MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK
Matusadona national park is a national park in northern Zimbabwe located at the southern shore of Lake Kariba.
The park takes its name from the local Matuzviadonha Hills.
Matusadona National Park is a non-Hunting area on 7 November 1958 before being declared as a Game Reserve in 1963, and then in 1975 it became a National Park, under the Parks & Wildlife Act of Rhodesia.
Matusadona National Park covers 1400 square Kilometers (540) square miles of flat miles and rugged mountains protecting a diverse flora and fauna. Its area encompasses a combination of pristine and rugged wilderness. Which before the Kariba Dam was built and Lake Kariba created, was very inaccessible. The creation of the lake caused profound ecological changes. In particular, the availability of grazing on the lakeshore has contributed to an increase in the large mammal population, especially those of elephant Cape buffalo. the species of grass growing on the shoreline is panicum repens which grows as long as the lake levels fluctuate bringing nutrients to the shore. This source of grazing has allowed populations of a large grazers such as Cape Buffalos, waterbuck, common zebra, and Impala to thrive, attracting the associated predators.
Matusadona National Park is an Intensive Protection Zone and home to several relocated Rhinoceros includes three distinct ecological areas. The first is Lake Kariba and its shoreline grasslands, the second is the floor of the Zambezi Valley with its thick Jesse, Combretum celastroides, thickets and Mopane woodlands. The woodlands do not have much grass but provide habitat for browsers, most notably the black Rhinoceros. Elephants can be found throughout the park, seeking shade under the canopy of Jesse during the heat of the day.
From the floor of the Zambezi valley the escarpment rises some (700meters 2300ft) and is extremely rugged. Elephants browsing and fire depredations have, in recent years caused the once substantial woodlands to decrease allowing grassland to develop. This led to the park managers deciding that it was necessary to take control measures to reduce the elephant population and to carry out early burning programme in the upper escarpment, to reduce the risk of later, hotter fires from causing serious damage to the trees. These programme have been effective as demonstrated by regrowth apparent in the Escarpment area.
Within a 450 km2 (170 square miles) area there was +100 lions feeding on a bounty of Cape buffalo. The buffalo began to disappear after losing vital grazing areas to a rise in the level of Lake Kariba upon which the park is set on. This in turn saw the lions begin to decline. By 2004 a study estimated a mere 28 lions remained in the area but no research was available on their viability and/or any other threats the population may be facing. The population is still remaining at a low density and is therefore susceptible to a variety of environmental and human induced pressures. Other mammals found include leopard, warthog, greater Kudu and Bush buck. In November 2019 the management of Matusadona National Park was assumed by African Parks, in partnership with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, because of the deteriorate condition of the park due to rampant poaching.
The following campsites are within the Matusadona National Park: Tashinga Camp, Sanyati Camp and Changachirere Camp, as well as undeveloped bush camps at Jenje and Kanjedza for up to a maximum of 10 persons per camp. There are also what are termed exclusive campsites at Ume, Muuyu, Mbalabala, Maronga, and Kautsiga
Access to this national park
There is a small, 800-metre about 2600 feet landing strip is available at Tashinga Camp which can take small aircraft. Many visitors access the part by boat either from Bumi Hills or Kariba town. It has relatively poor accessibility by road and an extremely harsh internal network of roads keeps the crowds and traffic low. The roads are closed in the rainy season.
ACCOMMODATION AT MATUSANDE NATIONAL PARK.
As we mentioned earlier, there is only a handful of private safari camps dotted along the shoreline of Matusadona, along with a few campsites and self-catering lodges managed by Zimbabwe National Parks.
Most of the national parks camps have very basic facilities but some are quite run down, so best to do some research on what is there before you go.
Houseboats are probably the most popular form of accommodation in Matusadona. The houseboats themselves are moored at harbors in Kariba town and then cruise across the lake and park for a night or two in one of the many beautiful lagoons and bays of this iconic shoreline.
There are three private lodges in the Matusadona National Park. The more budget accommodation is at Spurning Island Lodge where they offer full board rates and optional lodge activities at an additional cost. Rhino Safari Camp in the northwest part of the park, is a fully inclusive camp, with a range of activities including safaris, fishing and hiking. To the far east of the park is a luxury tented camp – Change Safari Camp. This camp is also fully inclusive.
Just west of the park boundary are two other camps: Bumi Hills Lodge is a luxury safari lodge offering fully inclusive stays, Musango Safari Camp is exclusively located on Musango Island, also having fully inclusive rates. Both of these have easy access the Matusadona National Park where some of the activities are offered.
How to Get Matusande National Park
Matusadona National Park is one of the toughest places to get to. If you plan on self-drive, make sure you have a good 4×4 and it is worthwhile to plan for a few nights stay because of the arduous drive. The easiest way is by boat, so you can drive to Kariba, which is all tar from Harare and leave your car there for about $5 per day, and charter a boat to your accommodation.
Access to the private camps and lodges can be by private air charter to Fothergill Airstrip (to get to spur wing and Changa) or Bumi airstrip (for Bumi Hills, Musango and Rhino camps), and then transferring by boat to the lodging.