Tag Archives: Kigoma

Lakeland

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.IMG_9951

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.

Lake Victoria

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.

Lake Tanganyika

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.

Sizing Things Up

Maps of the world give a distorted view of things. The countries nearer the poles are enlarged relative to those nearer the equator and so if you look at a map of the earth Tanzania looks much smaller than it is in reality and the UK and USA look much larger than they really are.

UK SizeThere is an interesting website that attempts to rectify this error and I have used it in this blog to show how big Africa and in particular Tanzania are. The website called

http://thetruesize.com/

superimposes a scale sized map of one country onto another.

The maps below were created using this site.

Here is a map of the UK  for reference


UK (Mwanza Kigoma)Having spent 14 hours on the road yesterday traveling from Kigoma to Mwanza it is worth looking at how far it would mean in Britain – the map has been rotated to fit the journey.

On this scale a journey from Mwanza to Kigoma is like traveling from Lincoln to St Austell (in Cornwall) via Brighton.


UK (Mwanza Dar)A trip from Mwanza to Dar Es Salam is equivalent to a journey from from John O’ Groats in the North of Scotland to Thanet in Kent.

Luckily we can fly to Dar  at a reasonable cost.


US (Mwanza Mbale)

Our travels from Mwanza to Mbale and Jinja via Bukoba and Kampala at Easter (including  Murchison Falls in the North) were all taken by bus.

This would be the equivalent of a journey from London to Middlesborough via Bristol, Liverpoool and Manchester with a hop across to Northern Ireland.

Notice that Lake Victoria fills most of Southern and Central England.


UK (Mwanza Moshi)A trip to Moshi where we will meet the Mums at Christmas is like a journey from Edinburgh to Southend via Ayr and Blackpool.

We will fly this December but we went the opposite way by bus in the summer.


For our epic journey of Eastern and Southern Africa – a map of Britain won’t do so instead a map of the USA

USA

We traveled from Mwanza to Zomba then to Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and back again.US East Africa

This was the equivalent of a journey from the North of Ohio via Washingston DC to Southern Alabama and on into Texas.


This shows how vast Africa really is and perhaps how much smaller the USA and UK are really.US Africa

If you want to see how big your country is compared to any other part of the world check out the site for yourself

http://thetruesize.com/

Zebra for Breakfast!

There are not many places you can go in the world where you can encounter wild zebras close up and on foot. Jakobsen’s Beach is one such place. How they arrived here is a mystery – the nearest game parks are a few hundred miles or so to the north and south of Kigoma, but a few years ago a small group of zebras found Jakobsen’s Beach and decided to stay. 

Every morning we wake up to the site of these magnificent creatures feasting on the lawn of the neighboring cottage – there are four in total in this mini-herd three females and a young male. Each zebra pattern is unique like a finger print apparently.

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 
The owner tells us that he is in contact with the Jane Goodhall institute with a view to making Jakobsen’s Beach a sanctuary area. Apparently this would involve fencing off the property to keep them in. At the moment they can wander off and we have seen them close to the edge of the property near to the road.
It seems strange to see zebras in a forest – they would normally be associated with savannah but they survive happily here. They roam the site in search of grass and the accommodation areas have plenty to offer (and give us a good view too!). They slao supplimrnt this with seed pods they eat eithin the forest areas. 

    
 So every morning we enjoy the sight of zebra for breakfast and although the group is small, since inbreeding is not apparently a problem in zebras their presence here seems assured for time to come. 

    
   

Kigoma

Kigoma town is smaller than Mwanza and it’s commercial centre comprises a road leading up from the Railway Station. Kigoma is the end of the line for the train which runs from Dar Es Salaam via Tabora.

  
Near the station in the trees are hundreds of fruit bats hanging like black fruit from the trees. Easily scared they swarm in great flocks above the town. 

