Mwanza - Tanzania

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    Lake Tanganyika is a unique destination for an uncommon safari to Tanzania. It is extremely beautiful, has a rich and fascinating history, and is still in many ways unidentified and mysterious. At 45 miles wide and 418 miles in length; the lake borders four countries: Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and Zambia, forming a vital link between them. Lake cruises by dhow for romantic water-borne meals, for fishing, snorkeling or deep lake swimming, can be organized from your Tanzanian safari lake base via your Lago Safaris -Tanzania tour planner.

    Motorboat trips to neighbouring villages and places of historic interest are also possible as are kayak and canoeing activities. The lake is not always calm, but can be quite choppy and exciting, especially on longer journeys, and there is always a lot to see on the way. The spectacular wildlife of the lake includes jellyfish, terrapins and over 400 species of fish, a rich harvest for lakeside predators which include otters, fish eagles, cormorants, pelicans, kingfishers, crocodiles and even snakes.
    A walk along the lake shore is a fantasy journey in itself. Although there are no tides, this vast inland sea is subject to rapid evaporation, wind movement and changing currents. You would believe you were on the seashore, judging by the beautiful mollusk shells on the sand. Sun-bleached driftwood sculptures are not rare. Sometimes, especially early in the morning, you will see pugmarks and other tracks in the sand where warthogs, antelopes, and even leopard and chimpanzees come down to the fresh water to drink. Small, tufted islands of reeds emerge from the shallows. Tumbled rocks form breakwaters and luxuriant foliage fronts deep undergrowth, before the eye is led to forested slopes. Across the lake, steep mountains rise sheerly to the sky.

    During your tour of the lake, you will be told of many unsolved mysteries about the lake, which has indeed had a notoriously unstable geological career. Due to its high altitude and great depth, its location in a mountainous volcanic area, its high rate of evaporation, the unreliability of water flow from the rivers that supplied it and the climate changes it has survived, it has changed its character many times throughout the ages. Sometimes linked with other Great Lakes in the Rift Valley area and sometimes cut off from them; sometimes having a riverine outlet to the sea and at other times being completely landlocked, it depended on lava blockages diverting the inflow from the Nile less than 12000 years ago to allow it to build up from a level 300 meters below the present shoreline, spilling out through the Congo towards the sea. This outlet is still intermittent. When the British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke found it in 1858, they were actually searching for the source of the River Nile.
    Because of all these changes in currents and flow, the lifeless fossil silt has stayed in the lake for over 12,000 years and the water change rate is estimated at 6000 years.

    No wonder there are legends of Nessie type monsters in the lake, such as Gustave – the giant crocodile, Pamba, the lake monster, or Chipekwe, otherwise Emela ntouka, the “killer of elephants”. Recent research has been aimed at establishing a lake basin management authority to protect the lake and its contents, since it is a world treasure, a magical place where magnificent creatures, many still unknown to science, may be encountered by anyone on safari in this expanse of Africa (read more on when is the best time to visit Lake Tanganyika).

    Getting to Lake Tanganyika is a difficult exercise in logistics. Access roads are few and poorly maintained, and travel in the wet is almost impossible. Air transport is easier by light aircraft. Some of the lodges near the lake have private airstrips and there is also landing airport at larger towns like Kigoma. But if you want to include Lake Tanganyika in your expedition safari of western Tanzania, to get to the Mahale or Gombe National Parks, or to the islands, lake transport is essential.

    There is a large passenger and cargo ferry, MV Liemba, which travels the length of the lake at two-week intervals, stopping at various designated points to unload travellers and goods for onward journeys by small boat in shallower waters to small coastal towns and villages, islands, camps and lodges (read more on where to stay in Lake Tanganyika).
    These smaller ferries may be dhows, motor boats or speed boats at various charges, none of them cheap. Some of the luxury lodges subsidize the costs of air and speedboat costs as they own their own aircrafts and boats.

    All transport is best arranged in advance and coordinated via your Lago Safari’s Tanzania’ expert planner. MV Liemba is a hundred-year-old ferry with a checked but questionable history. The Graf von Goetzen, as she was formerly christened, was fabricated in Germany in 1913 for ferry service on Lake Tanganyika. She arrived at Kigoma in 5000 boxes to be reassembled. Later she was armed and re-commissioned as a steam-powered gunboat in the First World War. When the allies gained the upper hand on the lake after bringing in two gunboats in an epic journey by rail and river, she was scuttled deliberately in 1916 to prevent her falling into their hands.

    German engineers planned to salvage her later, but she was not raised until 1924 by the Royal Navy. MV Liemba was the original model for the German gunboat in C.S. Forrester`s novel, The African Queen, written in 1935 and later made into a film starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Since 1927, MV Liemba has provided a reliable ferry service on Lake Tanganyika, being overhauled and fitted with diesel engines and extra passenger cabins: two VIP, 10 first class, 18 second class and various berths, to carry a total of 480 commuters. In 1997, she was used to repatriate more than 75,000 refugees from Zaire – now called Congo. Michael Palin travelled on her whilst making the BBC Television Series, Pole to Pole in 1992, and an American feature film was made about her, as the last ship of her line still in service. No historic lake tour of Africa would be complete without a trip on this famous unique ship.

    Museum in Ujiji:
    Ujiji is the oldest town in western Tanzania, located about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Kigoma. In 1900, the population was estimated at 10,000 and in 1967 about 41,000. Part of the Kigoma/Ujiji urban area, the regional population was about 50,000 in 1978.

    The site where the immortal words, ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ were uttered by Stanley on meeting Livingstone in 1871 is commemorated by a stark grey monument inside a chain-link fence. The two mango trees here (two others died) are said to have been grafted from the original tree that shaded the two men during their encounter. Below, and part of the same complex, the Livingstone Memorial Museum holds some artefacts and printed placards about the East African slave trade.

    There are also a few paintings by local artists and papier-mâché replicas of Stanley and Livingstone. The admission fee may seem steep but the Livingstone and Stanley story is worth knowing and the humble museum’s effort to recount the horrors of the slave trade makes it an interesting stop.