Map of the river course

Victoria Falls, in the foreground the railway bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Zambezi (also Zambezi or Zambesi ) is the fourth- longest river in Africa and the largest African current flowing into the Indian Ocean. The catchment area includes areas in eight countries in southern Africa and covers about 1.33 million km ², which is about half that of the Nile. Thus, it is the fourth largest river system in Africa. He is known worldwide especially by the Victoria Falls.

Its source is located in the Zambezi Source National Forest and lies on the Lundaschwelle in Zambia, on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. He is a total of 2574 km long. It flows through Angola, Zambia and Mozambique, where it empties into a 880 km ² large delta into the Indian Ocean. It also forms part of the border of Zambia and Namibia, and Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where he at the level of cities Livingstone ( Zambia) and Victoria Falls ( Zimbabwe), the most powerful waterfall in Africa, Victoria Falls forms, and there about 110 meters in depth falls. Other waterfalls are the Chavumafälle on the border between Zambia and Angola, and the Ngonyefälle located near Sioma in Western Zambia. The Zambezi is the entire river length of only eight bridges spanning (see below: importance as a transportation route ).

The large hydropower plants of the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dam to supply even the Republic of South Africa with electricity. The Zambezi is navigable in the lower reaches from Tete. In the Zambezi come up today before hippos.

Course of the river


The river rises in a marshy moorland and in hilly forest area of ​​the Mitumba Mountains in northwest Zambia at an altitude of about 1500 meters. East of the source, the watershed between the basin of the Congo ( Lualaba ) and the Zambezi River, which runs as a range of hills almost from east to west.


After the river flows about 240 kilometers south-west direction, it bends to the south and enlarged by numerous tributaries. A few miles above Kakengi widens the river from 100 to about 350 meters, below Kakengi are some rapids that lead to the Chavumafällen that are considered limit of 800 km long upper reaches, on which the current to only 180 meters falls. From then on, the Zambezi flows through a rocky gorge. The first major tributary, which flows into the Zambezi River, is the Kabompofluss in northern Zambia, to the south leads to the Lungwebungu River is another great inflow. The savanna through which the river ran so far, is replaced by open bush land that is covered with Borassuspalmen. Denser vegetation is limited to a narrow strip of woods that cover the surrounding areas of the Zambezi River and its tributaries during the first 160 miles on a spread of several hundred meters.

At an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level, the river falls to 1100 meters, while Kakengi 350 kilometers downstream. From there up to the Victoria Falls, the course is smooth and falls only slightly further. 30 km below the confluence of the Lungwebungu the landscape is very flat and flooded large areas during the rainy season. A further 80 kilometers downstream flow with the Luena and the Luanginga who has a large catchment area in the west, two more tributaries.

Just below it lies Lealui, one of the largest cities of the Lozi people who populate the semi-autonomous region of Barotseland. The leader of the Lozi has two branches in Lealui and Limulunga, which serves as the capital due to its high elevation during the rainy season. The annual parade of Lealui after Limulunga is a major event that is celebrated with one of Zambia's best known festivals, the Kuomboka ceremony.

Below Lealui turn the course of the river from the southeast. From the east it receives more numerous tributaries, while over a distance of 240 km is not the case from the west to the inflow of the Cuando. In this section are the Ngonyefälle and more rapids. South of the river limited the Caprivi region as Namibia. This region is an extension of the main area of Namibia, which was added in the colonial period to the then German South West Africa, to allow Germany to connect to the Zambezi.

Below the union of the Zambezi and the Cuando, the current turns exactly to the east. Here it is very broad and flat, with a slow flow rate. In its further course to the east of the Zambezi passes into the large central African plateau where it reaches a gorge which ends at the Victoria Falls. There the Zambezi River plunges over a width of 1708 meters over a 110 meter sloping rock wall.

Middle reaches

The Victoria Falls are considered the boundary between the headwaters and middle reaches of the Zambezi. The course of the river to the east continues about another 200 km, thereby cutting through perpendicular walls of basalt up to 250 meters in height. The velocity of the flow is high in these canyons, occasionally interrupted by stone benches. Following these canyons followed by a series of rapids which end 240 km below the Victoria Falls. During this stretch of the river by 250 meters falls. Until the construction of bridges and dams, the Zambezi steep slopes of the central barrel were considered insurmountable.