    
    
   
Kigoma has no large supermarket unlike Mwanza but does have small dukas selling a variety of goods. Even so it has a lot less to offer the ex-pat than Mwanza which suddenly seems a lot more westernised.   

    
   
The town has a bustling market area with fruit and veg sellers “cheek by jowl” with vitenge (cloth) sellers. 

    
     
The material here is more varied than in Mwanza incorporating Burundian and Congolese styles as well as Tanzanian. 

 There are Bijaji everywhere here and no piki piki that we have seen – Mwanza seems out of step with other towns as Bijaji are common in places like Moshi too.  

   
There are some nice hotels here such as the Hilltop Hotel where we ate last night (a little pricey but some good food). The hotel has an amazing view of the lake,  a fabulous pool (we didn’t swim) and its  very own herd of zebra. 

    
    
    
   

“Dr Livingstone I Presume”

This is the famous phrase uttered by Henry Stanley when he met David Livingstone back in 1871.

Until today I knew the phrase exchanged between the two explorers but not the location or even the reason why it was uttered. 

 
The place they met is now a museum in Ujiji a small town south of Kigoma. Though  overshadowed by Kigoma now, Ujiji was the major town at the time and on the shores of Lake Tangyanika, though now the waters have receded 500m due in part to population growth and in part due to seismic disturbance.

David Livingstone was on his third trip to Africa and the famous explorer /abolishionist had been living in Tanzania for 5 years. In Britain he was thought dead and Stanley was sent to find out if this was true. After months of travel he finally found Livinsone under a Mano Tree in Ujiji, wher he proclaimed the famous phrase 

“Doctor Livingstone I Presume”.

The mango tree is long gone and even two of four replacements have died but there is a monument and two remaining trees. 

 There is also a museum dedicated to the region and the explorers – it’s small but worth a visit.

We spent the afternoon here before returning for  a cooling dip in the lake.

Jakobsen Beach

Sunday 25th October

Jakobsen Beach and Guesthouse is located on the outskirts of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tangyanika. Owned by a Norwegean couple this place is remote even with it’s proximity to the town.  

 Twenty years ago the land was bare, they have planted some trees, but most has self seeded to form a jungle. Bird life abounds and though much is unseen there are some  amazing sounds emanating from the branches. We have seen a palm nut vulture, giant kingfisher, tropical boubou among others today. 

    
    
 We are staying in a bedded tent set in a jungle clearing. The kids have a standard tent each with mattress provided. 

   

 There are other options including self-catering chalets, a  guesthouse and you can even bring your own tent and camp. Here we are very much  at one with nature – other than birdsong there is the sound of cicadas and crickets. There are monkeys in the trees and this morning we woke to the snorts of a small herd of zebra feeding nearby.  

  

  

  

  

 This group of four are descended from some who wandered here a few years back and made themselves at home here. The monkeys are cute to watch as they jump from branches and onto the roof. They were really keen on grabbing our food and almost got to a jar of biscuits today when we weren’t looking.  

 Today is Election Day in Tanzania and so we have stayed onsite rather than venturing out into town. We have instead relaxed on the covered porch outside the tent and by the lake. There are two small beaches here with bandas dotted along the shore. The water is pleasantly warm and crystal clear – we took the opportunity to take a dip. The weather today was pleasantly sunny in the afternoon after a morning which promised rain and delivered thunder but nothing else. 

    
    
    
   

  

  

   
    
  

There were some amazing butterflies on the beach in a variety of colours.

 

In the evening after we had cooked dinner we wandered up the hill to grab a soda and play cards. It’s quiet here and the lack of phone signal means we spend much less time on digital devices which is refreshing. However, it does delay these blog posts, which will await a trip to Kigoma tomorrow.

 

The Road To Kigoma

Saturday 23rd October

We’re ‘upping sticks’ and heading out of Mwanza- for the week that is. It’s half term (mid-term) break and co-inciding with the election as it does makes it an excellent time to escape Mwanza (an opposition (Chedema) stronghold where some folk may not take kindly to losing). It was a good day to get up and leave town early as in the last day of the campaign the President, an ex-President and the man who would be president were coming to town to campaign for the governing party (CCM).

