Tanzania is a beautiful country with a lot of attractions, from the gracefully crystal, white sandy beaches of Zanzibar to the superlative wildlife areas such as the Mighty Serengeti, the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, to mention a few. When other people hear of the name Tanzania, they relate that to just wildlife. Yes, Tanzania stands the tallest in terms of the diversity and abundance of wildlife in Africa!

The country is also filled with pretty lakes which represent an interesting side of Tanzania not many visitors get to experience. From the planet’s most biodiverse lakes, Africa Great Lakes, to the world’s deepest, longest, largest and oldest lakes, you’ll find them all in Tanzania.

But which lakes are the best?

Lake Victoria, Lake Nyasa, Lake Manyara, Lake Rukwa and Lake Tanganyika are the most popular lakes in Tanzania. And they all have something unique to offer. For example, Lake Victoria is great for watching the sunset, while Lake Nyasa is known for being a habitat of endemic cichlids. Lake Manyara is known for its high population of flamingos and wildlife, Lake Tanganyika for recreational watersports and Lake Rukwa for its scenic landscape and its high concentration of Nile crocodiles. In this article, we will look at these top five lake destinations in Tanzania and why you should visit them. 

Lake Manyara

Of all the lakes in Tanzania, Lake Manyara is the most spectacular lake. It’s quite a sight to see. This alkaline lake is located in Northern Tanzania in the Greater Tarangire Ecosystem.

While small compared to the other lakes in the region, Lake Manyara is one of the most diverse lakes in Tanzania. Situated inside Lake Manyara National Park, the namesake lake is a magnet for photographers, wildlife enthusiasts, naturalists as well as bird watchers.

If you’re looking for a place to see plenty of wildlife, then Lake Manyara has the distinction of having one of the largest concentrations of wildlife of all the lakes in the country. Some of the animals you can see during your visit include hippos, wildebeests, giraffes, buffalos, pools of elephants, zebras and warthogs. Surrounding the lake is a beautiful forest where many more animals can be seen. Baboons, leopards, monkeys, and lions are regularly sighted in the trees. This park boasts to harbor the highest density of primates in the world!

The lake is also full of bird species and is home to over 300 different kinds of birds. Some of the birds that can be found here include the Pelicans, Ibis, Kori Bustard, Hornbills, Cormorants, Eagles, Heron, Lovebird, et cetera. The dense population of Pink flamingos also graces the lake shores during the wet season.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is truly a massive body and one of the best lakes to visit in Tanzania. Located in East Africa on the border of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, it is part of the Great African Lakes. Covering over 26,830sq. miles/69’490sq.kms, Lake Victoria is not only Africa’s largest lake but also the world’s second largest freshwater by surface area. It is also the origin of one of the longest rivers in the world, the Nile.

Although it doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves, with approximately a half of the lake (51%) being in Tanzania, Lake Victoria is a great gem worth exploring when visiting the country https://www.regalafricansafaris.com/lake-victoria/. It may be located off the beaten path, but a visit to the lake never disappoints. There are a myriad of activities to enjoy around Lake Victoria. The local people named this lake “Nyanza” before a British explorer, John Hanning Speke renamed it to Lake Victoria after the Queen Victoria of Britain in 1858. Lake Victoria is estimated to have been in existence for 750’000years now.

The magical sunset alone as the last rays hit the water is enough to make Lake Victoria a site worth seeing. It is a great place to enjoy sundowners as you relax on a boat ride or while taking a leisurely walk on the lake shorelines. Boating is also an excellent way of viewing the lake’s biodiversity up close.

Life thrives in this lake, from hippos to crocodiles. Love fishing? The lake is home to over 350 species of fish. The most popular fish species being Tilapia and Nile perch.

Birding is another popular activity around Lake Victoria. Be on the lookout for the African Grey Parrot, Egyptian Goose, Fish Eagle, Sacred Ibis, Black Crake, Double-toothed Barbet and Cormorants.

Another top attraction in Lake Victoria is the beautiful islands perched on the lake. While the lake comprises approximately 3,000 islands, two islands on the Tanzanian section of the lake are a “must-see attraction”, namely Rubondo Island National Park and Saa Nane Island National Park.

Rubondo Island National Park covers a total area of 455sq. kms, making it one of the largest island parks in Africa. A visit to the uninhabited island gives visitors a chance to encounter Giraffes, Chimpanzees, Colobus Monkeys as well as the amphibious Sitatunga antelope. 

