TANZANIA lake tanganyika SAFARIS


Lake Tanganyika is arguably the most beautiful Great Lake in Africa, formed in the Great African Rift Valley, with long, deserted beaches of silver sand backed by tropical forest on blue mountain ridges down which lacy waterfalls cascade hundreds of meters through lush ravines, home to many primates including Gombe and Mahale wild chimpanzees and a rich variety of mammals, birds and butterflies. It is the ultimate destination for an off-beat, alternate beach holiday in Africa. Lake Tanganyika is filled from the Ruzizi River, Kalambo River, and the Malagarasi River. The latter flowed directly into the Congo River millions of years ago before Lake Tanganyika was formed as part of the Great African Rift Valley. Steep escarpments surrounding the lake rise to almost 2000 meters, falling sharply into the lake to an equal depth, making it the deepest lake in Africa and also the second largest freshwater lake in the world, three quarters of which is filled with undisturbed anoxic silt below 500 meters of blue waters. Above the silt are found jellyfish, crabs and sardines which convinced scientists that the lake was once connected to the sea. But later it was proved that a parallel evolution had occurred during more than 10 million years since the lake was formed.

An authentic tour of Lake Tanganyika with AfricanMecca offers an unrivaled opportunity to see evolution at work. Snorkeling in the shallow lagoons, you can get close to thousands of rainbow cichlid fish, in over 250 species, ranging from the size of your fingernail to the size of your arm. It is thought that as one multi-hued population got cut off from another by shifting sandbanks, each group evolved separate colorings as females chose the most splendid mates. They are now popular aquarium fish because of their beautiful markings, some even neon in their brilliance. Their mouths became multifunctional with double sets of jaws and teeth adapted for grazing and fighting. Some have developed amazing strategies to protect their young from predators, even carrying them in their mouths. Others became efficient parasites, mimicking the markings of their prey in order to get close enough to graze on their scales with specially adapted chisel-like teeth, without killing the donor. Lake fish forms 40% of the protein diet for a million people in the surrounding countries and is a major export to southern Africa. In deeper waters, there are vast stocks of sardines, regularly fished by traditional fleets of lantern-lit dugout canoes and some sailing dhows which make a delightful night time picture as their illuminated cloth sails are reflected in the crystalline water. This image is iconic of a dream tour of Lake Tanganyika.


Great views of Lake Tanganyika and its spectacular sunrises and sunsets are a feature of an unbeatable luxury accommodation on a Lupita tour. Lupita is a beautiful, private island just off the Tanzanian shore. It is one of AfricanMecca’s highly recommended portfolios of boutique accommodation to stay in for the discerning adventurers traveling in untouched Africa. Thatched cottages surround a grand central open-fronted lodge on a hilltop with panoramic views of the lake and the rift valley escarpments rising through verdant tropical forest from gloriously wild shores of pristine white sand. AfricanMecca has a Safari Tier classification system for its many accommodations which range from super luxurious, with every amenity, comfort and service, to deluxe and budget value. Lodges are usually built from durable local materials, whilst tents are canvas constructions, but both are usually set on raised foundations with private verandas and en-suite bathroom facilities. Ranked by such considerations as location, eco-friendliness, ease of access, quality of service, décor, cuisine, guiding standards and activities on offer, there is a small but varied choice of camps and lodges from which to explore the Lake Tanganyika and its surroundings on a dream vacation to western Tanzania. There are not many luxury lodges to stay at on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, but Lupita Island Resort is a lotus-eaters’ dream, well worth the effort it takes to get there, even if you have to hire a helicopter.

Parts of Lake Tanganyika ecosystem in western Tanzania are two prime chimpanzee focused national parks. The first is the world famous Gombe Stream National Park where Jane Goodall studied the chimps for 50 years. The second is Mahale Mountains National Park offering you a more accessible and wilder chimp park – over 30 times the size of Gombe. Proper tourist focused lake accommodations in these parks are Gombe Forest Lodge, Greystoke Mahale and Kungwe Beach Lodge. You can also opt to stay in Kigoma town if you simply prefer a lake hotel experience rather than a primate focused lodge or camp by the Tanganyika. The two main options in Kigoma town are Kigoma Hilltop Hotel and Lake Tanganyika Hotel.


Lake Tanganyika is a unique destination for an unusual safari to Tanzania. It is incredibly beautiful, has a rich and fascinating history, and is still in many ways unknown 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 AfricanMecca tour planner. Motorboat trips to neighboring 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).
MV Liemba Tour Experience At 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 travelers 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 AfricanMecca 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 traveled 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.


Lake Tanganyika is a tranquil destination with a friendly populace. It is an enchanting place to visit almost all the year round since it has a moderate equatorial climate. At over 770 meters above sea level, it is warm and balmy rather than hot and muggy as you would find on the coast of eastern Tanzania. The lake waters are a comfortable 75 F (23 C) and the climate is actually cool enough to need a light fleece in the early mornings or evenings, especially from June to September. This is the best time to set out on a trip to Tanganyika to maximize on the lake, beach and mountain chimpanzee trekking activities. During these months, the dry weather also makes it easier to travel on the few, poorly maintained access roads, or on the lake which is calmer with less wind. Light aircraft have no problems landing. To visit the national parks, such as Gombe and Mahale, the dry season is most favorable – both for the primates and beach experience. The chimpanzees which are their main attraction stay on the lower slopes and even go down to the lake to drink. They take more time to track them down in the wet, when they move higher into the mountains in search of food. Trekkers will find the trails muddy and slippery during wet season safaris in western Tanzania. Although the start of the rains heralds the appearance of beautiful foliage, and the best time for birds and butterflies is from November to April, this is the continuous wet season when humidity may climb to 80%. Lake Tanganyika does not get as many visitors as it deserves, but accommodations are scarce too. Low season visits by AfricanMecca guests offer no significant financial advantage where travel is prohibitively costly and time-consuming. Most camps and lodges close between March and May due to the rains.