We were out at 4:30am packed for a week in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tangyanika.  It’s a long journey estimated at 10 hours but in reality more like 16 with stops and this time unlike our journey from Lake Victoria to Victoria Falls we’re taking the car.

The journey  takes us from Mwanza to Shinyanga and on to Nzega and Tabora where we turn right and head across country to Kigoma.

Our early start allows us to make a good pace out of Mwanza, though the road is not good to begin with. Once into open country we cross the plain towards  Shinyanga and the road improves, though the frequent villages mean we need to keep switching from 80kph to 50kph at regular intervals. None of this seems to deter the coaches one of which regularly passes us at 100 kph only to be overtaken by us when it stops, as it does regularly, on the route. 

 We stop for Chai and Chapatti at a local stall just south of Shinyanga – so far no police have stopped us (a regular pastime seems to be stopping car drivers and demanding money for a spurious infringement whether it can be justified or not). 

    
 Beyond Shinyanga we are surprised to find they are building a new Tarmac road – this is the first road building program we have seen in Tanzania -at first the road is slow as the surface is newly gritted but soon we are zooming along.  It is the first time we have taken our car (ANA Gari) on a long trip, but newly serviced ‘she’ is behaving herself. The road takes us all the way into Tabora and on out towards Kigoma. This is so much better than we had expected and we make excellent pace, fewer villages and 100kph limits really help eat the miles. 

    
 We get about a quarter of the way from Tabora to Kigoma before the road stops and we are on a mud road. This has been graded and although the rippled ridges give it the feel of driving on a washboard  we are able to travel well, though oncoming lorries  and coaches tend to hog the road and we share it with bicycles and pedestrians many of whom tend to meander the roadway as they seek the best route. 

   
We cross the railway line many times on our route and on one occasion this passes nearby a market where we are able to source some provisions (we are self-catering this week). We also grab some late lunch at a local cafe (beans and rice and meat followed by banana). 

 The road is dusty and the aforementioned lorries kick up plumes which gets everywhere and coats everything. We travel like this for an hour then suddenly the road diverts and we see the next phase of construction of the new road alongside for many miles. 

   
    
 Finally we are allowed on and we have the luxury of Tarmac. This road lasts a long while but suddenly reverts to mud. The road keeps swapping from mud to Tarmac to mud over the remainder of our journey in 20-30km stretches. One such piece of Tarmac is possibly the best road we’ve been in here an excellent stretch which ends quite suddenly after Kikwete Bridge (named after the current President). We imagine this was built for him so the bridge could be opened before he returned by helicopter. This excellent road both starts and finishes in the middle of nowhere.

Talking politics we encounter numerous rallies along our route representing Chedema, CCM and a third party ACT which seems stronger in this region than elsewhere. 

 The land either side of the road is jungle forest but there is evidence of mild deforestation – the people here ‘harvest’ the wood and burn it to make charcoal- there are bags of it along the roadside and these enormous sacks are loaded onto bikes and pedaled off.  

    
 Late afternoon dust turns to mud on the muddier road as the aftermath of rain take its toll – we have had little rain ourselves but there’s been a lot. Then it’s back to Tarmac and the last leg of our journey into Kigoma.

This takes much longer than it seems on the map – that last stretch of a journey always does. In the pitch black we arrive in Kigoma and sought out Jakobsen’s Beach – not the easiest place to locate in a the dark. After a couple of lost turns and a little more luck than judgement we finally stumble on the road to our accommodation. This road quickly becomes a dirt track which almost disappears into a ditch at one point – we persevere and finally find our place. We’re here for a week in a bedded tent, self-catering. Untypical of recent holidays we’re not going far but after a 16 hour journey to get here- not that I’m complaining.