Saa Nane Island National Park, an island in Lake Victoria, is another interesting destination. Usually, visitors access the island from Mwanza via a boat. Covering an area of 2.1sq. kms, Saa Nane Island is the smallest national park in East Africa. Some of the animals that are found here include Zebras, Gazelles, Monkeys, Peacocks and Monitor Lizards.

 Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika is located in the Western Tanzania and it is a significant part of Africa’s Great Lakes. This freshwater lake straddles across four African countries, namely Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia, with about 47% of the lake being in Tanzania. The overall size of the lake is estimated to be 32’900sq.kms (12’703sq.miles).

Interestingly, Lake Tanganyika is unique in so many ways. And it has many accolades to its name. Not only is Lake Tanganyika the longest freshwater lake in the world but also the second largest by volume. Lake Tanganyika is also considered to be the second oldest freshwater lake in the world. The lake is incredibly deep. The deepest parts of the lake are 4,822 feet (1’470m) deep, making it the second deepest in the globe.

Lake Tanganyika is a serene oasis for watersports’ enthusiasts. It is arguably the most popular lake in Tanzania when it comes to aquatic activities.

You can get away from it all around the lake. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic with family or friends while enjoying the view of the beautiful waters. Recreational activities that can be enjoyed in the Lake Tanganyika include snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, wakeboarding, diving and skiing.

There are over 200 species of cichlid fish found here, making it one of the best places in Africa to encounter these beautiful but highly endemic species. You can also enjoy fishing here throughout the year.

If you love wildlife, many rivers and streams feed the lake, making it a great habitat for many plants, and animals. Some of the most notable animals that live in the lake area include hippos, otters and the Nile crocodiles.

Lake Tanganyika is known for its prolific birdlife. While visiting this remote lake you can spot Kingfishers, African fish eagles, kites, sunbirds and kingfishers.

Another interesting activity you can enjoy around Lake Tanganyika is taking an excursion to the islands. In the lake there are thousands of islands, both inhabited and non-inhabited, most of which can be explored by a boat ride. The most popular one on the Tanzanian side being the luxurious 130acre Lupita Island.

Finally, Lake Tanganyika sits next to Mahale Mountain National Park, a popular chimpanzees’ tracking destination in Tanzania, making it a perfect add-on for visitors who come to this area.

Lake Nyasa

Lake Nyasa is a freshwater lake in Africa that spans the nations of Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Malawians call it Lake Malawi.

Lake Nyasa is the third largest lake in Africa and the ninth largest lake in the planet. With a maximum depth of slightly over 2,300 feet (700m) it is the second deepest lake in Africa after Lake Tanganyika.

Located in Southwest Tanzania, it is one of the Great Lakes in Africa. Lake Nyasa has a stunning shade of blue, making it one of the most beautiful lakes in Tanzania. On the Tanzanian side of the lake, visitors can engage in many activities.

The lake is also home to one of the most diverse and unique ecosystems. With over 1,100 species of fish living in this lake, Lake Nyasa can best be described as a place where fish linger everywhere you look. Lake Nyasa has more fish species than any other lake in the world. Like Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa is also home to cichlids, the fish species that have the highest rate of endemism in the world. With over 250 species of these colorful rare species dwelling in Lake Nyasa’s waters, it is easy to spot almost all of the world’s cichlid species here. Fishing is the most popular activity on the lake.

 Besides the fish, Lake Nyasa is teeming with wildlife, with the most common ones being Nile crocodiles, hippos, and turtles. The shores of the lake are home to over 400 bird species. African fish eagles, cormorants, kingfishers, and egrets are regularly spotted.

 Kayaking and canoeing are great ways of exploring the lake waters. If you just want to relax as you take in the scenery, Matema Beach, along the northern shores of Lake Nyasa, is a place worth visiting.

 Lake Rukwa

In Southwestern, Tanzania lies Lake Rukwa, the fourth largest lake in the country. It is an alkaline lake with its northern section extending to Uwanda Game Reserve, which is part of the larger Katavi National Park.

Behind the lush green hills and the scenic landscape surrounding the lake, shorelines lies one of the most pretty and serene water bodies in the country. Lake Rukwa is also dotted with many beautiful islands. The lake, particularly its western section, is very shallow in comparison to the rest of the lake, making it great for watching wildlife such as Nile crocodiles and hippos. Anglers enjoy fishing in the lake.

