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Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria in Africa

Lake Victoria is one of the most famous lakes in the world and it is with good reason. This grand inland lake was first visited by Europeans in 1858 when John Hanning Speke reached its southern shore, in his search for the source of the Nile River. It lies in the area between the eastern and the western arms of the Rift Valley. Important ports situated along Lake Victoria are Jinja,  Port Bell, in the capital of Kampala, Mwanza, Bukoba, and Musoma in Tanzania, and Kisumu in Kenya. Of all these inland ports, Port Bell – in Uganda , Mwanza – in Tanzania, and Kisumu – in Kenya have the most throughput. The shores around the lake are lined with soft, green lands and punctuated by secluded inlets and coves which speak eloquently to its calm liquid grace.


Lake Victoria in Africa

It is the greatest of lakes in Africa, the main reservoir and source of the Nile River. It is also the second largest fresh water lake in the world and is located along the equator and bordered by Uganda to the North, Kenya to the East and Tanzania to the South.

Kenya claims 4 % of its surface area while Uganda and Tanzania claim 45% and 49% of its surface area respectively. The Lake was formed by the filling of a shallow basin that had been created by the downward pressing of rock beds in the East African plateau.

It is fair to say that the lake is a large reservoir because it only has one outlet at Ripon falls in Jinja on its northern shore. Before the construction of Owen Falls, Lake Victoria levels were controlled by the Victoria Nile outlet at Ripon falls. Now they’re controlled by Owen Falls Dam.

The lake’s main affluent is the Kagera River which enters it from the West. This is the same river that John Speke crossed on his journey to the discovery of the Source of Nile on 16th January, 1862.

The lake is also locally known as “Nnalubaale” in Luganda which means the home of the Great Spirit.

Those who have never seen this lake often wonder what it looks like. If you have ever seen the ocean, then you have a good idea because it stretches wide beyond the horizon.

Lake Victoria on map


Lake Victoria on Map


The description of Lake Victoria would not be complete without mentioning its many beautiful islands of the Ssese Archipelago, many of which are worth visiting. These spectacular islands are a haven for those looking to have the perfect retreat on Africa’s largest lake. Some islands have white sand beaches which are sure to attract honeymooners while others are thickly covered with tropical forests perfect for birders.

Some of these islands are large while others are just mere rock outcrops sticking out of the water and these serve as a basking places for comorants and other birds. Great changes have come over much of the Ssese island archipelago in Lake Victoria. In 1901, sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies ravaged the islands killing off most of the inhabitants. No island was spared. Most of the island dwellers were almost completely wiped out.

Bugaya Island, which in 1901 had 1900 houses occupied before the sleeping sickness epidemic, hardly had 200 occupied houses a year later. These families hadn’t just left rather most of them had succumbed to sleeping sickness.   The surviving few were transferred onto the mainland to prevent further infection. For close to 10 years, (1901 -1910) the Ssese islands  and the shores of Lake Victoria were forbidden grounds until the disease cleared. Segregation camps were created and all the surviving islanders were removed from islands and the shores of Lake Victoria since tsetse flies would happily come out to bite them. Large tracts of trees and shrubs along the shores of Lake Victoria were downed then put under grass belts as measure to control the tsetse flies.


Fish in Lake Victoria

Fish has always been consumed in the Lake Victoria region of Uganda, but has now become a bigger part of the local cuisine as the population has grown and also due to the improved transportation in the region.


Tilapia fish
Lake Victoria tilapia fish on display at a roadside market stall.

This common habitat of the lake is known to Zoologists as Oreochromis variabilis and O. esculentus. The locals around the lake call it Ngege, and as such appreciate it as the most important source of fish protein in Uganda. It is the main fish caught from Lake Victoria.

Lung Fish “E’mamba” (Protopterus)

It is the most noteworthy of all the fish in the lake because it has both gills and lungs. Among the Baganda who live around the lake, it is known as “E’mamba’ and it is a great article of food to them. It has a flattened body with a broad tapering tail and a long wavy fin along its ventral and dorsal edges. during the dry season when some of the marshes around the lake dry up, the lung fish burrows deep into the mud and coils up in a hardened cocoon made from mucus secreted from its skin. During this period, the lung fish breathes entirely by lungs.

