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Africa’s largest “Lake Victoria”

Africa’s largest “Lake Victoria” : Having an area of approximately 59,947km2 makes Lake Victoria the Africa’s largest lake by area.  It gets most of its water from rainfall and a number of tributaries specifically river Akagera in Rwanda and drained by River Nile whose source is in Jinja. The lake is shared by Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Uganda taking 45% of the lake, Kenya 6% and finally Tanzania with 49%. The lake was known by the Ugandan locals who lived around it as Lake Nalubaale which meant “home of the gods” and by the Luo people as Nam Lowe which meant “body of endless water”. Though this water body already had its name(S), European explorer John Speke after discovering the lake as the source of River Nile, he decided to name it Lake Victoria after the Queen of England at that time. The name carried on and is still being used to identify this lake up to date.

Formation of Lake Victoria

The lake was formed when westward flowing rivers were dammed by an up thrown crustal block. This small fact has raised several questions about the true source of River Nile and the rift valley formation that experts are still trying to figure out the answers to.

The fish species

It is believed to be approximately 400,000 years old and harbors around 1000 islands. It is populated with over 500 fish species like the Cichlids, African catfish, Elephant fish, African tetras, Tilapia, Lungfish, cyprinids to mention a few. Though the introduction of Nile perch into the lake reduced the population of the other fish species to nearly extinction. Apart from the fish, a legendary creature was also believed to be a habitant in these waters. It was said to capture fishermen and their boats if they sailed too far into the lake. It was named “Lukwata” following its actions as the Luganda word “kukwata” literally meaning “to catch”. But the existence of the creature is yet to be proven true.

Did you know?

  • The lake gets 80% of its water from the rain.
  • It is the principle source of the Nile River which drains it about 15%.
  • Lake Victoria is one is one of the two places in East Africa where it’s possible to watch the sunset over water without being at the coast.

What to do on Lake Victoria

Fishing

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake supports Africa’s largest inland fishery, with the main catch of fish being the Nile perch that was introduced in the lake in the 1950s. Beach seining and Gill netting are the most prominent fishing methods used for fishing on Lake Victoria. Other methods include the long lines, mid-water seines and many others.

Bird watching

Bird watching on Lake Victoria has greatly become a popular activity by both National and international bird watching tourists since the lake is enriched with a variety of bird species like the African fish eagles, pelicans, kingfishers, ducks, plovers, black crakes, marsh harriers, goose, jacanas, bee-eaters, sunbirds and many others. And this activity will take you around different islands of Lake Victoria like the Ngamba Island, Ssese Island and many more on an engine-powered canoe accompanied with an experienced local guide.

Boat rides or cruising

During the boat cruise cast your eyes into the glittering waters and you will spot crafty Nile crocodiles, turtles, hippopotamus accompanied with spotted-necked otters and carnivorous monitor lizards. Spot the tree tops where you will be able to spot the African fish eagle perched majestically on higher on treetops and you will view more amazing bird species.

Equator experiences

Lake Victoria touches the Equator in its northern side. It covers a total area of 68,800 square kilometers (km2) and with a maximum depth of 80m it is relatively shallow. Here you will experience different experiments like the boating standing still in one position and during swimming one feels different forces with in the waters though this needs an experienced swimmer to compete with the forces.

Sunset cruises

Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world offers sunset cruises from Entebbe late afternoon towards the equator line or local islands on boat. Here you will have an opportunity to view the sun over the horizon, bird watching and watch the fishermen cast their nets while enjoying the snacks and drinks provided on board.

Note: Journey times for sunset cruises are approximately one to two hours in the late afternoon from around 5.00pm.

Some attractive sighs that can be found along Lake Victoria include;

Ssese islands

These are a series of eighty-four islands in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria the in Uganda, the pearl of Africa. The islands adjoins with Kalangala district and they don’t have any territory on mainland Uganda.  The islands are also home to a variety of animal and bird species that are not easily spotted on the mainland, leading to the growth of the tourism industry on the islands. The islands consists of activities like fishing, agriculture, livestock farming, forestry, tourism and more.

The islands can be accessed by many routes;

  • Through Nakiwogo near Entebbe by MV Kalangala, travel between Nakiwogo and Bugala island for 3½ hours.
  • From Kasenyi landing site, a fishing village 7km off Entebbe-Kampala road to get to Banda Island on a small wooden boats departing from Kasenyi.
  • From Bukakata, western part of Uganda, a free car ferry linking to Bukakata mainland situated east of Masaka with Luku on Bugala islands sailing for about 50 minutes.

Note: the ferry sails either directions for limited hours from early morning to late afternoon, and morning trips on Sundays are not available.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

This island is a home to over 40 confiscated and orphaned chimpanzees, rescued from pet and bush meat trade by the Uganda Wildlife Authority across East Africa. Surrounded by peaceful waters of Lake Victoria in the south Eastern part near Koome district in Uganda. It was founded in 1998, offering 95 acres of natural forest where chimps roam freely carrying out their daily activities and also provide natural foods to the chimps. Here chimps have freedom to stay in the forest at night or return to nighttime enclosures where they build nests and receive an evening meal, and their diet consists of supplying meals multiple times per day offering much pleasure to the visiting tourists who are able to observe the feeding.

How to get there:

  • Using a speed boat travel from the dock in Entebbe to Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary is approximately 45-50 minutes sail.
  • By air, it takes about 20 minutes from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi Airstrip.
  • Travelling by traditional motorized canoe takes approximately 90 minutes.

Mabamba bay swamp

Mabamba swamp is wetland situated in the northwest of the Entebbe on Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the whole world. It is a birder’s destination to over 260 bird species including migratory species; the white winged terns, African fish eagle, rare shoebill, kingfishers, papyrus Gonolek, weavers, sunbirds, bee-eaters to mention a few, which can be viewed and spotted using small engine-powered canoes run by experienced local guides.

How to get there

Kampala or Entebbe route is the simplest via Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe, taking a 10 minutes ferry crossing to kasanje landing site and later proceed for a 20 minutes’ drive to Mabamba bay swamp through thick marshes, papyrus, water lilies, wetland grasses and open fields that will provide clear views of plenty of garden birds.

Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre (UWEC)

The Uganda Wildlife Educational centre also known as the Entebbe UWEC zoo nestled at the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest fresh water lake in Africa. It was established in 1951 as a sanctuary for wildlife which would be unable to fend themselves in the wild. It offers the best introduction to Uganda’s flora and Fauna’s National Park. Residents include lions, black rhinos, primates and bird species like the rare shoebill and many more.

How to get there

It is a 15 minutes’ drive from the Entebbe international Airport to the Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre, 36 kilometers from Uganda’s capital city Kampala.

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