Lake Tanganyika (Zambia)

Lake Tanganyika Fishermen

Travel to Lake Tanganyika (Zambia) – Longest Freshwater Lake in the World

This vast inland sea was first made known to the European world in the mid 1800’s by the English explorers Richard Burton and John Speke. They pursued it as the source of the Nile, arriving at its shores in February of 1858, only to discover that the Ruzizi River in the north, which they thought to be the Nile, flowed into and not out of the lake. Tanganyika’s waters lap Tanzania, Burundi, Congo DR and Zambia. It is the longest fresh water lake in the world and the second deepest after Lake Baikal in Russia. The immense depth is because it lies in the Great Rift Valley, which also has created its steep shoreline.

Although Zambia can only lay claim to 7% of its surface area, it stretches north to south a distance of 677 km (420 miles) and averages about 50 km wide (31 miles). The clear waters host more than 350 different species of fish. It reaches a depth of 1433m (4,700 ft), which is an astounding 642m below sea level. Like Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika is extremely old, and the combination of its age and ecological isolation has led to the evolution of unique fish populations.

A visit to Sumba National Park and the Kalambo Falls are highlights of a visit to Lake Tanganyika. On the lake shore at Mpulungu, there is a colourful Market selling vegetables, fish, cloths, salaula (second hand clothing) and other odds and ends.

Fishing is very popular here and catches include the goliath tigerfish and Nile perch. Crocodiles inhabit most of the shoreline, except around Mpulungu, probably due to the noise of people and motorboats. Some travellers swim in the lake (in the Mpulungu area only!).

The shores of Lake Tanganyika in Sumba National Park around Sumbu Bay, Nkamba Bay and Kasaba Bay are great destinations for lake views and contemplation.

Reaching Lake Tanganyika from anywhere is a long haul, but well worth the effort. By road travel straight to the port of Mpulungu on the Great North Road via Mpika and Kasama. Or drive to Nsumbu National Park, which borders the Lake, via Mporokoso. Kasaba Bay cannot be reached from Mpulungu as there are mountains and a river in the way, but it is possible to take a boat, a distance of about 60 km. There is an airstrip at Kasaba Bay for chartered flights.

  • Witness nearby Kalambo Falls – the second highest waterfalls in Africa – over twice the height of the Victoria Falls!
  • Take a voyage on MV Liemba, a large ex-German warship that has been converted into a passenger ferry and operates up and down Lake Tanganyika
  • Search for wildlife and enjoy wonderful lake views in little-known Sumbu National Park

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