​Expert Reviews – Matusadona NP

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Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

2 people found this review helpful.

Excellent game-watching on Lake Kariba’s remote and tranquil southern shores
Overall rating
4/5

Matusadona is in a beautiful setting on Lake Kariba with numerous islands, fertile floodplains, and a majestic wall of mountains as a backdrop. Most people stay at the lakeside lodges or visit the park’s shoreline from a houseboat. These have galleys where cooks provide meals, neat cabins, and perhaps a swimming cage that is lowered into the lake. The decks provide a perfect vantage-point for game-viewing. I’ve peacefully watched large herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra, impala and waterbuck feed on the nutritious grasses on the shore, plenty of hippo and crocodile in the shallows, and fish eagle perched on the half-submerged trees that jut out of the lake. Sleeping while moored on the shoreline is thrilling, and is accompanied by a chorus of night-time sounds like nightjars and owls, and I’ve even heard lion padding around; seemingly just a few metres away from my cabin.

Expert
Emma Gregg   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: November

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

2 people found this review helpful.

Where you really can walk on the wild side
Overall rating
5/5

Many people might quake at the thought of a bushwalk in big cat country. But if the prospect appeals, Matusadona is an excellent choice. On my visit it didn’t disappoint. This beautiful, wildlife-rich park, considered one of Africa’s best places for lion-watching, can be explored in the company of an expert walking safari guide who will point out tracks and, if you’re lucky, the cats that made them. To add to the sense of impending drama, there are black rhinos here, and plenty of elephants.

Lying on the southern bank of Lake Kariba, Matusadona is also a good place for waterborne adventures. Setting out by boat or canoe, you may encounter two of Africa’s fiercest freshwater predators – crocodiles and tigerfish – along with one of its tastiest, bream. A good scattering of comfortable but unfussy lodges seal the park’s popularity.

Expert
Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

Lake, Lavish Lodges and Lions
Overall rating
4/5

I really like this wildlife-rich park on the fringe of the enormous Lake Kariba with my favourite activity being the sundowner boat cruises to view animals coming down for a late afternoon drink. Most tourist activity concentrates on the lakeshore area and there is good reason for this. During the dry season, this lush-green, grassy shoreline attracts hungry herbivores in their thousands; the large lion prides are never too far behind. I am also a big fan of spending a week on a houseboat and slowly puttering along the Matusadona shoreline where, more than once, I’ve been treated to the incredible sight of a growling and snarling pride of lions noisily gorging themselves on a downed buffalo that they ambushed the night before. A wide range of comfortable lodges on the surrounding islands and mainland offer visitors a chance to explore the park by boat, canoe, or on foot. For an off-the-beaten-track wilderness experiences second to none, I can highly recommend hiring an experienced walking guide to take you on a multi-day walking safari deep into the park thereby allowing you to access the wild, hilly areas where almost nobody ever sets foot. This is a true wilderness experience in Big Five country.

Expert
Paul Murray   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Dry season

Paul is a travel writer, author of the Bradt guidebook to Zimbabwe and is closely involved in promoting tourism to Zimbabwe.

1 person found this review helpful.

‘Covered in Dung’
Overall rating
4/5

The inland sea, Lake Kariba, forms the northern boundary of Matusadona, so you can combine your game viewing with fishing and boating trips. As lake levels rise and fall the shoreline provides excellent grazing for buffalo and antelope, so these in turn attract good populations of lion, leopard and hyena. On a couple of occasions, I’ve also been privileged to see cheetah. Large herds of elephant (hence the charming Shona name) use the lake for drinking, cooling off and recreation and there is a small population of black rhino patrolling the base of the escarpment. This of course means Matusadona is a Big Five park, complete with crocs all along the shoreline. Its location means this magnificent park is little visited making it one of my favourite wilderness destinations. The sunsets on the lake with its skeleton trees in silhouette are beyond beautiful. Stay in one of the superb safari camps or on a houseboat. Preferably both!

Expert
Sue Watt   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Various

Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

A locals’ secret with spectacular sunrises
Overall rating
4/5

Matusadona and the vast manmade Lake Kariba are popular holiday spots for local Zimbabweans but remain something of a secret to international visitors. Yet, it’s a Big Five park with mesmerizing scenery – sunrises and sunsets are spectacular, with the tops of drowned leadwood trees sticking out like sun-bleached skeletons from the water.

Kariba forms the northern border of Matusadona, and I first visited, as many people do, on a houseboat. I was blown away by the beauty of the area, exploring the Eastern Basin of the lake including Gache Gache Bay, Sanyati Gorge and Spurwing Island on a tender. They’re hauntingly beautiful but there’s plenty of life here too, particularly hippos and crocs and strangely ochre-hued elephants taking their color from the orange soil. On drives, we saw plenty of antelopes, zebra, buffalo and more elephants although the lions stayed hidden and rhinos are nigh impossible to spot. It’s not the easiest place to get to by road – you need a 4x4 – but flying over the lake is a real treat: it’s 128km/80mi long with islands sprinkled around the shoreline.

Expert
Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

Unique refuge by Lake Kariba
Overall rating
3/5

Matusadona is a Big Five park, although you’ll be lucky to see the last remaining black rhinos, and even the lions have declined of late. But never mind: elephant and buffalo are common and its remote situation between Lake Kariba and the Matuzuiadonha Hills is stunning. The closer you get to the 700m summits, the wilder and woollier it gets, with walking the only real option.

By far the easiest way to experience the magic of Matusadona is by water, cruising along the lakeshore into the mouth of the Gache Gache, the river that forms the park’s eastern boundary. To explore its serpentine channels is to be engulfed in a sunlit silence of reed beds and water lilies, broken only by the yelping cries of fish eagles. Wherever you look there is life: crocodiles basking with jaws agape, buffalo browsing on the torpedo grass, shy bushbuck watching from the shadows and herons stalking through the reeds. In places, long-dead trees rise from the water. Drowned when Kariba was created in the 1950s, their skeletal superstructures provide ideal perches for cormorants and kingfishers.

For a longer stay, Bumi Hills Safari Lodge, Musango Safari Camp and the small, upmarket Changa Safari Camp are among the best options. On game drives, bumping down red dirt roads in open Land-Cruisers, you drive through mopane woodlands coppiced to orchard height by the park’s 2000 elephants, keeping an eye open for leopards and hyenas, not to mention some 350 bird species. In April, Amur falcons, on migration from faraway Russia, hunt dragonflies along shorelines graced by big herds of impala and sudden flurries of egrets that stand out like snowflakes against the indigo lake.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.0/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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