The Zambezi river is one of the finest and least spoiled rivers in the world. The basin has some of Africa's finest national parks, and many valuable species, ecosystems and wilderness areas survive thanks to the Zambezi river.
The Zambezi river, the fourth largest river in Africa
The Zambezi rIver is a pristine river flowing from northern Zambia out into the Indian Ocean. During the journey it passes through Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
You divided the Zambezi river into three main parts. The upper Zambezi flowing from the source out into the world famous Victoria Falls. The middle Zambezi continuing past Lake Kariba ending when the river enters Lake Cahora Bassa. The lower Zambezi continuing from Cahora Bassa out into the Indian Ocean.
The upper Zambezi
The upper Zambezi is the least populated part on Zambezis way to the Indian Ocean. Mainly because areas along the river are flooded during the rainy season. Therefore forcing people to move to higher ground to escape water. This local ceremony is called Kuomboka, meaning “to get out of the water” in the local Lozi language.
During its course to the Victoria Falls the Zambezi acts as border where the four countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. This is the stretch of the upper Zambezi that attracts most people with the end at Victoria Falls being the highlight. Here you find many lodges as well as activities like kayaking, canoe trips and boat cruises.
The Middle Zambezi
The Victoria Falls act as boundary between upper and middle Zambezi. Below the Falls the river continues east on its way to the Indian Ocean. This section is famous for white water rafting and other adventure sports like bungee jumping.
During the next 500 km the Zambezi act as border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It passes Lake Kariba and the Kariba Dam on its way east. The hydroelectric power generated here provides electricity to Zambia and Zimbabwe since 1959.
Lake Kariba is an attractive spot for many fishermen. It is mainly famous for its Tigerfish and big Nile crocodiles. It is a place with spectacular scenery and stunning sunsets loved by photographers. You have Matusadona National Park, famous for its wildlife, situated on the southern shore of Lake Kariba.
Other famous wildlife areas along the middle Zambezi is Lower Zambezi National Park and Mana Pools National Park. You will find many safari lodges here due to the animals concentrating on the flood plains. This part of the Zambezi is famous for canoe safari as well as being one of the more important wilderness areas in Africa.
During its course from Victoria Falls to Lake Cahora Bassa both the Kafue River and the Luangwa River enter the Zambezi.
The Lower Zambezi
The lower Zambezi start at Lake Cahora Bassa, another man-made lake generating hydroelectric power to Mozambique and South Africa. This last part on the Zambezis way to the Inidan Ocean is navigable by large vessels even if its shallow in parts.
It is widely believed there is a breeding colony of Zambezi shark trapped inside Lake Cahora Bassa. It might be true as the Bull shark, aka Zambezi shark, is capable of living in fresh water. Still there are no hard evidence for this even if they do go up the Zambezi river.
Another big tributary that flows out in the Zambezi is the Shire river from Lake Malawi.
When the Zambezi river approach the Indian Ocean, the river splits up into a delta. The delta is today about half the size it was before the construction of the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams.
Wildlife supported by the Zambezi river
The river supports a large population of animals. Hippos are abundant along most of the calm stretches, as well as Nile crocodiles.
Hippos gathering along the Zambezi river
The birds life is prolific and the riverine woodland support many large animals like Cape buffalo, Zebra, Giraffe and African elephant.
The Zambezi support several hundred species of fish, some endemic to the river. Important species include Cichlids as well as Catfish, Tigerfish, Yellowfish and other large species. The Bull shark is sometimes known as the Zambezi shark after the river, but is found in more parts of the world.
Conservation efforts along the Zambezi river
The Zambezi river currently passes through Ngonye Falls National Park, Mosi-oa Tunya National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia. In Zimbabwe it passes Zambezi National Park, Victoria Falls National Park, Matusadona National Park, Mana Pools National Park< and Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.
A major part of the upper Zambezi basin is included in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). This large area consists of National Parks, Game Reserves and hunting areas in five countries. Angola. Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
KAZA is a key area for the African elephant and one of the biggest conservation areas in the world. It is a first step to open up the African elephants old migration route in these parts of Africa.
Below you find my photo album from my boat trip on the Zambezi river. I have added this to my Mana Pools National Park photo workshop. It will take you out on the Zambezi an afternoon for wildlife photography. You will get a good chance of seeing some of the prolific animals in or out of the water.