Tanzania is a country located in East Africa, within the African Great Lakes region. It is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south.
Tanzania is known for its diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes, including the Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro (which is the highest mountain in Africa) and the Zanzibar Archipelago.
The country became independent from British colonial rule in 1961, so the English speaking population is quite large. In fact, Swahili and English being the official languages of the country.
If you plan to travel to Tanzania as an English speaker, you should not have many communication problems. So, visiting one or several of their breathtaking lakes will be a breeze.
Our Top 5 Picks
It’s not easy to narrow down Tanzania’s lakes, which is over a dozen, to five of the most beautiful. But, here is our attempt.
1. Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria, named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, is one of the African Great Lakes. It’s the largest lake in Africa and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area (after Lake Superior in North America), covering approximately 68,800 square kilometers. By volume, it’s the world’s ninth largest continental lake.
Lake Victoria is shared by three countries: Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. Approximately 49% of the lake’s surface area is located within Tanzania, 45% is in Uganda, and the remaining 6% is in Kenya.
The lake is a vital resource for the millions of people living in its vicinity. It provides a significant source of fish, including the Nile perch and tilapia, which support local fisheries. It also supports agriculture through irrigation and is a crucial source of drinking water. Moreover, it plays a central role in the region’s transportation, serving as a navigational route for ships moving goods and people between the countries that share its waters.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to swim in Lake Victoria, make sure you stick to the specified swimming areas. Straying from them can be dangerous due the lake’s ocean-like behavior.
2. Lake Malawi
Also known as Lake Nyasa, Lake Malawi is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system. It’s the ninth largest lake in the world by area and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa.
It’s approximately 560 kilometers long and 75 kilometers wide at its broadest point, with a maximum depth of around 700 meters. To put it bluntly, it’s a massive lake.
Most visitors will experience the lake via Lake Malawi National Park, which is located at the southern end of the lake. It was established to protect the unique diversity of tropical fish living in the lake. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
3. Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika is one of the most intriguing bodies of water on the planet. As the world’s second oldest freshwater lake, second largest by volume, and the second deepest, it spans four countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, and Zambia.
Here are a few highlights that make Lake Tanganyika a unique tourist destination:
Biodiversity: The lake is renowned for its rich biodiversity, with over 350 species of fish, including 250 species of cichlids – a colorful group of fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts.
Beaches and Watersports: Some parts of the lake have beautiful, sandy beaches that are perfect for relaxation. You can enjoy a variety of water sports such as kayaking, snorkeling, and fishing. The clear, calm waters of the lake are ideal for swimming, too.
Gombe Stream National Park: This small park, made famous by Jane Goodall’s research on chimpanzees, is a must-visit for wildlife lovers. To this day you can still trek into the forest to observe these amazing primates in their natural habitat.
Mahale Mountains National Park: Another incredible place for chimpanzee tracking in Tanzania, this park is situated further south than Gombe Stream National Park.
Fishing Villages: Visiting local fishing villages along the lake’s shores is a fun way to get a glimpse into the everyday life and cultures of the people who rely on the lake for their livelihood.
Adventure and Exploration: If you are really adventurous, Lake Tanganyika offers remote wilderness areas, stunning landscapes, and the thrill of exploring areas that are off the beaten path.
4. Lake Natron
Lake Natron is the most unique and fascinating body of waters located in northern Tanzania and on this list. It’s close to the border with Kenya. It lies in the eastern branch of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and is fed by the Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River and mineral-rich hot springs.
It’s named for natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate and a bit of baking soda, which is brought in by the hot springs and evaporated by the intense heat.
The lake is most famous for its flamingos. It’s one of the most important breeding grounds for the Lesser Flamingo.
Keep in mind that due to its remote location and harsh environment (Its temperatures can also reach up to 60 degrees Celsius : 140 degrees Fahrenheit), it isn’t the best lake to visit unless you are a seasoned outdoors-person.
5. Lake Eyasi
Lake Eyasi is a seasonal, shallow salt lake located on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, at the base of the Serengeti Plateau in northern Tanzania. The level of water in the lake fluctuates seasonally with the amount of rainfall.
Visitors to Lake Eyasi often come for the unique cultural experiences. They can include participating in hunting and gathering expeditions, visiting tribal settlements, and learning about the traditional ways of life of the Hadza and Datoga people who are among the last hunter-gatherer communities in Africa.
The lake also offers opportunities for bird-watching, especially during the wet season when the lake is full.
This is a more remote lake with much less tourist infrastructure than those such as Lake Malawi.
Tanzania has many natural wonders to explore for those that enjoy stepping outside and taking in all that Mother Nature has to offer. One of those are its many large and beautiful lakes.
This list covers what feel feel are the five most interesting, but if you have the time you might want to try and see them all as they are all special in their own way.