Lake Rukwa is a haven for birdwatchers. The best place to see different birds is along the wetland that lies on its southern shores. The list of birds you can see is long and includes birdwatchers’ favorites like African Skimmer, Glossy Ibis and Shoebill stork. Sometimes, Flamingos make a stop at the lake during the rainy season. The lake is also a great breeding ground for White Pelicans.

Lake Natron

Lake Natron is a salty or alkaline lake located in the north – eastern part of Tanzania bordering the country of Kenya. It spans an area of 1040sq.kms or 402sq.miles, with a surface elevation of 600m (1969ft) above sea level; and extends to 57sq.kms (22sq.miles) length and 24sq.kms (9sq.miles) width. The temperature of this lake rises to 60⁰C (140⁰F), with alkalinity ranging between pH 9 – 12 and a high variability of the salty content thus making the lake less hospitable to most species of living organisms. It can be termed as a dead lake. Erta Ale and Dallol in Ethiopia are other areas along the Gregorian Rift Valley of Africa, that have environmentally extreme conditions which make life almost impossible – these two Ethiopian sites experience the continuous vulcanicity, with the boiling magma to the surface of their crust.    

Lake Natron is known to calcify animals dying in it due to high concentration of sodium carbonate and baking soda.

 The caustic salty-loving algae, some invertebrates, fish varieties and a rich bird life find Lake Natron as a place to live. Amazingly, an estimate of 2.5million Flamingos make the lake their home as a result of the flourishing amount of alga, as the food source of these water-birds. As the water of the lake evaporates in the dry season, salinity of it increases and this enables the salty – loving micro – organisms or halophile organisms such as cyanobacteria, to thrive more.

There are very few places in Africa where Lesser Flamingos go to breed and Lake Natron is one of them, actually the principal site, making the preservation of the lake of great importance ecologically. By comparison, Lake Natron harbors 75% of the world’s 3.2million Lesser Flamingos, quite an incredible sight to watch! It becomes unreal to witness such an abundance of birds with colors that create a resemblance of firebirds!

Apart from the pink color of the Lesser Flamingos that gives the lake a spectacular beauty, the type of the algae in the lake makes the appearance extra special as the red pigment in it produces three jaw – dropping colors: red, orange and pink!

The lake is known to contain three species of Tilapia fish: Wide – lipped Natron Tilapia (Alcolapia latilabris) and Narrow – lipped Natron Tilapia (Alcolapia ndalalani) as endemic species in Lake Natron; and a Common Natron Tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica), which is also found in Lake Magadi in Kenya.

Lake Natron is one of the four Ramsar Sites in Tanzania that protect wetlands of national and international importance, aiming at fostering waterfowl habitats at large. Three other Ramsar Sites in Tanzania are Malagarasi – Muyovosi wetland, Kilombero Valley wetland and Rufiji – Mafia – Kilwa Ramsar Site.

Ol Doinyo Lengai, is an active volcanic mountain found in the south of Lake Natron and stands at 3’188m (10’459ft) high asl. It is the only volcano in the world that emits natrocarbonatite lava, a highly fluid lava with almost no silicon and therefore categorized as a stratovolcano or composite volcano which are characterized by many layers or strata and steep flanks. The other category of volcanic mountains is called the shield volcanoes and these are basaltic in form. Almost 90% of volcanic lavas in the world are rich in silicate minerals.

The trend of tourism in Lake Natron has been increasing by day as this area is becoming a hotspot for tourists because of the adventure from trekking the mountain as well as the aesthetic values in the area. Maasai People too are found here and this provides great opportunities for cultural experiences on your safari in the area. This area is also used as a stopover for tourism to the northern Serengeti to see the Great Migration of animals across Mara River between the months of August and October.

Take away

While animals such as the big five are commonly seen during Tanzania safari trips, the lakes in Tanzania offer you the chance to see aquatic animals such as African cichlids, waterfowl, giant crocodiles, hippos and others beyond your imagination.

Tanzanian lakes are a place of great beauty and wonder. While taking a break from a safari, you can stop at one of these lakes and enjoy the most amazing sundowners and nature walks along the shores, especially if you’re interested in birds, watersports and so forth.

We are your African Safari Specialist to make you experience such beauties in a remarkable way. Get in touch with us for the best safari planning.