer. What Lake Kariba lacks in wildlife, it certainly makes up for in its scenic beauty, bird life, lake activities, and affordable accommodation.

Fishing in Siavonga

Sport fishing is excellent here and you can pick a base at one of the lodges and indulge in hooking one of the 50 types of fish that can be found here! The Tiger Fish is considered to be one of the finest game fish and the largest average weight caught in competition is just under eight pounds. The speed, strength and fight in the Tiger Fish makes it a challenge to land and a worthy opponent for the skilful angler.

Water sports

Jet boats, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing are all available at Siavonga.

Houseboat holidays in Siavonga and Lake Kariba

If you have your own boat, the lake makes a superb playground for all kinds of water sports. The bigger lodges also have boats for hire. A trip on a houseboat is highly recommended – the experience is tranquil, full of bird songs, sunshine and sunsets. The majestic rising of the moon over the lake is stunning, especially if it's a full moon.

Visit the dam wall in Siavonga

This is an impressive experience as the wall is an enormous structure. At the entrance of the bridge there is a display that describes the building of the wall and the interesting statistics relating to the construction process. The bridge is very wide and offers ample room for walking on either side, with a breathtaking view. On the one side the vast lake stretches far beyond you and on the other side there is a sheer drop to the gorge below.

Chirundu Fossil Forest

21 kilometres from Chirundu, on the road to Lusaka, lies a fossil forest with remnants of trees said to be over 150 million years old. Sections of tree trunks of up to three meters long are exposed as a result of the erosion of the surrounding soft red sandstone. Scattered over the area is a sparse selection of middle and late stone age remnants that indicate that people sometimes made use of fossil wood for making stone implements.

Kariba Dam and its history

Kariba Dam is intrinsically linked to the town of Siavonga which lies on its shores. The building of the dam was known as one of the engineering wonders of the world. The concrete dam wall stands at 128 metres above the river bed. It spans 617 metres across the Kariba gorge blocking the path of Africa's second largest river – the Zambezi River. The dam wall created an inland sea that stretches 280 kilometres in length and covering an area of over 5,500 square Kilometres, holding more than 180 billion tonnes of water.

The dam was an initiative of the Federation that existed between British-ruled Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Vast areas of forest and scrub were lost, as were the habitats of thousands of wild animals. The local people had to be relocated. But analysis of the economic advantages convinced the authorities that the long term benefit to the people would outweigh these losses. It was a reflection of the dominance of colonial rule in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, that most of the rescued animals were relocated to the Zimbabwean side and most of the people, to the Zambian side.

In August 1955, the then Federal Government of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) called for tenders for the construction of the wall and power station. It was awarded to the Italian consortium Impresit on 16 July 1956. Kariba Dam was designed by the French engineer and inventor Andre Coyne, a specialist in arch dams. The build began in the late 1950s. Over a million cubic metres of concrete was poured into the 36.6 metre high wall with a thickness of over 24 metres. This was to sustain the pressure of about ten million litres of water that passes through the spillway each second.

On the 16th of May 1960, the Kariba Dam was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The dam took four years to build between 1956 and 1960. At the end of the project the sluice gates were closed and in 1963 the maximum water level was reached.


The name Kariba means trap. Historically there was a rock which thrust out of the swirling water at the entrance to the gorge. It is now buried more than a hundred feet below the water surface. Legend has it that this rock was the home of the great River God Nyaminyami who caused anyone who ventured too close to it to be sucked down for ever into the depths of the river. This rock and the water are now trapped – hence the name Kariba. Today the symbol of this rock can be bought here as jewellery items.

Operation Noah

When the dam began to fill, the plight of thousands of animals became very visible indeed as they could be seen stranded on islands. Appeals were made and money was raised to buy boats and equipment for their rescue and relocation. This was of course a mammoth task – dealing with Africa's wildlife and huge concentrations of snakes including the deadly black mamba. Despite many tragic stories, some 7,000 animals were rescued in 'Operation Noah' including many rhinos – an astonishing 44 in total.

Industry in Siavonga

The Kariba dam wall is the home of two of Southern Africa's most important electricity generating stations – Kariba North Bank Power Station in Siavonga, Zambia, and Kariba South Bank Power Station on the Zimbabwe side. Between the stations a total of 1,320 megawatts of electricity is produced making the area an extremely important source of energy for the region.

The other main industries in Siavonga are tied to the lake. The business of Kapenta fishing is hugely important to the area. Kapenta (a type of sardine or sprat) is one of Zambia 's staple high protein foods and there are many commercial Kapenta fishing companies in Siavonga. The Latin names for kapenta are Limnothrissa miodon and Stolothrissa tanganicae. Commercial bream fishing and crocodile farming is also carried out on the lake. Crocodiles are bred for the leather from their skins which are exported for fashion accessories such as shoes and handbags. The crocodile tail also provides an exotic culinary delicacy sold to hotels and exclusive restaurants.

Developing industries in Siavonga include the cutting of a natural stone into tiles for use in the thriving construction industry. Recently there has been uranium discovered in the district and it promises to bring new prosperity and jobs to Siavonga.

Tourist attraction
Siavonga - Lake Kariba · Tourist attraction
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