Cahora Bassa, Tete Province, Mozambique

Lake Locations:

Mozambique - Tete Province -

Cahora Bassa is likely one of the best fishing destinations on the African continent. This relatively young reservoir was formed when the Cahora Bassa Dam was built cross the Zambezi River in 1974. The huge dam was begun by the Portuguese as an irrigation, flood control and power generation dam while Mozambique was still under the control of Portugal. By the time the reservoir had filled, Mozambique had gained its independence. Much of the power generated had already been contracted to South Africa and, when civil war broke out almost immediately, the entire electrical transmission system was extensively damaged. The Cahora Bassa was thus born at a time of great turmoil within impoverished Mozambique, and the country has struggled ever since to balance the changing needs of government, existing contracts and the needs of those displaced by the rising water. This is likely the only reason this pristine giant of a lake has not yet been ‘discovered’ by the larger tourism trade. Most visitors come to enjoy the beautiful white-sand beaches and resorts along the country’s Indian Ocean coast and never think to look into the interior. Those that do, however, are beginning to spread the word: Cahora Bassa is a destination in its own right.

Covering nearly 700,000 acres beginning at the border with Zimbabwe, the large lake with its five basins and many islands has allowed several species of sport fish to thrive. In their wake have arrived the first tourism businesses along the shore: fishing resorts. Most fishermen come to catch the hard-fighting tiger fish which reaches impressive size in the lake. Other species caught include a variety of bream species, including Mossambica, three-spot and red-breast, as well as barbel/catfish and their larger cousins the vundu, cornish jack, tilapia and labeos. About 1500 local fishermen earn their living from small-scale commercial fishing, usually from dugout canoes. One rumored species in the lake is the Zambezi shark, with local fishermen reporting sightings and occasional attacks, although its presence hasn’t yet been proven. These rumors may well prove to be true, as the Zambezi is a variety of the bull shark, known to travel many miles inland and can survive in fresh water. It is entirely possible that a small population was trapped behind the dam and is now native to the Cahora Bassa.

The fishing-focused resorts on the Cahora Bassa are growing more luxurious and are well on their way to becoming full-fledged tourism attractions. Most come with single or double sleeping areas, private baths, plenty of hot water, small swimming pools, lounges and well-appointed common areas and excellent meals. Boat cruises on the lake are becoming more of a focus, as the unspoiled environment is one of Africa’s famed wilderness areas. Unique flora such as the majestic baobab trees line the lake shore while hippos frolic in family groups in the water and crocodiles sun themselves on the banks. Notable African game such as buffalo, kudu, warthog, grysbok and bushbuck, along with the occasional elephant, can also at times be seen from the water. Sunset cruises are especially popular, as spectacular sunsets are the norm across the wide expanse of water.

Cahora Bassa is quickly becoming a favorite with photographers and bird watchers, who can always find an unusual target to focus upon along the shoreline. One of the more unusual businesses along the north shore of the lake is a ‘crocodile farm’ which encourages tours. The farm collects up to 50,000 crocodile eggs from the banks of the Cahora Bassa each year under license from the government, incubates them and harvests the skins of the animals when fully grown. This farm is also in the business of teaching sound ecological management to the local people and handles particularly aggressive crocodiles which become a problem on the lake.

Cahora Bassa lake is Africa’s fourth-largest artificial lake. Located in the Tete Province in Mozambique, the lake is sometimes misspelled as Cabora Bassa. Misspelled or not, the entire country will know exactly what you mean when referring to the lake and dam. The large water control and power generation project has been the source of repeated news reports, from arguments over ownership to disagreements over contracts. Within the last few years, most ownership of the dam has reverted to Mozambique, with Portugal retaining only 15%. Five 425-megawatt generators supply power primarily to South Africa over an 870-mile- long, dual 530-kilowatt transmission line and also to Maputo, Tete, and the Moatize coal mines near the town of Tete. Not all of the power potential is yet being used, and many small villages still lack any type of electricity. It is hoped that the growing tourism industry will bring both modernization and employment opportunities to the local people.

With the large numbers of tourists regularly visiting the Indian Ocean coastline to enjoy the pristine sandy beaches, luxury hotels, excellent surfing, sailing and snorkeling, there will be many who wish to add a visit to the interior to their itinerary. Once Mozambique begins to actively promote the region, tourist accommodations will spring up along the shoreline quickly. Balancing the needs of the local people, the concern for the environment and the need for power generation will be a delicate task, and the tourism industry is progressing quite slowly at present. This is to the advantage of the many adventurous fishermen who come to do battle with the toothy tiger fish. For now, the only accommodations on Cahora Bassa are those at the fishing resorts. Lodging can also be found in Tete, about 100 miles southeast of the dam on passable roads. There may be real estate opportunities near the lake but one would have to inquire locally for that information. So, if you wish to see unspoiled African wilderness complete with the animals and birds one usually marvels at in zoos, come to Cahora Bassa. The elephants are on the banks and the hippos and tiger fish are in the water. Bring the tackle and the camera; you’ll need both!

Things to do at Cahora Bassa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Swimming Pool
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Snorkeling
  • Birding

Fish species found at Cahora Bassa

  • Barbel
  • Catfish
  • Tiger Fish
  • Tilapia

Cahora Bassa Photo Gallery

Cahora Bassa Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa

Surface Area: 676,822 acres

Shoreline Length: 153 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,030 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,027 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,073 feet

Average Depth: 69 feet

Maximum Depth: 515 feet

Water Volume: 46,151,470 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1974

Water Residence Time: 197 days

Drainage Area: 21,980 sq. miles

Spread the word! Share our Cahora Bassa article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.