Rhino Safari Camp

Matusadona National Park

Lake Kariba

The Matusadona National Park covers an area of 1 407 square kilometres. Its boundaries are natural : the Ume River to the west, the Sanyati River to the east, Lake Kariba to the north, and the Matusdona Mountain range to the South. Loosely translated, “Matuzwi-ah- dona” means falling dung – evidence of its abundant wild animal population.

The damming of the Zambezi River to form Lake Kariba was completed in the late 1950’s. The project was carried out to provide hydro-electric power to the countries of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, now Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

On completion of the dam the waters rose far faster than initially anticipated and the legendary “Operation Noah” saw a small but dedicated team of wildlife specialists rescue over 5 000 different animals trapped by the advancing lake waters.

In 1963 the Matusadona area became a game reserve, and in 1975 it was gazetted as a National Park which it has remained until today. This is the highest conservation status that can be given to an area under Zimbabwean legislation.

The remote nature of the park, its impressive natural boundaries and plentiful year round water supply have made the Matusadona National Park an ideal conservation zone.

As well as Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and Elephant populations are also healthy in the area.

The lake levels vary dramatically and during the dry season a dense growth of torpedo grass (panicum repens) is exposed. This forms an important source of food for the buffalo herds, whose size is directly related to the amount of grazing available. The success of the buffalo herds also directly influences the lion populations as with less food the mortality rate of the cubs increases.

One of the striking features of the shoreline in the Matusadona is the forest of drowned trees. These make navigating the lake tricky, but form important habitats for aquatic birds and breeding grounds for the fresh water fish.

A healthy population of African Fish Eagles is found in the area, as well as several species of Kingfisher, Herons, Geese, Ducks, Storks and Plovers.

As an experiment the lake waters were stocked with Lake Tanganyika sardines (Limnothrissa miodon) which quickly thrived and adapted to their new habitat. These are known locally as “kapenta” and on moon-less nights the twinkling lights of the fishing boats can be seen from camp.

Matusadona National Park is one of the most iconic parks in Zimbabwe and gets its name from the rolling Matusadona hills that form part of its water rich landscape. 

The Park stretches from the lake Kariba to the Zambezi valley escarpments (North to South) and from the Ume to the Sanyati river (east to west); it covers almost 1500 square kilometres of undulating hills, thickly wooded, perennial springs, tall riverine vegetation and open grasslands on the northern edge of the park, which borders the Lake Kariba. 

A healthy variety of mammal species populate the park, including lion, buffalo, zebra, elephant, hippo, pangolin and an impressive variety of antelope species such as impala, kudu, bushbuck, sable, roan and eland.

Proclaimed a National Park in 1975, in 2019 African Parks was invited to assume the management of the Park – the first in Zimbabwe to fall under the African Parks mandate. Matusadona is managed by African Parks in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and local community members; it is governed by the Matusadona Conservation Trust Board and includes partner institutions, key government officials and local community stakeholders.

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