Following the Zambezi River flows into Lake Kariba, which was created after the construction of the Kariba Dam in 1959. The lake is one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, the hydropower plants of the dam provide electricity to much of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Luangwa and Kafue are the two largest left -hand tributaries of the Zambezi. The Kafue joins as quiet and deep stream flowing in a width of 180 meters into the Zambezi River. From this point of slightly different course to the north of the river changes direction again directly east and crosses the tributary of the Luangwa the border to Mozambique.

The middle Zambezi ends with the Cahora Bassa lake. Also this lake was created by the construction of a dam (1974 ), there were once in its place the dangerous rapids of Kebrabassa.


The lower 640 km of the Zambezi from Cahora Bassa to the Indian Ocean are navigable, the river in the dry season in many places is very shallow. This is facilitated by the fact that the Zambezi passes into a broad valley and over a large area aufteilt.Nur at a point in the Lupata gorge, the river is bordered by hills to a width of 200 meters. Otherwise, it extends in many different rivers over a width of five to eight kilometers. The river bed is sandy, the slope is low and fringed by reefs. Sometimes the individual runs unite to form a single, wide, fast-flowing stream, especially in the rainy season.

About 160 kilometers from the sea receives the Zambezi with the Shire tributary of Lake Malawi. Closer to the coast, it forms a wide range of Delta, which consists of numerous branches. Each of the four main estuaries Milambe, Kongone, Luabo and Timbwe is surrounded by sandbanks. A more northerly branch, ending in the Chinde estuary, has a depth of two to four meters and is used for navigation. 100 km north of the small river Quelimane, which is called as the eponymous town at its mouth. This silted river receives during the rainy season water from the flooded Zambezi. The delta of the Zambezi is today only half as wide as it was before the construction of the Kariba and Cahora - Bassa dams that regulate the seasonal variations of the water level.

The catchment area of the Zambezi is a vast, limited by a jagged edge of the plateau, which consists in the remote interior of multiform stone beds and is bordered by the rocks of the Victoria Falls. In Shupanga the lower Zambezi can be found in the dry season layers of gray and yellow sandstone, interspersed with strips of limestone. These can be found up behind Tete, where they are associated with larger coal reserves; this is also found below the Victoria Falls. Gold-bearing rocks occur in different places.

Catchment and inflows

The catchment area of the Zambezi extends over a total of eight countries. The largest portion of Zambia (41% ), followed by Angola ( 18%), Zimbabwe ( 16%), Mozambique (12%), Malawi (8%), Tanzania (2%), Botswana ( 1.5%) and Namibia ( 1.5%). Malawi and Tanzania are no immediate Zambezi riparian, they are connected via the Lake Malawi and the Shire River with the Zambezi.

The Kabompo rises in the highlands, which forms the watershed between the basin of the Zambezi and Congo. It is made of top Kabompo itself and the larger Lunga. It flows north of the city Lukulu in the Zambezi. The Lungwebungu, a large tributary from the west, meets directly below the Kabompo on the Zambezi. He has in its course a width of up to 200 meters and flows through a forest overgrown with sparse, consisting of white sand valley where he occasionally flooded areas of several kilometers in width.

The Cuando is the largest of the western tributaries. It rises in Angola and forms in its course the border between Zambia and Angola, before he turns to the south and east by the Caprivi Strip to the Zambezi. In the eastern part it flows over a distance of 110 kilometers through a reedy swamp with alluvial islands before getting to the south by Magwekwana inflow, on which he receives from this excess water during a flood of the Okavango. The Cuando opens at its lower reaches, where it bears the name Chobe, with Kazungula, which lies exactly at the junction of Botswana - Namibia - Zambia - Zimbabwe, the Zambezi. The ruins of the capital of the historic Makololo people located at its lower reaches.

The largest tributary of the middle Zambezi, the Kafue, which rises in a densely wooded area in northern Zambia. He later united with the Lunga. The Itezhitezhi dam is by the Kafue Dam an important energy source of the Kafue. The area of the river carries a large variety of animals that are protected by the Kafue National Park in Zambia's largest national park. At the lower Kafue there are several waterfalls and rapids that make the river a short distance fall off over several hundred meters.

The headwaters of the Luangwa runs parallel to the western shore of Lake Malawi. With two tributaries, the Lunsemfwa and the Lukasashi, its catchment area covers a large part of the western plateau of Zambia. The Luangwa is generally flat and quite wide, but has a fast flow rate. It forms a broad valley, bounded by steep rock climbs. This is an important conservation area for wildlife and includes the northern and southern Luangwa National Park. The Luangwa forms before he, coming from the east, combined with the Zambezi above Zumbo with its lower reaches more than 75 miles up the Mozambique border.