Mud-Fish “E’male”

This flat, broad headed fish covered with bony plates has a long barbels round its mouth. It is somewhat cylindrical shaped like an eel.


This tiny bony fish is also caught in the shallow waters of the lake and when caught it is dried then strung on sharp sticks in series.

Silver Fish “Mukene”

This beautiful silvery tiny fish is well desired by the locals. It is caught by netting in the shallow parts of the lake then laid out in the sun to dry. It makes for cheap but good sauce.

Lake Victoria Nile Perch 

Nile Perch. The largest fresh water fish in Africa and the largest freshwater percoid in the world. It can reach lengths of over 6 feet.

This fish is known to zoologists as the Lates niloticus , local name mputa. The Nile Perch is very voracious, devouring many other smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects. It had been known to bite and eat its smaller Nile Perch fellows. Because of the Nile Perch, Lake Victoria is a great fishing destination for any angler. The Nile perch is also an important commercial species. It is interesting to note that the Nile perch was just introduced into Lake Victoria to increase the fishing output of the lake. This evasive fish species decimated many other smaller fish pieces that are endemic to the lake. It feeds mainly on smaller live fish.



Facts about Lake Victoria in Africa
  • It is the largest lake in Africa, largest tropical lake, and the second largest freshwater lake in the world.
  • Lake Victoria has a total surface area of 68,800 km².
  • For comparative reasons, Lake Victoria is almost the size of Ireland.
  • It has one major outlet, the Victoria Nile or the White Nile in Jinja, Uganda, at the northern shores of the lake. Another smaller but considerable outlet is River Katonga which drains into Lake Wamala.
  • Most of water that comes into the lake is from the rain that falls directly into it.
  • It is named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Ireland
  • The lake is home to over 3000 islands the largest of them being Ukerewe Island in Tanzania. This island is also the largest lake island in Africa. The Sesse Archipelago on the Ugandan side is made up of 84 islands. Sesse islands are about 15- 20 miles from the mainland. Bugala is the largest of the 84 islands that make up sesse islands. The second biggest is called Bukasa island. The islands are regarded by the Baganda as a home of the gods especially of Mukasa the god of the Lake.
  • The lake’s average depth is 40 meters (130 ft).
  • Greatest depth of the lake is 84 meters (276 ft) two miles from its eastern shore in Kenya.
  • It is about 3720 ft. above sea level.
  • River Kagera is its largest river source flowing in from the lake’s western shore.
  • Lake Victoria rises about 1 – 3 feet annually with the highest levels recorded in the month of July.
  • Most of the water that enters the lake from the rivers is lost to evaporation.
  • The lake supports Africa’s largest inland fishery with tonnes of fresh water fish extracted from the lake each year.


What to do on Lake Victoria

There are several tourism activities to choose from on Lake Victoria during your stay in Uganda.

  • Water sports – In Uganda’s hot and humid climate, any opportunity for a refreshing water experience is welcome.
  • Sport fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Relaxing at the many resorts
  • Bird watching
  • Chimpanzee watching at Ngamba Island
  • Honeymooning on some of the white sand beaches of Sesse Islands
Lake Victoria in Africa
Little egrets on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda
Lodges and hotels on Lake Victoria Uganda

Here are some of the top accommodation options located on the islands within Lake Victoria:

  • Pineapple Bay Resort
  • Brovad Sands lodge
  • Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary Luxury Tented Camp

Those who wish to stay on the mainland can still choose the hotels along the shores of Lake Victoria.

Hotels in Entebbe on Lake Victoria
  • Lake Victoria Hotel
  • Protea Hotel Entebbe
  • Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel
  • Lake Victoria Serena Hotel

If you wish to experience the spectacular natural beauty of  Lake Victoria and the rest of Uganda , get in touch with us for that memorable Lake Victoria Safari. 

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