Lake Tanganyika, African Great Lakes

Lake Locations:

African Great Lakes - Burundi - Congo (DRC) - Tanzania - Kigoma - Rukwa - Zambia -

Located in the Western Great Rift Valley of Africa, the crystal clear water of Lake Tanganyika reaches across four countries – Burundi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania. Stretching 420 miles, this lake is the longest freshwater lake in the world and has a maximum width of 31 miles wide and an astounding depth of 4,708 feet. Lake Tanganyika was first brought to the attention of Europeans in February 1858 when English explorers were trying to find the source of the great Nile River.

The shoreline ranges from vertical cliffs, rocky coves, secluded coves, and sandy beaches. The western shores of Lake Tanganyika are mountainous with steep walls reaching over 6,500 feet from the water. The southern shores, which are in Zambia, border Nsumbu National Park and boast the most pristine shores of the huge lake but the water here is teeming with crocodiles so swimming is not advisable. However, the beautiful beaches here are a great vantage point to watch the buffalo, zebra, elephant, lion, leopard, and other wild inhabitants of the park come to the beach to get water and laze in the warm sunshine. Bird watching is also thrilling as the area is home to a wide range of exotic birds as well as a stop over for migrating birds and waterfowl. Three secluded bays within the park, Nkamba Bay, Ndole Bay, and Kasaba Bay offer vacation rentals ranging from an exclusive private lodge sitting on the shores of Lake Tanganyika to individual thatched roof chalets to camping on beachfront sites. It is here that you may choose to enjoy fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, photography safaris, and snorkeling and SCUBA excursions or simply enjoy the peacefulness of a shaded hammock among the backdrop of an isolated rainforest paradise.

Zambia’s only port on Lake Tanganyika is the town of Mpulungu. There is a ferry for travel to northern parts of the lake as well as ships that carry goods to and from the area. Fishing is a major occupation for most villagers as well as a tropical fish industry that exports aquarium fishes all over the world. Due to the age of the lake, possibly over 20 million years old, and the ecological isolation, Lake Tanganyika boasts over 350 species of fish and scientists are continually discovering new species. Some of the most popular fish include the goliath tiger fish, Nile perch, golden perch, vundu catfish, lake salmon, Tanganyika sardine and yellow belly. Every year around March to April, the Zambian National Fishing Competition is held where world record catches have been made.

The main lakeshore settlement in Tanzania is Kigoma which is an attractive town surrounded by groves of mango trees. The town receives visitors from near and far as it is the main ferry town in Tanzania for transportation to other ports along Lake Tanganyika. Visitors also are attracted to the area to visit the world famous Gombe Stream National Park made famous by Jane Goodall, the British researcher of primates, primarily chimpanzees and baboons. Here you will also find the Mahale Mountains National Park made famous as the location of the original question, “Dr. Livingston I presume?” Vacation rentals are also available in this busy town to accommodate visitors of all economic means.

Although the area along Lake Tanganyika is noted for its numerous continuous scientific research, it is also world renowned for its beauty, natural habitats, and untouched wilderness. If you have been searching for an extraordinary destination, choose Lake Tanganyika – it will be a memorable adventure!

Things to do at Lake Tanganyika

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Snorkeling
  • Scuba Diving
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish species found at Lake Tanganyika

  • Catfish
  • Perch
  • Salmon
  • Tiger Fish

Lake Tanganyika Photo Gallery

Lake Tanganyika Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 7,907,372 acres

Shoreline Length: 1,181 miles

Average Depth: 1,877 feet

Maximum Depth: 4,708 feet

Water Volume: 14,430,694,800 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 440 years

Drainage Area: 101,545 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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