Siavonga might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of popular southern African destinations. But it sure deserves its mention! This sleepy little town lies in the Southern Province of the Zambia, right by Lake Kariba. Lake Kariba is, by volume, the world’s largest man-made lake and is located between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
How to get there
I went there when my mom was visiting, and to spare her all the bus rides (which can get a little crazy), we rented a car and I drove her there.
The advantage: you get to experience driving through the very beautiful and interesting Zambian countryside and make stops wherever you want. And once you’re there, you don’t depend on paid tours and get to see everything for less money!
The downside: if you don’t share a car, you’re going to be driving for a while. And by a while I mean many hours, depending on how many trucks you have in front of you in the curvy mountains.
If you don’t rent a car, simply take a minibus from the terminal in Lusaka. I say ‘simply’, but you might get squeezed into an overloaded bus with many stops on the way. It all depends on what kind of adventure you’re looking for.
Where to stay
One thing Siavonga definitely doesn’t lack are lodges and hotels! We had booked a nice private room at Sandy Beach Lodge. But after taking a turn and an hour driving down an extremely tricky dirt road (I’m talking big rocks in the way, countless deep potholes, and a lot of steep hills), we decided our little Honda couldn’t take it anymore and turned around to look for another place. And that’s how we found Lake Kariba Inns! Granted, it was a bit pricier, but we also got what we paid for. Located directly by the lake, you will get a private room with zebras and antelopes grazing around you, a nice pool, a restaurant, and a little path that leads you to the harbor down by the shore.
What to do
Take walks and enjoy the view
I know, that might sound a little lame for the action-lovers among you, but trust me. The lake is beautiful any time of the day and especially when you stay at Lake Kariba Inns, you’re going to want to walk down the path a little bit and take some photos!
Visit the dam wall
You can’t really leave Siavonga without having visited the dam. After all, this is what the lake was made for in the first place! The lake’s mass is 200 billion tons. Let’s let that sink in for a minute. That’s quite an impressive project. The largest part of electric power for both Zambia and Zimbabwe comes from there. Tell the guard at the gate that you do not intend to cross over to Zimbabwe but just want to see the dam wall from up close. They will make you leave your passports for security reasons. Don’t worry, you’ll get them back safe and sound. You will have to pay a fee of $1 to get in, and after a quick drive you’ll arrive at the impressive wall.
Do a boat cruise
We opted for a sunset cruise, and it ended up just being my mom and me, which was great. Keep your eyes out to discover what this lake has to offer. We saw crocs and many pretty birds, but I was especially impressed by the forest of dead trees all around us. It looks magical, doesn’t it?I even hopped off onto an island to take some more shots. That’s when our guide said I had just gone onto Zimbabwean land! Finally, we got to see a breathtaking sunset as we made our way back to the harbor.
If you’d rather see the dam wallYou can also tell the guide you’d rather see the dam wall from the boat, but since we had just been there, we just asked him to take us to his favorite places. That usually works out well for all guided tours.
Now, because we didn’t spend more time in Siavonga, that’s all we did in order not to rush through our day before we drove on to Livingstone. But if you’re there for a couple of days to really relax, here’s what else you can do:
- Tiger fishing! Zambia gets most of its fish from this lake, and you can catch some yourself! Both Lake Kariba Inns and another place called Lake Safari Lodge offer this activity. Not my cup of tea, but some enjoy it!
- Rent a houseboat. My friends and I always wanted to do this but never got around to it, for financial reasons. It’s not the cheapest thing to do, but I’ve been told that it’s a great experience. Both lodges I mentioned above, as well as a place called Eagle’s Rest, let you rent a houseboat for one or more nights. The more people, the cheaper it gets.
- Go to Zimbabwe! While you’re there, you might as well! You’re going to have to pay for a visa, which is $30. Siavonga would be a much more exciting stop on the way to your next destination in Zim than the border post in Chirundu.
That’s it! A final word of advice: although it looks very inviting with its beaches and warm weather, avoid swimming in there. The crocs will take a special interest in you (and they will definitely be faster than you), and you can catch some nasty stomach bugs from the parasites in the water. From someone who has dealt with this issue for over half a year now: you don’t want to risk it. Just enjoy the view instead and take a dip in the clean pool after!
Are you planning on going to Siavonga soon or have you recently been? Tell me in the comments!
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