From the south of the Zambezi receives numerous tributaries that come from northern Zimbabwe. In addition to numerous small bodies of water, these are mainly the Shangani, the Hunyani and Sanyati. The Mazoe, which rises in Mashonaland, opens below the Cahora Bassa dam.

Exploration of the river

The region around the Zambezi River was known to medieval geographers as the Empire of Monomotapa and the river course was like the location of the Ngamisees ( in Okavangobecken located ) and Lake Malawi located quite accurately in early maps. These statements were made ​​after knowledge of the Arabs.

The first European to visit the upper Zambezi was David Livingstone in his exploration of the Bechuanaland 1851-1853. Two or three years later, he followed the Zambezi River down to the mouth, in the course of this journey he discovered the Victoria Falls. During 1858-1860 Livingstone was accompanied by John Kirk of the Kongone estuary up to the waterfalls. He also followed the course of the Shire and reached Lake Malawi.

During the next 35 years only a few explorations of the river took place, but in 1889 the Chinde channel north of the main mouths was discovered. Two expeditions under Major A. St Hill Gibbons from 1895 to 1896 and from 1898 to 1900 continued the exploration had begun Livin Stone at the top and the main course of the river. The Portuguese explorer Alexandre Alberto da Rocha de Serpa Pinto examined some of the western tributaries, and measured in 1878 the Victoria Falls.


The population in the valley of the Zambezi River is about 32 million people, 80% of those living from agriculture. The floodplains of the upper river provide fertile land, which is well suited for cultivation.

The Zambezi is intensively fished, many people take for long distances up. Some cities that lie along roads to the Zambezi, raise taxes unofficial fish fish ends from other parts of the country. Sport fishing can be mainly caught between Mongu and Livingstone, at the exotic fish species and various safari tours in the national parks form the basis for tourism. The Victoria Falls are visited annually by 1.5 million visitors, the Kariba attracts more tourists.

The river valley is rich in minerals and fossil fuels. Coal mines are an important economic factor in some areas. The dams in the river course are important sources of energy and provide many people work.

Importance as a transport route

The Zambezi, which is very much interrupted by rapids, never had great importance as a transport over long distances. However, many small towns along the river are only accessible by boat and by the often poor condition of the dirt roads that are also still occasionally flooded, over shorter distances of the waterway is a suitable way of getting around.

Throughout the course of the Zambezi is spanned by only eight bridges, including a pedestrian bridge. The Kariba Dam is a provincial road and crossing ability. The secluded Cahora Bassa dam can be crossed by pedestrians. In many places ferries transport people and vehicles across the river. The Victoria Falls Bridge at Victoria Falls was the first, it was completed in April 1905. You should be Cecil Rhodes ' part of a railroad from Cairo to Cape Town to plans. The bridge spans 250 meters, of which alone the main arc 150 meters. It is located 125 meters above the water level of the river.

Later, the Dona Ana Bridge, a railway bridge between Villa de Senna and Mutarara in the lower reaches (1934 ), the Otto Beit Bridge at Chirundu in Zambia (1939, 2003 through the Chirundu Bridge adds ), the Ponte Samora Machel in Tete in Mozambique ( opened in 1973 ) and the pedestrian suspension bridge 60 kilometers south of Chavuma built in the 1970s at Chinyingi the Zambesi place in northern Zambia. Katima Mulilo - 2004 Bridge ( Zambezibrücke ) was built between Katima Mulilo and Sesheke and thus the Trans- Caprivi Highway completed, connecting Lusaka in Zambia with Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast.

On August 1, 2009, the new bridge in the provinces of Sofala and Zambezia Mozambique connects, opened by President Armondo Emilio Guebuza. The Armando Guebuza - bridge is 2376 meters long and was financed with money from the European Union, Italy, Sweden and Mozambique. The construction costs amounted to 80 million euros.

Photos of the bridge over the Zambezi

  • Suspension bridge at Chinyingi
  • Bridge at Sesheke
  • Victoria Falls Bridge
  • Suspension bridge at Tete
  • Railway bridge at Vila Sena as street


In the comedy film "King Ralph " (1991) is an African imagination state called " Zambezi " before whose king Mulambon ( Rudolph Walker) wants to establish diplomatic relations with Britain.

In the Hannover Zoo, there is a part called African-inspired " Zambezi ", which can also be " Zambezi " can pass through said watercourse with boats on a.