Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika

Lake Manyara (National Park)

Lake Manyara National Park is one of the finest and most interesting parks of Tanzania with a large number of wild animals. The park covers only 330 km2 - small compared to other Tanzanian parks - of which two-third is water. Like most other lakes of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara is a shallow soda lake that is fed by groundwater and depending on the season varies in size. The rest is a thin strip of land located between the lake and the rocks and which can only be reached by a few roads. The park and the lake owe their name to the manyara-scrub, which is used by the Maasai to protect their fields. Near the entrance to the park you will find the manyara-scrub. The first part of the park consists of dense forest with high trees, including mahogany trees, crotonic, fig trees and various types of palms. Around the dense undergrowth of wild flowers are countless butterflies. This part of the park is not as suitable for spotting game, because it is very difficult to look through the dense forest.

When you drive further into the park, you can see groups of anubis baboons and sykes monkeys play along the side of the road. Bushbucks will appear out of the bushes and it is very possible you may bump into an elephant on the road. Elephants often use the road so that they do not have to go through the thick bush. Also remember to look up once in a while. Just like in Tarangire, the lions are sometimes in the trees and also a lot of leopards live in this area (though you have to be lucky to spot them). If the big cats can not be found in the trees, there are a lot of birds to spot in the trees.

The further you go in the park, the drier it gets. Gradually the forest opens up and the vegetation changes, with a lot of baobab trees. The change in vegetation also results in other types of game. In this part of the park buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe have their home. In the air, eagles are looking for a prey. On the south side of the park there are a number of steamy hot springs whose chemicals have given the surrounding land the colours of the rainbow.

Lake Manyara's Flamingos

Flamingo's are one of Lake Manyara's hallmarks, with their vast numbers, estimated at close to three million, often giving the lake a hazy, pink tint when viewed from a distance. In one of nature's still unsolved mysteries, thousands of the flamingo's died on the shoreline between June and July 2004, cause of dead still unknown. In 2008 the total population recovered and most of the time they can be seen on the lake. Flamingo's also have a kind of migration and it may be the case that you visit the beautiful Lake Manyara park and not seeing any flamingo's. The birds disappear to other lakes for breeding about 2 to 3 months a year.

Recommended accommodations at Lake Manyara:

Kirurumu Tented Lodge, Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge and Migunga Forest Camp,

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria (also known as Victoria Nyanza) is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake on earth. Located in eastern Africa between the states of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. With an area of 69,484 square kilometres it is about as big as Ireland. Lake Victoria is the source of the Nile. Despite the large lake surface it is not very deep, only up to 81 meters. The largest island is 560 km² with the Ukerewe Island. The lake has a large number of smaller islands.

Geologically seen is Lake Victoria very young, it's only about 500,000 years old. There are indications that the lake went completely dry about 14700 years ago. When the water came back it was quickly populated by fish from the rivers. They adjusted and there was a small evolutionary explosion which originated an enormously rich fauna. In Lake Victoria there are approximately 2500 different species, while across Europe, for example, there are just over 200 freshwater fish species. It is for this reason that Lake Victoria is considered as a model system and research object in the evolution theory.

This rich fauna is today largely a thing of the past. In the'50s, the Nile Perch, a large Predator, was breaded in the lake to promote fishing. After 20 years, there was a sudden explosion of the Nile perch population. These fish spread so quickly that a very large portion of fish (especially the cichlid fish) in the lake is extinct. The biologist Tijs Goldschmidt has studied this phenomenon. The massive Nile Perch is caught by the local people and after fabrications in factories flown to Europe. Because of this trade and the extra work for the poor people of Tanzania the government won’t consider to eradicate the fish and the problems. Unfortunately the local population does not benefit from the trade and live in poverty and famine.

In the lake you can find hippos and the rodent Pelomys isseli can be seen on a few islands in the lake. Lake Victoria is the main source of water for the Nile. The lake collects the rainwater from the rivers which flow from western Kenya, northern Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda into Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria was discovered in 1858 (at least for the western world) by the British explorer John Speke. It was named in honour of Queen Victoria, she then being the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.

Recommended accommodations at Lake Victoria:

Speke Bay Lodge, Lukuba Island Lodge and Rubondo Island Camp

Lake Eyasi

Lake Eyasi, located south of the Serengeti National Park and immediately southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania, is one of several lakes on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. The southwest flank of Ngorongoro Volcano drains into the northeast end of the lake. Tthe lake is generally rectangular, except the indented southeast side, which appears to be shallower because sediment has filled in the shore. Most of the former shoreline can be identified by the colour change around the fairly steep embanked perimeter of the lake. Seasonal water level fluctuations in the lake are dramatic, perhaps indicating that Lake Eyasi is relatively shallow even during periods of maximum water levels.

Recommended accommodations at Lake Eyasi:

Tindiga Tented Lodge and Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp

Lake Natron

On the border between Tanzania and Kenya lays Lake Natron in the middle of a volcanic moonscape in the Rift Valley. The special colours of Lake Natron are due to the blue algae that thrive in the salty water of this lake. Walking to the lake and the streams and waterfalls on the nearby steep slope deliver a unique experience. In the north of the lake mirage delusion may occur. In the dry season much water evaporates from the lake and the remaining water salts. In this environment thrive micro-organisms such as blue algae. The pigment in the plasma cell layers of their cause deep red colour in the deeper parts, and the orange in the shallower parts of the lake. But that’s not all what is colourful: Lake Natron is the only breeding place of the dwarf flamingos. Each year 2 million dwarf flamingos come down to lay their eggs and to breed. They eat a blue-green algae with red pigment and they get the colour of the algae.

Recommended accommodations at Lake Natron:

Lake Natron Camp and Lake Natron Tented Camp

Lake Tanganyika

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. (Their incredible journey is documented in the movie ‘Mountains of the Moon’.) 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. It reaches a depth of 1433 metres (4700 feet), which is an astounding 642m below sea level. It stretches north to south a distance of 677 kilometres (420 miles) and averages about fifty kilometres wide (31 miles). The clear waters host more than 350 different species of fish and is well known for aquarium fish exports and excellent angling. The fertile circulating surface water, although not tidal, provides abundant plankton for its inhabitants which in turn provides much needed protein for both the local and export markets. The stiff winds that blow off the surrounding mountains aid the continual movement which inhibits the spread of bilharzia, the parasitic disease carried by shallow water snails. It is essentially a landlocked sea but in years of heavy rain the lake overflows into the Lukuga River which in turn feeds Congo DR’s Lualaba River.

Despite the ferocious surface storms that occur, driving waves up to six meters high (20 foot), no mixing of the lower relict waters occur. The bottom 1200 meters of the lake remain ‘dead’ - either too high in hydrogen sulphide or too low in oxygen to support life. This ‘fossil water’ may be as old as 20 million years. By contrast, the oceans, because of currents and upwelling’s have life forms even as low as 11000 meters (36080 feet). Lake Tanganyika has a remarkably uniform temperature. The lower regions are only a mere 3° C colder than the surface. The reason for this strange phenomenon has yet to be discovered.

Lake Tanganyika boasts over 350 species of fish of which most are endemic. 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. Since new species are being discovered continually in these remarkable lakes, it is difficult to determine which has the highest diversity, but they at least share the distinction of being the top two lakes in the world in terms of biodiversity.


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