Matusadona National Park

Matusadona National Park

Situated in Northern Zimbabwe

The Matusadona is a very unique National Park and one of Zimbabwe’s unspoilt wildlife and wilderness gems. Remote and rugged, Matusadona is characterised by the vast open spaces, spectacular sunsets, extensive wildlife and the numerous ‘skeletal’ trees which remain as a result of the flooding of the Zambezi valley in the early 1960s. This occurred upon completion of the construction of the Kariba dam wall and the resulting rising waters which formed the lake. Kariba dam was built between 1955 and 1959. Over the years many of the submerged trunks of the trees have become ‘fossilised’ and have thus survived for well over fifty years. The trees form important habitats for aquatic birds and breeding grounds for the fresh water fish.


Matusadona National Park Website

The flooding of the Zambezi Valley to form Lake Kariba gave rise to Operation Noah which was and still is, by far the most extensive wildlife rescue programmes ever undertaken in the world.  The flooding of the Zambezi Valley to form the lake created many islands, some only remaining for a short time as the lake rose. As a result many animals became trapped and required rescuing.  

The rescue project was named ‘Operation Noah’ and was lead by Rupert Fothergill with the head veterinarian being Dr John Condy who pioneered many of the veterinary procedures used. No rescue programme on this scale had ever been undertaken anywhere in the world and certainly not involving such large numbers and variety of wildlife species. Many of the animals were released into the Matusadona area which had been proclaimed a non-hunting area on 7th November 1958. It became a Game Reserve in 1963 and in 1975 was designated a National Park under the Parks & Wildlife Act. The park is also an ‘Intensive Protection Zone’ for the endangered Black Rhino.

Matusadona NP can be divided into two distinct regions, the flatlands bordering the lake which occupy approximately one third of the Park and the rest which is made up of the Zambezi escarpment known as the Matusadona Mountains which rise some 700 metres above the valley floor. The park comprises some 1 400 square kilometres of diverse flora and fauna and is bounded by the Ume River to the west, the Sanyati River to the east, Lake Kariba to the north, and the Omay communal land and Matusdona Mountain range to the South. The name Matusadona derives from the local word ”Matuzviadonha” which literally means ‘constant dripping of dung’, a reference to the vast animal populations.

The Matusadona NP is truly a wonderful place to visit and relax or you can partake in a variety of activities such as guided walks, game drives, lake cruises as well as boat and canoe trips to explore the many creeks and inlets. On the shoreline there are some excellent safari lodges as well as ZIMPARKs lodges and camp sites.

Matusadona National Park is only accessible by air charter, 4 x 4 vehicle or boat. The Park lies about 20km across the lake from the town of Kariba where we can arrange a pick up.

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Rates: ZIMPARKS Camping and Lodge Fees

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At A Glance



Changa Safari Camp

–  6 standard tents which accommodate 2 people.

 2 sets of interconnecting family tents

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge

– 10 rooms, sleeping a total of 20 people

Rhino Safari Camp

– 6 twin bedded rooms

Musango Safari Camp

– 6, twin, luxurious safari tents

– 2 honeymoon suites

Zambezi Cruise Safaris

(Three Houseboats)

– 24 cabins in total

Spurwing Island

(basic accommodation)

– 6 stone cabins

– 3 chalets

– 11 tents

See ZIMPARKS Campsites below


Air, Water and Road

Matusadona National Park is only accessible by air charter, 4 x 4 vehicle or boat. The Park lies about 20km across the lake from the town of Kariba where we can arrange a pick up.


A small, 800 metre landing strip is available at Tashinga Camp and can take small aircraft. The strip is licensed Category II.


Visitors can come in from Bumi Hills located14 kilometres from Tashinga, or 50 kilometres across the Lake from Kariba town.

The Matusadona National Park is most easily accessible by boat from Kariba. It is also possible to enter the Matusadona from the gravel Karoi-Kamativi road south of the escarpment.


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 kilometres and then turn right and continue for 82 kilometrs 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 kilometres 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




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.

Open woodlands on the plateau behind the escarpment are dominated by Julbernardia globiflora. The mountain acacia, Brachystegia glaucescens, is also common on the slopes and ridges of the escarpment.

From the plateau the park falls abruptly to a flat, low-lying area covered mainly with Mopane scrub and woodland and with dense patches of Jesse bush.

Over the years, elephants and fire have caused the once substantial woodlands to dwindle, and in parts, grasslands have taken over. It became necessary to take control measures to control  the elephant population to a manageable size. 

It also became necessary to carry out early burning programmes in the upper escarpment,
to prevent fires from causing serious damage to tree growth. The burning programmes led to significant regrowth in the Escarpment area.




Numerous animals and bird species can be seen on the lake shore and within the Matusadona National Park.



Animals include: elephant, buffalo, night ape, honey badger, civet, small spotted genet, slender mongoose, banded mongoose, spotted hyena, 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.


Also present but only sighted are: wild dog, cheetah, roan and pangolin




Over 240 species of birds have been recorded in the park:

These include: grey herons, goliath herons, great white herons, saddlebill storks, plovers, waders, geese, osprey, woolly-necked storks, open-billed storks, white-winged plovers, Kittlitz’s Plover and Caspian Plover is often seen in the summer months. Red-winged pratincoles, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Little Stint are all common. 


There are several large colonies of darters and reed cormorants within the treelines, as well as white-breasted cormorants.


Bee-eater colonies are often found in the sandstone banks and cliffs of the minor rivers that traverse the valley floor.


Most local raptors are present in good numbers and include the Fish Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle and African Crowned Eagle.

Location Pin

ZIMPARKS Campsites

Tashinga Camp:

Situated 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.

Exclusive Campsites:


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.


Matusadona has a warm to hot climate. September to April makes up the warmest weather, while colder weather is present from May to August.

Variations in climate take place due to the changing altitudes (from 479 to 1298m/1572 to 4259ft) inside the park. As altitude increases, temperatures fall by about 6.5°C for every 1000 m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1000ft).

Sunlight often follows the afternoon rains that take place during the Wet season, from November to March, although a succession of drizzly days can also be typical. The opposite is true for the Dry season (April to October) when bright, sunlit skies are normal. 

Dry season – April to October – Winter

  • April – Starts cooling down now, especially at night and rains gradually taper to an end.
  • May, June, July, August – Dryness is typical of these months, which are also the coldest of the wintertime. In late August it tends to start warming.  Daytime temperatures hover around 27°C/81°F, but night and early morning is cooler at about 11°C / 52°F. Early morning drives in open vehicles are cold. 
  • September, October – These months are mostly dry until the first isolated showers arrive, usually by late October. It gets very hot during the day with average temperatures of 34°C / 90°F in October. Peaks of over 40°C/104°F are common in the lower altitude regions of the park. The combination of high temperatures and increased humidity (with the start of the rains) can make the heat feel unbearable.
  • November to March – Summer
  • November – The rains are on the increase, although not necessarily daily. The high temperatures (32°C / 89°F on average) and increased humidity could make the heat feel oppressive.
  • December, January & February – Rain comes in the form of day-long drizzle for multiple days or afternoon storms followed by clear sky. These are the wettest months. Daytime temperatures average 28°C  / 82°F while night and early morning average 18°C / 64°F.
  • March – The rains lessen with the ending of the Wet season. Temperatures average between 28°C/82°F and 18°C/64°F.
Sign Post

Activities and Attractions

  • 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 breathtaking Sanyati Gorge 
  • Game drives
  • Boating and canoeing safaris
  • Photography
  • Visit to Kariba Dam Wall


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