Cahora & Tete

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Cahora Bassa - Introducing Mozambique

Cahora Bassa - Introducing Mozambique

Cahora Bassa dam wall
Cahora Bassa dam wall

Whether it is an energetic day of sport, angling for Africa’s fiercest fighting fish, the tiger, or watching a vast array of bird and wildlife, or even if it’s simple rest and relaxation in an unspoilt environment, the glittering waters of Cahora Bassa offer it all. This is Africa’s fourth largest man-made lake, situated near Songo, 150 kms from Tete city, in Tete Province, Mozambique.

History buffs and engineers will find a tour of the dam wall fascinating, but the sheer magnitude of the project will amaze every visitor. The dam wall was constructed in the aptly named Kebrabasse Gorge, which means ‘where the work cannot go on.’ Although the gorge was the ideal point on the Zambezi for constructing a dam, it was also remote and difficult to access. As a result of political and physical issues, the project took a number of years to come into operation; it was officially opened in 1974.

Visitors should note that written permission is required to visit the dam wall – obtained from the Hidroeléctrica de Cabora Bassa (HCB) office in Tete – before travelling to Songo, where guided tours of the power station and dam are available. Alternatively, ask your lodge or tour guide to assist you in gaining access to the area.

The dam and hydroelectric project is an astonishing engineering achievement, continuing to serve the local communities downstream by reducing flooding, but best of all it has gifted us with Mozambique’s glittering jewel – Cahora Bassa lake.

Fishing is one of the primary attractions for visitors to the lake. At 270km long, the lake is roughly the same size as Kariba. However, while Kariba has many lodges and a great deal of fishing pressure, Cahora Bassa remains virtually unfished.

Having been protected first by a civil war, and now by its remoteness, its reputation for yielding trophy tiger fish is world renowned. Tiger of up to 14 kgs and vundu of 40 kgs are not uncommon, so be sure to bring your camera. Like the tiger, the majority of other fish species in the lake are rough-scaled and extremely hard fighting. January through to March are rated as the top fishing months, but be warned, from November to February temperatures sometimes peak over 40 degrees Celsius. Nothing that an ice cold beer won’t cure!

Aside from the fish, Cahora Bassa has a myriad of bird and wildlife to offer, making it a nature-lover’s haven. View fauna and flora from the shore, or from a boat or kayak. For your safety, being accompanied by an experienced guide is highly recommended. Besides the large number of hippopotamus and crocodile lurking in the lake’s waters, timid kudu and other buck can be spotted snatching a nervous drink before ducking back into the bush. Elephant, lion, buffalo, monkeys, and the mighty fish eagle, frequent the area.

The combination of wildlife and magnificent scenery make this a year-round photographer’s paradise. Superb accommodation is available along the edges of the lake. Enjoying a sundowner in the cool shade of any of these lodges while gazing across the lake’s sunset-tinted surface, is bound to refresh body and soul. Please be aware that malaria is prevalent in the area, and it is strongly advised that you take the necessary precautions.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Cahora & Tete

Read more from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 06, Sept 2011)