When many people think of Tanzania, they probably think of the Serengeti with it’s arid plains teaming with Wildebeest and Zebra.
… or possibly Kilimanjaro’s snow capped peak.
… or maybe Zanzibar and it’s white sands and azure waters.
All these are amazing places and we’ve been to all three (though we’ve yet to see Kilimanjaro’s peak personally), but Tanzania is as much defined by it’s lakes as anything else – more so in that much of it’s Western Border is Lake and a portion of it’s Northern Border too.
There are three Great Lakes here : Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyassa (more commonly known as Lake Malawi in the outside world – but not in Tanzania or Mozambeque which share it).
We have been lucky enough to visit all three in the past 15 months – in fact we live next to the largest (Lake Victoria) so we visit that one all the time.
Shared Between: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya
Area:68,800 square kilometers (26,600 sq miles)
Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake by surface area; only Lake Superior in North America is larger.
Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, and is also the largest tropical lake in the world.
The lake is an average of 40m deep and its deepest point is 83m deep. It is therefore quite a shallow lake.
Named after Queen Victoria by it’s European discoverer John Speke it is known as Lake Nyaza in Bantu languages.
Sadly the lake’s ecosystem has been decimated by the introduction of Nile Perch and eutrophication. Thus hundreds of native cichlids have been driven to extinction in the past 50 years. The perch have no natural predator and have destroyed the natural food chains which existed. Increased algae have further choked the lake and the drop in fish population has severely damaged the fishing industry here.
The lake looks lovely but you wouldn’t swim in it’s toxic waters. Raw sewage is dumped into the lake by factories and settlements and increases the eutrophication further.
Bilharzia snails are present in high quantities and as a carrier of Shistosomiasis a potentially fatal disease if left untreated. Sadly locals do swim and wash in it, having no choice but to do so.
It’s sad that this massive body of water on our doorstep is so polluted.
Shared Between: Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia
Area:32,900 square kilometers (12,700 sq miles)
We visited this beautiful lake over half term, staying near Kigoma at Jacobsen’s Beach.
It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest. It is 570m deep on average and at it’s deepest it is 1470m deep. Only Lake Baikal in Siberia is deeper and has greater volume.
It is also the world’s longest freshwater lake.
The name “Tanganyika” means “Great Lake spreading out like a plain”
Located in the Rift Valley the lake is relatively unpolluted. Over 250 species of cichlids live in the lake and 75 other species too.
Fishing is a major industry here and has impacted upon the fish.
No lake in Africa is free of Shistosomiasis but it seems to be low level/ risk in Tanganyika unlike Victoria. We will take praziquantel to be certain but you have to wait a couple of months.
Lake Nyassa (Lake Malawi)
Shared Between: Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique
Area:29,600 square kilometers (11,400 sq miles)
We visited this lake in the summer travelling from Mbamba Bay in Tanzania to Likoma Islands on to Monkey Bay in Malawi.
It is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa.
It has a depth of 292m on average with a maximum of 706m.
It’s over 1000 species of cichlids makes it very bio diverse. It has in fact the most variety of species of any lake.
The lake is subject to a border dispute with slaw I claiming the entire lake up to the shore of Tanzania whilst Tanzania claims the border is in the middle of the lake.
It is probable that the lake contains Shistosomiasis and slthough we were assured otherwise and although we did swim in it’s clear waters at both Likoma and Monkey Bay we have taken medication to be safe.
Three Great Lakes – all different in their own way and all part of Tanzania.