Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is a true African gem. Although it is known by different names in character with the various countries and communities along its borders, Lake Victoria is by far the most popular name. But wait a minute…what’s the connection between the Queen of England and an African lake? Excellent question! Great that you asked!

The answer stems from sometime in the middle of the 19th century, when the British explorer, John Hanning Speke set out on an expedition in the 1850s to find the source of the River Nile. He discovered the enormous lake on his travels, and decided to dedicate his discovery to the Queen of England.

Lake Victoria is a large freshwater lake that connects the three East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. In Kenya, the lake is known as Nam Lowe, meaning “body of endless water,” while the Ugandans call it Nnalubaale, home of the Gods. Both names allude to the grand scale of the largest lake in Africa, and the second-largest in the world. The lake extends over a surface area of 68,900 km2 with a coastline extending to 5,180 km!

The lake is studded with thousands of islands. The smallest are used for cultivating crops, while the largest serve as places of residence. Every island has its own history to tell, and exhibits customs and a character of its own. The most well-known islands are the Ssese Islands, a Ugandan archipelago consisting of 84 islands that have become a significant tourist attraction due to its breathtaking natural surrounds, and its exotic vegetation and wildlife.

On Mfangano Island in Kenya, visitors will be able to see ancient rock paintings by the Batwa tribe, and on the Tanzanian side, Ukerewe  Island offers bicycle trips and impressions of the lifestyle of the local fishermen and farmers. Despite the location of the islands in the same lake, they are completely different from each other in terms of their shape, size, flora and fauna, and inhabitants. Since they are cut off from other water sources, the residents make as much use of the lake water as possible for their daily activities, from washing and doing laundry to sailing and fishing. The lake water is also used to produce hydroelectric energy and fuel.

Lake Victoria – The Source of the Nile

Lake Victoria is considered to be the source of the Nile that flows through Uganda and Sudan to Egypt. The Nile is the main source of water for these dry countries. However, there are several rivers flowing into Lake Victoria, with the longest tributary being the Luvironza River, which therefore makes it the true source of the Nile!

Nevertheless, Lake Victoria’s honor remains unscathed, since besides being a source of water and livelihood for the area’s inhabitants, whether in tourism, agriculture, or fishing, the waters of Victoria are the source of a spectacular variety of birds and other egg-laying animals like the clawless otter, the sitatunga (marshbuck), ornamental fish, and fish for food, such as species of tilapia (St. Peter’s Fish), and of course the tasty Nile perch, which is the main source of livelihood for the local fishermen.

There is an interesting story that the popular Nile perch is not native to Lake Victoria, but was brought there in the 1950s to increase the fish yield. Unfortunately the perch devoured hundreds of other fish species in the lake, including the catfish, which is believed to be totally extinct or hiding in the lake’s depths in order to survive. The ecological damage to the lake has resulted in a drop in the lake’s water level and a proliferation of algae, amongst other problems. These problems are currently being treated in different ways and it is expected to take many years until the lake’s ecology is restored.

What Makes Lake Victoria Special?

Alongside its rich history, wealth of culture, and spectacular wildlife, Lake Victoria is one of only two places in East Africa where you can watch the sunset by water without being on the beach! The lake that dwells deep in the heart of East Africa, is a huge mass of water that extends across countries, cultures, and histories. A visit to the lake offers the option to explore its rich range of local communities and some of Africa’s finest wildlife.

The lake is a main traffic artery between Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, making it into a sea lane for those travelling between the countries, in addition to the air routes.

Lake Victoria is perfect for getting away from the commotion of life. You can go sailing or relax on its peaceful shores, while the red African sun slowly sinks into the waters and disappears into its depths. Discover the hidden secrets of the Ssese Islands, get a taste of the local life, or swim in the heart of the African continent in a lake serves as the connection between three countries.

Would you like to hear more? How about making the most of your trip to include a visit to Lake Victoria? Contact me today and I’ll help plan the perfect trip for you.