Exploring Zim’s Matusadona Park
Matusadona National Park is situated on the shores of Lake Kariba but was proclaimed a non-hunting area on November 7, 1958, before the dam was built. It became a game reserve in 1963, and in 1975, in terms of the Parks & Wildlife Act, it became a national park. The park comprises some1 400 square kilometres of diverse flora and fauna. Before the lake was built, Matusadonha was a vast, rugged wilderness with limited access. With the lake came ecological changes. One in particular, the lakeshore contributed greatly to the increase of large mammal populations in the area, especially elephant and buffalo. The grass found on the shoreline is Panicum repens and is a rejuvenative grass – needing only fluctuating lake levels to replenish its nutrients. With this ready food source, buffalo, waterbuck, zebra, and even impala have thrived and with them the predators. Matusadonha is an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) and home to several relocated rhinoceros.
** The Environs of Matusadona
The southern boundary of the Park is the Omay communal land and the northern boundary is the lakeshore. The eastern side of Sanyati Gorge and the middle of the Ume River provide the east and west boundaries respectively.
** Flora and Fauna
Matusadonha has three distinct ecological areas. First is the lake and shoreline grassland; second, the Zambezi Valley floor, a mass of thick jesse and mopane woodland, and; third, the Escarpment area of Julbernadia and Brachystegia woodlands. The Jesse/ Mopani area is sparsely grassed, but provides habitat for browsers, most notably the black rhino. Elephants range throughout the Park, seeking the shade of the Jesse in the heat of the day.
The Escarpment rises some 700 metres above the Valley floor and is extremely rugged. Over the years, elephant and fire depredations have caused the once substantial woodlands to dwindle, and in parts, grasslands have taken over. It became necessary to take control measures to reduce the elephant population to a manageable size. It also became necessary to carry out early burning programmes in the upper escarpment, to prevent later, hot fires from raging through and causing serious damage to tree growth.
The effectiveness of the programmes can now be seen by the tremendous regrowth apparent in the Escarpment area. Animal species that are found in abundance include elephant and buffalo. Other common species are those of: night ape, honey badger, civet, small spotted genet, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, spotted hyaena, wild cat, lion, leopard, yellow spotted dassie, black rhinoceros, zebra, warthog, common duiker, grysbok, klipspringer, waterbuck, bushbuck, scrub hare, porcupine, vervet monkey, chacma baboon, side-striped jackal, hippopotamus, roan antelope, kudu and bush squirrel. Some of the more elusive species include: clawless otter, white-tailed mongoose, reedbuck, sable antelope, eland, civet, rusty spotted genet, caracal and bush pig. Animals that are present but only sighted on rare occasions include wild dog, cheetah, roan and pangolin.
** Tashinga Camp
The Park has a camping site at Tashinga on the lake shore. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water, showers, toilets, wash basins and baths. Firewood and braai facilities are available. Some of the camping sites have sleeping shelters.
** Sanyati Camp
There is a smaller camping site at Sanyati consisting of 6 sites, each with a braai stand. There is an ablution block with hot and cold water and laundry trough.
** Changachirere Camp
Changachirere Camping Site is an exclusive camping site that caters for one party of a maximum of 10 persons. The facility has a mini-ablution block and shelter.
** Undeveloped Bush Camps
There are also 2 totally undeveloped bush camping sites at Jenje and Kanjedza for up to a maximum of 10 persons per camp. Visitors must be fully equipped and have a four wheel drive vehicle for this section.
Situated close to Tashinga airstrip on the east bank of the Bumi River, 55 kilometres from Kariba by boat.
Situated at Elephant Point, 44 kilometres from Kariba by boat.
Also situated on the Bumi River upstream around 300 metres beyond Ume Camp.
Other exclusive camp sites can be found at Maronga close to the Chifudzi substation and Kautsiga sited on the escarpment which is ideal for hikers and climbers.
The closest convenience shops are found in Kariba town, therefore, visitors are advised to thoroughly pack for the trip. Petrol, diesel and oil are sometimes available at Bumi Harbour but supplies are not always reliable.
Attractions & Activities
• Unbridled adventure in the extreme wild
• Hiking and escarpment climbing
• Game viewing along the lake shoreline from the safety of houseboats
• Fishing in the rivers and inlets
• Bird watching in the breath-taking Sanyati Gorge
• Game drives
• Boating and canoeing safaris
• How to Get to Matusadonha National Park
** By Air
A small, 800 metre landing strip is available at Tashinga Camp and can take small aircraft. The strip is licensed Category II.
** By Boat
Visitors can come in from Bumi Hills located14 kilometres from Tashinga, or 50 kilometres across the Lake from Kariba town.
** By Road
Normally the Park is reached via Karoi, but it can also be accessed from Victoria Falls, via Binga. If traveling from Karoi, 8 kilometres north of Karoi on the Harare-Chirundu Road turn left through the Hurungwe communal land. 115 kilometres from Karoi you cross the Sanyati River. You continue on the Binga Road for a further 62 km and then turn right and continue for 82 km to Tashinga which is the headquarters of the Park. Except for a short distance of narrow tar, when one leaves the Harare-Chirundu Road, the roads are either gravel or dirt. The last 82 km are rough and not suitable for saloon and low clearance vehicles. It is advisable to enquire about the condition of the road before starting your journey. Game viewing roads are closed during the rainy season. – Zimbabwe Tourism Authority