LAKES IN TANZANIA
Tanzania houses a fascinating complexity of lakes that are as diverse as they are beautiful, from clear blue water that laps onto beach-like, sandy shores to crater lakes fringed by leafy forests. The region boasts some of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world as well as amazing ecological diversity and gorgeous natural attractions. Read on and add these pearls to your travel itinerary.
Lake Manyara’s name comes from the Maasai word “emanyara”, which is a Euphorbia species of plant that is grown into a hedge around a family homestead. It is a Masai description not for the lake, but in general for a lake shore region. It covers approximately two-thirds of the Lake Manyara National Park and is a habitat for various wildlife species. Often spotted birds are flocks of pelicans and flamingos, the serene alkaline water is complimented by wetlands, grassland and acacia forests that are all offset by the spectacular Rift Valley Escarpment. The evergreen forests around the lake are alive with the sound of noisy hornbills and guinea fowl. While in the park, keep a lookout for Lake Manyara’s unique tree-climbing lions which are the parks most selling point.
Lake Eyasi is a seasonal shallow salt lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, which is located just south of the Serengeti National Park and southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater. The lakes lies in the Eyasi-Wembere branch of the Great Rift Valley. Lake Eyasi is commonly visited because of its variety of stunning bird life and cultural interaction opportunities with the Hadzabe and Datoga tribes. It is found within the Ngorongoro Highlands area of Tanzania and features purple volcanic walls enclosing a broad expanse of white alkaline shallows. The lake’s shores are surrounded with tall palm trees that attract colourful and prolific birdlife such as Fischer’s lovebird, flamingo, pelican, spurfowl and stork.
Lake Rukwa is located in the Rukwa valley which is in the southwestern region of Tanzania. The alkaline Lake Rukwa lies midway between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi at an elevation of about 800 meters. The lake has seen large fluctuations in its size over the years, due to varying inflow of streams. The lake is about 5760 square kilometers in size currently.
The lake is found within the Katavi National Park and offers an abundance of crocodiles and hippos as well as a fantastic variety of water birds that include the glossy ibis, white pelican, lesser flamingo and African skimmer. The lake is the fourth largest in Tanzania and has no outlet, which means that water levels vary greatly depending on the season. The abundant grasslands in the valley surrounding the lake are grazing grounds for some animals, while papyrus swamps house rare birds such as the shoebill stork and Tanzanian masked weaver among others.
Lake Victoria was named after Queen Victoria by the British explorer John Hanning Speke. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, the world’s largest tropical lake, and the world’s second largest fresh water lake by surface area after Lake Superior in North America. It is bordered by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya and features many archipelagos and shallow reefs.
Lake Victoria receives its water primarily from direct rainfall and thousands of small streams. The Kagera River is the largest river flowing into this lake, with its mouth on the lake’s western shore. Lake Victoria is drained solely by the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, on the lake’s northern shore.
There are numerous scenic islands, including Rubondo Island, the biggest island national park in Africa. Villages that brush the shoreline have a quiet waterside charm and take travelers off the beaten track as they mingle with the locals and absorb the quiet solitude.
Some of the commonly fished fish species include; Nile Perch, Tilapia, Silver fish, Lung fish and Tiger fish, among others.
Lake Tanganyika is the second oldest freshwater lake in the world, the second largest by volume, the second deepest lake after Lake Baikal in Siberia and the world’s longest freshwater lake. The lake is shared by four countries; Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Zambia.
The lake is Africa’s largest rift lake and is located in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley and is confined by the mountainous walls of the valley.
The lake’s catchment area is 231,000 km2. There are two major rivers that flow into the lake, as well as other various smaller rivers and streams. There is one major outflow, the Lukuga River, which drains into the massive Congo River.
For Tanzanian travelers, there are various outdoor activities that can be done on and around the beautiful Lake Tanganyika like; snorkeling, boat cruise, birding among others. The lake and its surrounding vegetation and environment offer a good scenery to viewers. The shallow lagoons are home to more than 250 species of rainbow cichlid fish that decorate the lake in colourful hues. Clear water and sandy shores are framed by verdant forests and blue-tinted mountain ridges featuring sparkling waterfalls.
The forest around the lake make the Mahale and Gombe national parks which are a home to the chimpanzees of Tanzania as well as various birds and butterfly species.
Lake Chala is a crater located in a stunning volcanic area on the eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro at the border of Tanzania and Kenya. The lake is surrounded by a steep crater rim with a maximum height of 170 metres. Depending on the time of year, its colours range from a vibrant turquoise to a rich emerald green, reflecting a timeless beauty that is etched in Tanzania’s soul. The lake is fed by underground springs emanating from Mount Kilimanjaro that also nurture the lush, green forests brushing the shoreline. Flowers, shrubs and stunning volcanic savanna grasslands house a variety of wildlife, and birding is fantastic. The area is safe for swimming and walking trails meander around the water’s rim up to the Chala Hills.
The lake is also known as Lake Malawi is shared by 3 countries; Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. The lake is about 570 kilometers long and its widest point is about 75 kilometers and has a surface area of about 29600 square kilometers. The largest river flowing into it is the Ruhuhu River, and there is an outlet at its southern end, Shire River, a tributary that drains into the very large Zambezi River in Mozambique. It is home to more species of fish than any other lake, including at least 700 species of cichlids.
This charming and unspoiled stretch of water is rimmed by the misty green Livingstone Mountains, which forms a beautiful scenery of the lake. To the north and east lies the Kitulo Plateau and the Kitulo National Park, which is a protected area of beautiful montane grassland, often referred to by botanists as the ‘Serengeti of Flowers’. Crocodiles, hippos and various species of monkeys can be found along the banks, while the marine rich waters provide an important income for the local residents. The calm surface of the lake is ideal for water sports such as sailing, snorkelling and kayaking among others.
Lake natron is a salt and soda lake located in arusha region of Tanzania. The lake is fed by the Ewaso Ng’iro River. It sits at the lowest point of the Great Rift Valley and presents some of the most unusual and dramatic scenery in Tanzania. The remote and scorching region at the foothills of Oldoinyo Lengai, a smouldering and active volcano, features very little wildlife. Despite the hostile environment and extremely alkaline water, the lake is nevertheless home to a fascinating ecosystem of micro-organisms that give the water its unusual pinky-red tinge. The organisms are also a favourite meal for flamingos and Natron is most famed for being the only regular breeding area for Lessor flamingo in East Africa.