The Zambezi River
Africa’s fourth largest river system, it’s power has carved the spectacular Victoria Falls and the zigzagging Batoka Gorge. The Zambezi has been harnessed at various points along the way including the massive Kariba Dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. It traverses the broad, annually flooding Barotse Plains. This upper part of the river is thinly populated by pastoralists, farmers and fishermen and although wildlife is sparse it is remarkably free of pollution. This is also the scene of the Ku-omboka Ceremony where thousands of inhabitants move annually to higher ground as the Zambezi floods into the low lying plains.
It serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe thundering over the Victoria Falls and through the narrow, steadily deepening Batoka Gorge which flattens out at the broad Gwembe Valley. From here it flows into the Kariba dam for 281 kilometers – it’s width at one point being 40kms. From the dam wall the river travels due north, heading east again at Chirundu. Here it is flanked by the Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park on the Zimbabwean side. This middle zone supports one of Africa’s most important wilderness areas.
The Luangwa River
This game-rich river lies at the tail-end of the Great Rift Valley, and hosts the North Luangwa and South Luangwa National Parks, both among the finest in Africa. The world’s largest concentration of hippos lives in the Luangwa Valley. In the dry season they are restricted by the shrinking river and pools and are easily seen. In addition to being a source of water, the oxbow lakes and pools increase the biodiversity of the valley and is the life blood for the wide variety of animals and birds that inhabit the area. There are about 25 lodges and camps dotted along the river over the length of both Parks.
The Kafue River
This beautiful blue green River sustains one of the world’s great wildlife environments. It is a major tributary of the Zambezi, and of Zambia’s principal rivers, it is the most central and the most urban, and the longest (about 960 km) and largest lying wholly within the country.
A rift valley formed running due east of where the Kafue National Park is now, and the Kafue river, eroding a channel called the Itezhi-Tezhi Gap through a ridge of 100 meters high hills, became diverted eastwards. The Itezhi-Tezhi Dam was built in 1977 at the gap and now forms a reservoir 50 kilometers long and up to 10 kilometers wide. In its journey east, the river flows sluggishly across a flat plain called the Kafue Flats and for the third time develops intricate meanders in a maze of swampy channels and lagoons. The Kafue Flats are the third major wildlife area of the river. Tens of thousands of Kafue Lechwe live on the Kafue Flats and are adapted to wading the flood. The area also has one of the greatest variety and concentrations of birds in the world. The Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks have been established on the flats.