With a length of 2,200 miles (equivalent to 3,540km), River Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, after the Nile, the Congo and the Niger, in that order. When considering the rivers flowing through the Eastern parts of Africa, it is the longest river draining to the Indian Ocean. It snakes through numerous countries including Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, forming basin catchments along its course. Its place of origin is the Zambian wetlands of Mwinilunga district, located a few miles away from the Angola-Zambia border.
The Victoria Falls is arguably the most famous tourism spot in Africa. It is along the Zambezi. Animals like crocodiles, hippopotamuses and fish like the rare tiger fish and the cichlid are other tourist attractions. The deadly bull sharks that are found in the coastal waters sometimes swim up the Zambezi. This makes them be referred as the Zambezi sharks.
It crosses forests and game parks such as the Miombo woodlands and the Lower Zambezi National park, whose flora and fauna are supported by the river’s fresh water. There are thousands of animals in the game parks that thrive in the riverside vegetation. They include elephants, zebras, lions, giraffes, buffaloes and monkeys. There is also a wide array of beautiful birds like pelicans, egrets and african fish eagles that feed on water animals. There are thousands of other birds in the forests and gameparks along the river.
Rapids like the Cahora Bassa, cataracts and minor falls like the Ngonye and the Chavuma are other tourist attractions along the river. Hundreds of tourists also flock the long and several navigable parts of the river to participate in water sports like rafting and boating. Vasco da Gama, an early explorer, used the Zambezi to navigate the Eastern coast of Africa with more ease. This made him refer to it as the river of good omen. He was the first European to see the river in the year 1498.
Other than through tourism, the Zambezi is a source of income in other ways. For example, its vast water volume is a major source of hydroelectric power from the Kariba dam. The dam is one of the largest in Africa, with measurements of 420 feet high and 1900 feet long. The benefits derived from this dam in the present day are numerous with a huge impact on the economy. Its construction in 1977 was however tragic, leading to the loss of lives of eighty six men during the construction process. Another source of income is the catchment basin formed near the Indian Ocean. The catchment has many minerals, some of which the local communities mine to provide themselves with a livelihood.
The availability of water for industrial use has led to the growth of large, industrial towns and cities situated along the river Zambezi like Katima Mulilo, Mongu, Lukuku, Sesheke, Livingstone, Kariba and Tete. Most of these cities, however, have not implemented sufficient water treatment plant systems. This makes pollution the most undesirable problem facing the river. This in turn puts a lot of biodiversity at jeopardy of poisoning, death and extinction.