In the local Tonga language, the river simply means "great". And so it is, meandering through most of the southern part of Africa but never meeting the Atlantic Ocean. I was fortunate to see a part of this natural icon in the north-western corner of Zimbabwe, on board a safari that took in sightings mainly of elephant herds, but also included reptiles, bird life and giraffes. I highly recommend boat cruises that can come near river banks, stop at whim and provide a calming pace of timelessness. The Zambezi is the longest east flowing river in Africa and goes through various stages of character in its rather lengthy course. It hosts several tributaries of its own and has had various bridges of different sizes built across.
|Our leisure boats await us.|
Two sizeable dams already exist along the Zambezi, the Kariba in Zimbabwe and the Cahora Bassa in Mozambique. The upper stretches of this magnificent water course flow south-west first to Zambia and then into the neighbouring state of Angola. From here the Zambezi courses its way to Naimbia, back to Zambia, then to Zimbabwe and Mozambique before it meets the Indian Ocean. The Zambezi is measured as 2594 kilometres.
The source arises at around 1500 metres high, where three countries converge with their borders - the Congo, Zambia and Angola - in the region known as the Mwinilunga. Existing dams provide much needed hydro-electric power to three nations - South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Wild animals were returning home after a day at watering holes, gathering in groups and feeding on grass. It can be a delicate and ambient moment watching such animals roam freely on the banks of the Zambezi as the sun sets in a tropical setting. Our cruise experience included a party like atmosphere on board with free flowing drinks, quality tea time snacks and good company. The wild life must be each wondering who we are - do they see us as whole boat vessels or can they discern individual human beings inside the floating vessels? The part of the Zambezi we were at was calm and had a flat topography.
With such a long course and mostly benign waters, there is continuing talk and planning about utilising the Zambezi further for human benefits, whether in constructing another dam near the Victoria Falls or in developing a mature seaway to transport goods and more. The catchment basin of the Zambezi is half that of the Nile in northern Africa and this great river is the fourth longest on the African continent, after the Nile, Congo and Niger Rivers.
The Zambezi passes by grasslands, forests, reserves of wild animals and near hubs of human villages. It is spectacular at the Victoria Falls and this is where most outsiders get to appreciate the river. Many outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, canoeing and helicopter rides are available.
The Zambezi does meet with the Chobe River in Botswana - both rivers are pristine here. Cultural beliefs speak of the Nyami Nyami, a significant spirit respected by locals and which help them in making the Zambezi a true giver of life, by supplying viable water supplies for farming and nurturing fish.
The Zambezi has its very own delta when through the Shire River, its water volume is boosted from Lake Malawi. Uniquely, many sections of this river are uninhabited, probably due to the seasonal flooding that occurs. Bull sharks come into its mouth from the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.
Kids may have come across the animated movie "Zambezia". Any one who has stepped on to its shores and soaked in its environment would not forget the Zambezi, to me, it is like Mother Nature having me in embrace, quietly, and into the night.