Travel Report Lake Kariba (Zimbabwe)

Lake Kariba, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, stretches along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known for its breathtaking sunsets, diverse wildlife and vibrant fishing communities, Lake Kariba offers an unparalleled blend of adventure and tranquillity. Whether exploring the vast waters on a houseboat, embarking on an exciting safari or simply enjoying the peaceful scenery, Lake Kariba promises a unique and unforgettable experience. Discover the magic of this remarkable destination and immerse yourself in the beauty and enchantment of this hidden gem of Africa

Getting to Lake Kariba

The journey to Lake Kariba is usually by airplane from Victoria Falls, Harare, or simply from another national park, such as Mana Pools (if you have been there before). The flight is operated with small airplanes and is offered by various providers, e.g. Mack Air.

We came from Mana Pools (see Mana Pools travel report). The bush plane took us from Mana Pools to Bumi Hills Lodge on Lake Kariba at 7:00 in the morning.

The flight takes about 1.5 hours in total, as there is a stopover at Kariba Airport to refuel the plane. The strange thing is that you have to leave the plane for this and actually have to go through a security check again at this really tiny airport before you can get back on the plane you got off 5 minutes ago. The whole thing is also strange because you don’t have to cross the border, but only fly from one lodge to another. We assume that there are “financial” reasons for this.

Flying in via Lake Kariba Airport

After refueling, you take to the air again for around 10-15 minutes before landing on the Bumi Hills Lodge’s own air strip. From here, it takes about 10 minutes by safari car to reach the lodge. The lodge is situated on a small hill and the view is spectacular. The entire staff stands in front of the lodge and sings to welcome you. This is followed by the usual briefing. As soon as we walk in, we realize that this lodge is outstanding. From the infinity pool to the general lounges (Wi-Fi is available here) and the restaurant areas, which offer a breathtaking view of Lake Kariba. You can hardly get enough of this view. The lodge is also equipped with an excellent spa and fitness center, and the rooms leave nothing to be desired and also have a breathtaking view of the lake.

Where are Bumi Hills and Lake Kariba?

As far as the number of accommodations at Lake Kariba is concerned, this is manageable and Bumi Hills is probably the best lodge in the area by far. Many people who travel to Lake Kariba also take a houseboat.

Sample itinerary for 14 days on safari with various national parks and lodges in Zimbabwe

Very few people fly to Zimbabwe and then only want to visit one national park. For this reason, we have put together a sample itinerary here:

  • 1 night in Harare – Highland House
  • 4 nights in Mana Pools – Nyamatusi Lodge
  • 3 nights at Lake Kariba – Bumi Hills Lodge
  • 2 nights in Hwange North – Deteema Springs Camp
  • 2 nights in Hwange South – Verney’s Camp
  • 2 nights in Victoria Falls – Pioneers Lodge

What you should definitely think about when traveling to Zimbabwe:

National currencies: Although Zimbabwe now has its own currency, you can pay for everything in US dollars or, if necessary, in euros. Cash, especially smaller bills, should be taken along for tips and entrance fees, such as parking fees, cabs and visas. Otherwise, credit card payments often only work in hotels, tourist facilities and restaurants.

Vaccinations: Coming from Germany, no vaccinations – not even yellow fever – are mandatory. However, the standard vaccinations are recommended, see Foreign Office suggestions. Malaria prophylaxis applies to the whole of Zimbabwe and should be taken especially in Mana Pools and Lake Kariba.

Visa: A visa is required for Zimbabwe, which is issued on arrival and currently costs US$ 30 per person. It is issued relatively quickly.

Luggage: If you are traveling by small aircraft in Africa, you should pay attention to “soft” luggage (e.g. sports bags), the weight limit and cabin luggage dimensions. Photo equipment should definitely be taken on board. Suitcases are not permitted and, depending on the airline, a maximum of 15-20 kg/person of luggage (does not apply to international flights).

Helpful: A powerful flashlight with spare batteries is often very useful. A cell phone flashlight will also do in a pinch, but often does not shine far or brightly enough.

Clothing: What should you take with you? This depends on the season, so check the weather beforehand. We generally recommend packing according to the onion principle and thus being prepared for cool or even cold temperatures (especially at night and in the morning) as well as warm to hot temperatures (during the day). As you can usually have your clothes washed in the lodges in Africa free of charge or for a small extra charge (possible in all the lodges we have mentioned), you can manage with very little luggage if you wish. This saves a lot of weight.

What photographic equipment should I take with me?

The minimum you should have with you is a smartphone with a good camera. Even if you don’t believe it, the photo and especially the video quality is more than sufficient for many animal encounters,

However, this will not be enough for ambitious photographers. So it should be at least a DSLR or a mirrorless system camera.

You can see our choice of camera at the end of the article, but you should always have at least one large and one medium telephoto lens with you.

Before the trip, think about which animals you want to focus on and choose the lenses accordingly

If you are traveling around Lake Kariba, you must bear in mind that there are safaris both on water and on land. Both have their own special challenges. For safaris on land, a focal length of 70-200mm is usually enough to take great photos. For the safaris on the water this is definitely not enough, here it should be 400mm or more, as the animals are usually further away.

