It was late afternoon on Lake Kariba when the thunderclouds started forming like ominous grey monsters on the horizon.
We were photographing a fish eagle perched on a dead stump, the amazing colours of the bird glowing in the soft afternoon light over Matusadona National Park in Zimbabwe. Beyond the fish eagle, the storm grew darker and we could see the rain coming down over the lake in torrents.
Suddenly, what seemed like a large tornado began to form at the base of the clouds, growing bigger and bigger as it reached the water. Roger de la Harpe was lucky enough to capture this sighting with amazing skill, the regal fish eagle providing the context and foreground of this rare African phenomenon.
Kariba is one of the largest dams in the world, causing huge amounts of precipitation, and so commands its own unique climate – this could account for the amazing scale of the storm and the eventual forming of this rare system.
Any other sightings or expert accounts of tornadoes in the area are welcome in the comments section.
Update: After some helpful comments and further investigation it has been ascertained that this is a water spout – otherwise referred to as a non-supercell tornado. It’s a similar phenomenon to cyclones and tornados but generally found over water rather than land. They are still considered dangerous and pose a threat to swimmers and water craft.