Zimbabwe is a country of contrasts, and it comes as no surprise that its climate was voted “the best climate on Earth” alongside that of Malta in International Living magazine’s 2011 Quality of Life Index, published January 2011. Every year, the magazine rates and ranks 192 countries for this index, and Zimbabwe scored 100% on climate, one of the nine categories voted upon.
Alas, a month later its capital city, Harare, was reported to be the “worst livable city in the world,” placed in last at 140 behind even the dubious cities of Dhaka in Bangladesh, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and Lagos in Nigeria. Harare had particularly poor scores for stability, economy, health care, and infrastructure, according to this annual ranking compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “world’s most liveable cities” survey. The unit ranks 140 cites from around the world using 30 indicators which each city is judged against from the five broad categories of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
While statistics are debatable, a safe bet would be to head some 365 kilometers north of Harare to Lake Kariba where the climate and ambience is a clear winner. Still the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the world in terms of volume, it has its own distinctly unique and particularly favorable weather pattern that affects the climate of the entire Zambezi Valley.
Lying between Zambia and Zimbabwe, this lake offers some spectacular weather variations within its three seasons of “wet,” “cool,” or “hot.” Dramatic tropical thunderstorms with fantastic cloud formations can occur during the rainy or wet season from late November to April. Tourists who come here at this time may well be lucky enough to witness the power of nature in the form of a water spout – a miniature version of a tornado or twister.
The Bumi Basin – a stretch of water lying between Musango Safari Camp (a rustic-luxury tented camp that sits on a private island within the lake), Bumi Hills Safari Lodge (recently refurbished luxury hotel plus spa), Island 155 and Starvation Island (site where a number of animals were marooned last year until a rescue mission was put in place) – sees many of these fair weather water spouts, which form over water beneath vertical cumulus or cumulonimbus clouds when warm, humid air and the cooler air provided by a cloud system mix. The spouts are made up of rising columns of rotating air, at first invisible, then becoming curtains of spinning water droplets.
To be specific, as a patch of warm air on the surface of the water rises, the cooler air around it begins to rotate. The humid air over the water forms much water vapor, and because warm moist air is lighter than dry air, the water vapor swirls upwards cooling and condensing into droplets. After anything between 2 to 20 minutes, the spout disappears over the water or within a few hundred meters of reaching a shoreline.
When water spouts do occur, Musango Safari Camp’s chief chef Jinglison of the Tonga tribe is among the many local people who keep a low profile as he believes that Nyaminyami, the sacred river god that is said to oversee Lake Kariba, is angry.
The lake sees cool winter temperatures from April to September of between 15 deg C at night and 25 C during the day, while the third season starts mid-September, with a hot and dry October seeing day time temperatures of up to 40 deg C and 30 deg C at night.
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