The concession of Bumi Hills Lodge is relatively small, but has a really large population of elephants, impala, waterbuck and even lions and hippos. Many smaller animals and especially birds can also be observed very well here. However, if you want to see cheetahs or leopards, you will usually search in vain. Off-road driving is permitted in the concession, so you can get really close to the animals.

Itinerary for Game Drives in Bumi Hills ?

There are several options for the morning safari drive at this lodge. You can either start at six and be back at the lodge at eight, followed by breakfast, or you can start at eight and not be back until 11:00. You can decide anew every day. The activities on offer, such as fishing, boat trips or bush walks, can also be chosen anew each day. During the evening game drive, which starts at 16:00 and lasts until around 18:30, there is also the famous sundowner drink.

Our recommendation for a stay of 3 nights:

  • On arrival in the morning, take the first safari drive in the evening
  • Sleep in the next morning and do the drive from 8-11 am
  • Take the sunset boat tour in the evening
  • The next morning, do the early game drive and ask the driver to drive until 08:30.
  • Normal game drive in the evening.

We really had the best experiences with this planning.

Bumi Hills, the Lodge

African Bush Camps’ Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is picturesquely situated on Lake Kariba and has been offering luxurious accommodation and breathtaking views since it opened in 2017. The lodge has elegant suites and private villas, an infinity pool and a spa that promises pure relaxation. Guests can go on exciting safaris, go bird watching and experience the local culture. With personalized service and first-class amenities, Bumi Hills Safari Lodge is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

From the main house of the lodge, where life in general takes place, you can walk to your suite day and night without a guide. The paths are paved and illuminated and as the lodge is situated on a hill, there are hardly any animals that are dangerous to humans, although an impala or bushbuck may appear on your doorstep or you may see one of the many lizards.

Food, drinks and service

As with all safari lodges on our trip, food and drinks are included in the price. The lodge attracts guests with star-level food, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is simply unbelievably delicious. The service provided by a personal waiter (Lawrence in our case), who is assigned to you on arrival, is also absolutely top class. Nothing is left to be desired and even special requests are dealt with without any problems.

The meal times are flexible, so you can have breakfast from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning. Lunch is served from noon to 2:00 pm. In the evening from 19:00 to 21:00 for dinner, just as it suits you best. Here the guest really is still “king” and every wish is read from your lips.

The suites and the temperatures

It never gets really cold at Lake Kariba because of the lake, at most it can get “fresh” in the winter months. Nevertheless, you should take warm clothing with you just in case, according to the usual layering principle. It is always very hot during the day, even in the winter months. The suites are solid houses and well sealed. There is also an air conditioning system, which can also keep you warm if necessary.

The lodge has a total of ten suites for a maximum of 24 guests. There are two family suites. All others are designed for a maximum of two people. The rooms are of the highest hotel standard and the view from the balcony is breathtaking. There is both an indoor bathroom with shower and an outdoor shower, from which you can look out over the lake while showering.

The water from the taps and the shower is of drinking water quality, so you don’t have to worry about this either.

Animal World at Lake Kariba

The concession, i.e. the “driving area” of the Bumi Hills Lodge, is not particularly large at just under 52 km², which leaves little scope for the drives. Nevertheless, there is plenty to discover and the motifs with water and savannah are definitely attractive for photographers and videographers. The number of impala is extremely high. There are also several small groups of elephants and a pride of lions consisting of three males and one female, which can usually be found at the airstrip, as well as kudus, zebras and various small antelope species. Due to the lake, there are also many fish eagles and water birds, but otherwise a very high bird wealth with many different species.

Safari on foot

At Lake Kariba, on the Bumi Hills concession, a walking safari is not worthwhile and is therefore not really offered. However, you are allowed to get out of the vehicle at most of the animal sightings and at some distance, so that really great pictures are possible.

Fazi for Bumi Hills and Lake Kariba

Bumi Hills, is a safari lodge with a long tradition (over 50 years), but is kept in absolute top condition and is one of the best safari lodges we know (it was completely renovated in 2017 and brought to its current state, managed by ABC = African Bush Camps).

Bumi Hills should definitely be included in a tour of Zimbabwe as a place to relax and unwind for 3 to 4 days. Here you can switch off and simply enjoy the lodge, the panorama and the top-level service as well as the absolutely outstanding food.

As far as safari sightings are concerned, expectations should not be too high due to the size of the cruising area. The routes are not particularly varied, which is why you should always take a boat tour. However, as already mentioned, the landscape has its charm due to Lake Kariba and there are some great photo opportunities.

We would book this lodge again in a heartbeat and can only warmly recommend it to any traveler to Zimbabwe. It will definitely be an unforgettable vacation with many wonderful memories and you will want to postpone the day of departure for as long as possible, as you feel at home here from the very first second.

Want to order a calendar from our photo tour?

As of 18,90€, sizes A2-A5

What photo equipment for Lake Kariba?

The photographic equipment that we took with us to Zimbabwe is listed below. You also have the option of ordering the photographic equipment we used directly via our Photo-Shop and requesting further technical details. There are also lots of extras available there.

    • Nikon Z8
    • Nikon Z7ii
    • Iphone 14pro
    • 70-200mm  f/2.8 (Nikon)
    • 180-600mm f5.6-6.3 (Nikon)
    • 24-120mm f/4 (Nikon)