Lake Kariba is the world's largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume. It lies 1,300 kilometres upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The name Kariba comes from the word Kariva or karinga, meaning trap, which refers to a rock jutting out from the gorge where the dam wall was to be built.

The matter was solved in 1951 by a board of experts known as “the Panel” who all agreed that the dam be built on the Zambezi River, at the Kariba Gorge site. Kariba Dam was designed by the French engineer and inventor Andre Coyne. Kariba is one of Zambia's most popular attractions due to its vast size. In 1958 it became the world's largest man-made lake and provided hydroelectricity to Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Kariba Town

The town of Kariba, built at the site of the hydro-electric dam across the Zambezi River, is a focus for tourism, and provides a starting point for access to the vast inland sea of Lake Kariba.The little town which developed haphazardly on the hills near the site of the massive hydro-electric dam constructed across the Zambezi River in the 1950s, became known as “Kariba”.

The name 'Kariba' is thought to be a corruption of a local word 'Kariva' which means "little trap". It is believed when those who wished to construct the dam wall wanted to explain the nature of the project to the locals, they emphasised that they wanted to build a little water trap-Kariva. However, the complex pronunciation of the 'v' in Kariva saw the Western constructors produce a sound much like a 'b' hence the creation of the word Kariba. Kariba is now a small and spread-out resort town which is the starting point for tourism activities centered on the lake of the same name.

Where to stay in Kariba town

There are a number of small hotels, lodges, holiday cottages, self-catering facilities and campsites dotted among the hills, bays and shorelines of Kariba town from where views of the lake are stunning. Many people visit Kariba briefly as a stopping off point prior to setting out from one of its four main harbours on boats across the lake either to stay in the safari and fishing camps on the southern shore mainland, in the Matusadona National Park or on the islands, or to spend a few tranquil days fishing, game-viewing, birding, sunbathing or simply relaxing on board a houseboat.


Kariba has lots of these “floating hotels” of various sizes, shapes and degrees of comfort. They can be hired either on a full-board or self-catering basis and are usually equipped with an efficient and hard-working crew who will do everything to provide you with a holiday of a lifetime. The most popular destination for houseboat holidays out of Kariba is the Matusadona National Park, about 30kms across the lake, where there are islands, tranquil bays and creeks teeming with wildlife against the magnificent backdrop of the Zambezi escarpment mountains. If you are lucky, you can see a variety of large African mammal species, including elephant, buffalo, lion and cheetah and a staggering variety of waterbirds.