Zambezi River Facts
The Zambezi River is one of the great rivers of Southern Africa, flowing through numerous countries over thousands of kilometres. It is the lifeblood for wildlife living along its banks, host to some of the best safari lodges in the world and the venue for one of a kind experiences along its spectacular natural landmarks like Victoria Falls. Keep reading for some amazing facts about the mysterious Zambezi River.
~ The river is 3540 kilometres long (2200 miles) long – the longest east flowing in Africa and the fourth longest in total on the continent.
~ It flows through 6 countries. From its source, the Zambezi River flows through Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
~ Its source can be found in North-Western Province, Zambia. The river rises in a black marshy area of miombo woodland about 1,524 metres (5,000 ft) above sea level. The area around the source is a national monument, forest reserve and Important Bird Area.
~ Vasco da Gama is thought to have been the first European to have seen the river in 1498. He called the small part of the river he saw on the northern end of the Delta, Rios dos Bons Sinais or the ‘River of Good Omens’.
~ The name ‘Zambezi’ is thought to have come from the M’biza or Bisa people who lived near the source. Portuguese chronicler Joao de Barros was the first European to note the name ‘Zembere’ used by the people of Monomatapa for the river in 1552.
~ The Zambezi has its very own god- the River God, Nyami Nyami. The Nyami Nyami is depicted as a snake or dragon-like being with the body of a snake and head of a fish. It is carved as a good luck charm out of wood, stone, bone and occasionally ivory or gold.
~ The Victoria Falls is the most spectacular of a number of waterfalls along its course. Notable other waterfalls include Ngonye Falls in Western Zambia and Chavuma Falls on the border of Angola and Zambia.
~ The Zambezi is a major source of hydroelectric power generated at Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe. Completed in 1977, the dam is 128 metres high (420 feet) and 579 metres long (1900 feet). 86 men lost their lives building it. Cahora Bassa in Mozambique is the second biggest hydroelectric station along the Zambezi. There are two smaller additional others.
~ Sharks are found in the Zambezi River. Bull sharks, also called Zambezi sharks are known to swim hundreds of kilometres upstream of the Zambezi River. They are saltwater and freshwater tolerant sharks. In Africa, they are commonly called “zambi’.
~ The Zambezi is a major tourist attraction. Every year, visitors from around the globe travel to the river for adrenalin activities at Victoria Falls, as well as river safaris, canoeing trips and sunset cruises further upstream. You can view a whole selection of activities here.
~ The Zambezi Delta in Mozambique was majorly affected by the construction of Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams in the 60s and 70s. Today, it is about half as broad as it once was and although there has been a reduction in large game populations, it is still home to eland, reedbuck, lion, leopard, crocodiles and plenty of birdlife.
For more information regarding your stay along the Zambezi River, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team at Livingstone’s Adventure in Zambia. We have an array of activities highlighting the beauty of the Zambezi River whether you’re looking for white knuckle thrills or a sedate sunset cruise.