By Laiton Kandawire
Kariba is a destination offering exceptional scenic views, unforgettable sunsets over huge expanses of water and with local wildlife quietly grazing on the shoreline this creates endless photographic opportunities. The construction of the dam in the 1950’s has opened the door for an array of tourist activities to satisfy the preferences of both local and foreign visitors including fishing, boating, game viewing, birding, paleontology, photography, culture and crafts. Visitors arrive either by air or road and as far as accommodation goes, the Kariba area as a whole has so much to offer, from budget self-catering camping sites to beach resorts, hotels, houseboats and stunning luxurious safari camps.
While, admittedly, some products and services are decidedly earmarked for foreign markets, this is not the case with the majority of what is available. The domestic market is yet to realise the benefits of using the services of local, area-based destination planners, better known as Domestic Management Companies (DMC) in the travel trade.
Reading personal experiences of tourists, particularly about the Kariba area, it is clear for those of us in the know that the domestic tourist is missing out on some of the fun. In fact, this market seems to be complaining that there is not much more to see after the dam wall visit, lake cruise and a game drive. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Kariba has a publicity association which will be more than happy to link you with those of their members who specialise in the areas you are looking for. There is no one-size-fits-all in this aspect as what worked for one party might not work for another because of a detail you overlook. If you are keen on fishing, for example, your houseboat experience might not equal that of a party that came specifically to view and photograph wildlife, even though you both use the same boat. The captain might not be a keen fisherman but is, perhaps, a wildlife enthusiast. If an area-based travel expert is involved in recommending your houseboat choice, such issues are taken care of with the minimum of fuss and the client might leave thinking every houseboat captain is a good, keen, expert fishermen. Your DMC would know the skills set on each houseboat, lodge, hotel or activity you may wish to choose.The very affordable campsites in the Matusadona National Park offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of nature and a low cost holiday. Changa Safari Camp, Rhino Safari Camp, Gache Gache Safari Lodge, Musango Safari Camp, Bumi Hills and other camps along the shores of Lake Kariba are mainly patronised by foreign tourists who get to see and experience more, mainly because the holiday is planned by an expert on African travel who, in most cases, uses the services of a travel expert to tighten the loose ends and fine-tune the itinerary.
Holiday planning is a complex exercise which is time consuming, requires intimate knowledge of the destinations and operators on the ground and can be quite stressful. It can be costly if poorly executed. This is why expert local knowledge, where available, should be utilised.
About the author: Laiton is a long-standing Kariba Destination Planner and a certified ZimHost who has written extensively about and promotes tourism into Kariba and the Zambezi Valley areas. He sits on the boards of both the Kariba Publicity Association (KPA) and Kariba Development Trust (KDT). He can be reached on +263 772817733 or via e-mail on: firstname.lastname@example.org- © NZiRA Travel Zimbabwe Issue 10
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