Zambezi River
Zambezi River.jpg

Zambezi River is a river between the Zimbabwe and Zambia border. It is the largest river in Zimbabwe and Africa's fourth largest river . It flows for 2,700 kms into the Indian Ocean at its delta on the Mozambique coast.[1] The Zambezi is home to many animals which include hippopotamuses , zebra, buffalo and elephant. Fish is common in the area and the ones found include bream, catfish, tigerfish and yellowfish and the bull shark.

Visitors Guide

  • When to visit: All year around
  • Fee: None
  • Directions: In Zimbabwe the Zambezi river is accessible by road, or by boat at Victoria Falls, Binga and Chete, Kariba, Chirundu, Mongwe, Mana Pools, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas and Kanyemba


Vasca da Gama was the first European to see the Zambezi in January 1498, when he anchored at what he called Rio dos Bons Sinais (River of Good Omens), near Quelimane, a navigable channel to the Zambezi River although the connection had silted up by the 1830’s. The Cuama was the local name for a Swahili outpost and on maps from the early 1500’s the Zambezi River became known as the 'Cuama River. The name Zambezi is believed to have been derived from the Bantu Language.

A Portuguese chronicler, Joao de Barros wrote in 1952 that the same Cuama River was called Zembere by the upriver people of Monomotapa and the Portuguese Dominican friar. David Livingstone explored the upper Zambezi between 1851 and 1853 and after about 3 years he discovered Victoria Falls. David Livingstone's Zambezi expedition attempted to open up the river to navigation by paddle steamer, but was defeated by the rapids in the Cahora Bassa (or Kebra Bassa) Gorge.Read More

In 1878 the Portuguese explorer Serpa Pinto explored the western tributaries of the river and in 1884 the missionary Frederick Stanley Arnot travelled between the watersheds of the Zambezi and the Congo and identified the source of the Zambezi. Two expeditions led by Major A St. Hill Gibbins in 1895 - 1896 and 1898 - 1900 explored the upper basin and central course of the Zambezi. [2]


Its basin (if you include all the river’s tributaries) covers most of central and southern Africa; an area of some 1.3 million sq. kms. – larger than the Sahara Desert. Eight countries in the region are directly linked into this vast river system – Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.[1]

The Zambezi is one of Africa’s last remaining wild rivers. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Victoria Falls and its four gorges: the Batoka, Kariba, Mupata and Lupata as well as two man-made lakes: Kariba and Cabora Bassa.[1]

The Zambezi basin is rich in biological diversity. Its wetlands, aquatic systems, riverine woodlands, montane forests, dry forests and savannahs are all complex eco-systems which support wildlife and a diversity of trees and plants; some species native only to the Zambezi region. As a result, the Zambezi basin holds wilderness landscapes and many natural resources that are of exceptional .[1]

Nyaminyami Myth

Nyami river.jpg

There is a myth of Nyaminyami the Zambezi River god. The River god is believed to look like a dragon and commands everything that goes on at the major river. One myth is that the Kariba Dam project which (started in 1956) shattered the peaceful existence of the Batonga people who had lived in the Zambezi Valley for hundreds of years. Asked to relocate, the Batonga were certain that Nyaminyami wouldn’t allow the dam to be built. Barely a year after the project began, a severe flood struck, killing several workers and destroying the partially built dam. For three days, relatives waited in vain for human remains to be recovered. Finally, the elders of the tribe explained that only a sacrifice would appease Nyaminyami’s displeasure. At this, a calf was slaughtered and placed in the water. The next day, the bodies of the workers were found in its place. The dam was finished in 1977.[3]

The legend of Nyaminyami has inspired art, sculpture and craft work in the Kariba area and provided a livelihood for local people who sell carved wooden walking sticks depicting the snake-like river god to visitors. At the western end of the lake around the Binga area, traditional Tonga skills of wood carving and basket-weaving have been developed into thriving industries the products of which are exported worldwide.


On June 3, 2010, the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme declared Zimbabwe’s Middle Zambezi Valley a Biosphere Reserve.[1] This designation is a first for Zimbabwe and will allow us to test different approaches to integrated management of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine resources and biodiversity. Zimbabwe’s new Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve stretches over approximately 40,000 sq. km in the Zambezi valley. It includes riverine and terrestrial ecosystems unique to Southern Africa, one of its largest man-made reservoirs, Lake Kariba, and two core National Park areas: the Matusadona National Park on the Lake Kariba’s southern shores, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas , declared in 1984.[1]

Bridges Across the Zambezi River

Read More


  • Nyaminyami - The Zambezi River God


  • Canoeing
  • camping along the river shore
  • fishing
  • whitewater rafting


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 , About the Zambezi River,ZamSoc,retrieved:2 Apr 2015"
  2. The Zambezi River, ZFG, Published: , Retrieved:25 April 2018
  3. Nyaminyami , Facebook, Published: , Retrieved: 25 April 2018