In the heart of Africa lies an ancient body of water containing 18% of the world’s available freshwater. Once the scenes of famous naval battles and a place of great diversity, Lake Tanganyika is not just another rift lake.
Widely considered the oldest of the Rift Lakes in east Africa, Lake Tanganyika is a wonder to behold. It is the world’s longest freshwater lake spanning an incredible 676 km and is the world’s second deepest freshwater lake (after Lake Baikal in Russia which is both the deepest and has the highest volume of water). It borders 4 countries (Tanzania, DRC, Burundi and Zambia) and is extremely important to the people and animal life in the area.
What really sets this huge body of water apart is the diversity of its marine life. Over 250 species of cichlid fish live in the lake and 98% of these are endemic, meaning it has the highest number of endemic cichlid of any lake in Africa. The cichlid genera has multiple variations and Lake Tanganyika offers snorkelers and scuba divers an extremely diverse diving experience. Colorful, gleaming fish can be seen all over the Lake and charters to explore these areas are available from many of the lodges and camps dotted along the water’s edge.
On the Lake Shore
You’ll rarely have the opportunity to snorkel one day and go searching for chimpanzees the next, but on Tanganyika these two ecosystems coexist. The Mahale Mountains National Park on the East Coast of Lake Tanganyika is one of two areas dedicated to protecting chimpanzees in Tanzania. It is also unusual in that you cannot drive anywhere within the park. The only way to explore this region is by foot after a boat transfer from your lodge or camp. This has allowed the chimpanzee population to flourish here and means seeing chimpanzees in the region is almost guaranteed with the right guide.
Further north the tiny Gombe Stream National Park is Tanzania’s smallest national park and most famously known as the home of conservationist Jane Goodall for many years. Here the Kakakela Chimpanzee Community, one of the most documented chimpanzee communities on earth, resides and they are constantly being studied. Just like Mahale you can only reach this park via boat, but it is a natural and historical treasure trove which many travelers never get to see.
Teeming with fish, Tanganyika is a fishing paradise. Although not the habitat of monster fish like the Nile Perch (found in Lake Victoria and other Rift Valley Lakes), Lake Tanganyika offers 4 species of Lates (related to the Nile perch) and can grow to 100 kg, which is a challenge for even the most serious fisherman. For a bit more fun and less broken lines there are also Tigerfish on the lake, and the world’s largest cichlid – the Kuhe -and the Mikebuka (a smaller Lates species which is abundant in the lake). You will not just take home stories of “the one that got away” on this fishing trip.
Exploring the Lake
To fully explore the area there are plenty of options. From kayaking along its shores and islands, to quad biking in the hills around your lodge and even boarding a reinstated WW1 German auxiliary warship (MV Liemba) to travel from port to port. Every day presents a new opportunity to see more of this beautiful area. Then end each day sipping on a cocktail whilst watching the sun dip below the horizon over the lake.
Just another day in paradise…
Scheduled flights from Arusha and Dar es Salaam allow easy access to the lake.
Check out our trip to Lake Tanganyika here.