The Lake Kariba islands are many. Some host accommodation with permanent lodges, but many are just the homes of a wide variety of bird species and some wildlife that are permanent or may visit occasionally.
Lake Kariba Islands
Lake Kariba is a man-made lake that filled quickly with a couple of good rainy seasons after completion.
At full capacity, the lake has a maximum length of 223 km and a maximum width of 40 km. It has a maximum depth of 318 ft and a surface area of 5,580 km2.
As the waters rose islands were formed.
These higher land masses trapped certain animals from the mainland.
This is when the chief game warden for Rhodesia, Rupert Fothergill, was tasked with rescuing as many of these stranded animals as possible.
The high waters of a once full Kariba changed dramatically in the early 1980s. The lake levels dropped dramatically due to the ongoing drought.
As the lake became ten metres shallower, the once joined edges of the lake became separated from the mainland. Large expanses of the lake bed were then exposed. This event created small islands along the shorelines.
As a result, there are now 102 islands in the lake.
Some of the well-known Kariba islands are listed below:
- Chete Island
- Spurwing Island
- Fothergill Island
- Antelope Island
- Sekula island
- Mashape island
- Sampa karuma island
- Bed island
- Maaze island
- Chikanka island
- Snake island
Recommended Reading: Facts About Lake Kariba
Chete Island is located on the eastern side of Lake Kariba not far from Binga in Zimbabwe. It is an island rich in indigenous wildlife, including a wide variety of crocodylian, reptilian, and bird species.
Chete Island is the largest single landmass in the lake and is roughly oval in shape. The island is estimated to be about 2,800 acres, or 1,200 hectares in size, making it the largest single landmass in the lake.
The island is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.
The Chete Island is a crocodile-infested island that also provides a habitat for two different large frogs: the African clawed frog and the African bullfrog.
The island has the largest area of protected, undeveloped wetlands in the world. The island and surrounding wetlands are home to the largest single population of African elephants.
The African elephant population on Chete has been steadily increasing in recent years. Estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,500 animals, the elephants on Chete are isolated, with no sign of elephant movement or contact with other herds on the mainland or in the lake.
The island is also home to the Chete Island Crocodile Project. It was started in 2004 to protect the ecosystem and the Chete Island crocodiles.
The island is known for its large crocodiles and crocodile eggs. These can be seen on the beaches of the island from late April to mid-June each year.
The African clawed frog is a critically endangered species and is found only on Chete Island. The African bullfrog is widespread in the wild but is considered a vulnerable species.
Spurwing is situated on an island off Matusadona on Lake Kariba situated in the middle of the southern end of the lake. It is approximately the size of a football field. It offers spectacular views of the Matusadona escarpment and Sanyati Gorge.
The island is home to buffalo and impala herds, as well as a strong population of bushbuck and duiker. Spurwing’s convenient proximity to Matusadona adds to the park’s appeal as a top wildlife destination.
There is an abundance of large game such as elephants and lions (cheetah, leopard, and black rhino are seen on occasion). The area is known for its wildlife and is a popular fishing spot.
The island is 20 kilometers from Kariba’s Marineland Harbour and may be reached by boat or plane. The boat ride takes 30-45 minutes, depending on the lake conditions, with the boat size determined by the number of people.
Remember that Kariba is a big lake with a constant presence of waves.
The island is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel for most of the year. Therefore, certain animals such as lions, leopards, and hyenas can’t easily access it.
This means that some of the more dangerous animals don’t usually live there. You do have a good chance of seeing them on game drives as they are still extremely close.
Other wildlife that lives on the island includes elephants, jackal, hippo, crocodile, serval, genet, and much more.
A walled bank deters animals like hippos and elephants from climbing into the residential area. Enclosed cabins stop them from entering the rooms themselves.
Spurwing Island maintains its reputation for catering to nature enthusiasts by employing the most professional guides in the region.
Spurwing Island is known for its densely packed spurwing nests. These are large, bulky structures made primarily of sticks, which are often located at the base of anthills.
The spurwing is one of the most common shorebirds in Lake Kariba, with a global population estimated at around two million individuals.
It is a large finch-like bird with a long, slender, black and white beak, a long, dark tail, and a long, thin, tufted crest. Its tail is long and streamer-like, with a black tip.
Fothergill Island is an island just off the mainland of Matusadona National Park.
Rupert Fothergill, Rhodesia’s chief game warden, was charged with saving the Kariba wildlife from rising floodwaters after the Kariba Dam’s construction.
This island is named after him as a tribute to his endeavours.
Operation Noah was the name given to this emergency rescue effort.
The rising water is how Fothergill Island came into being.
As a result, wild animals became stranded on islands due to the floodwaters. antelope, zebra, and buffalo are common sightings on the island.
Fothergill Island has accommodation facilities that comprise of two separate but linked camps. There are 10 spacious and luxurious tented suites in total.
There is not much on Antelope Island except lots of rock.
This is a hardship during the dry season for the wildlife that makes the island home.
The tiny local buffalo herd battle to eat during this time.
Meant mainly for the buffalo, other animals such as baboons, the local hippo, kudu, and impala, including the occasional wandering elephant, also take advantage of the daily delivered hay.
The daily drops continue till the start of the rainy season and tail off, starting again with the onset of the drier seasons.
The islands on Lake Kariba vary in size greatly.
Some may only be a few metres in width and diameter where others can be several acres or hectares in size surrounded by water.
A few may be attached to the mainland by a narrow causeway that enables human visitors and wildlife access across.
The larger islands may have lodges or camping facilities for nature lovers wanting to experience the isolation and closeness to nature that these islands offer.
All in all, the Kariba islands created by the dam are beautiful, peaceful and as close to nature as you can get.