Lake Victoria – A Must on Your Tanzania Safari Itinerary

Stunning Lake Victoria – it’s definitely on top list of must-visit holiday destinations if you happen to traveling through Tanzania! The great lake’s surface area covers 68,800 square kilometres or 26,600 square miles, making Lake Victoria Africa’s most enormous lake. This amazing lake is also the largest tropical lake in the world, and the second largest freshwater lake in the world! Only North America’s Lake Superior is bigger than Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria fills a depression in the very centre of a great plateau that reaches between the Western and Eastern Rift Valleys. Its greatest known depth is 270 feet or 82 metres. Many archipelagos or groups of islands are contained within Lake Victoria, as are a number of reefs which are quite often seen just below the surface of the clear lake waters. This stunning great lake is home to more than 200 species of fish, of which the Tilapia is considered to be the most economically important species. The Lake Victoria region is actually one of the most densely populated regions in Africa. Several million people live within 50 miles or 80 kilometres of the lake’s shores, almost all of them Bantu-speaking. Local steamer services are found around the lake.

Rubondo Island National Park – Safari, fishing and camping

Rubondo Island National Park

Rubondo Island National Park

Rubondo Island National Park is a place of solitude, a little off the beaten path of Lake Victoria. It is this reason that attracts some of the tourism that happens in Rubondo. It’s alluring tranquillity and superior lakeshore scenery are some of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets. When traveling in the Rubondo Island National Park, there may be days when you’re the only visitors on the 240 square kilometre island. This place is ideal for many activities such as birdwatching –  especially for shore birds. There are many migrants in the months of November and December. While birdwatching brings the most visitors, walking safaris, sport fishing, and bush camping are also incredible experiences in Rubondo Island National Park. Half-day walks are around US$10 per group, bush camping tends to run you about $50 per adult and $5 per child. Sport fishing will cost about $50 per day.

While staying in Rubondo Island Camp, guests have the opportunity to embark on wildlife safaris. Go on one of the Rubondo Island National Park safaris, and remember to take your camera! You’re bound to see elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees and black and white colobus monkeys. These animals were introduced a long time ago to the island, alongside the Rubondo Island’s native bushbuck, hippo, and sitatunga – a peculiar “amphibious” swamp-dwelling antelope who prefers to live among the marshes and reeds along the lake’s shoreline Rubondo is the best place in Lake Victoria to see the sitatunga.

The Rubondo Island National Park’s chimpanzees are not yet habituated, but sightings will probably increase as the chimps lose their fear of humans. In the meantime, exciting chimp tracking walks can be carried out in order to take you in search of the chimps’ presence if not actual sightings. And though the Rubondo Island National Park’s beaches look like the perfect place for a sip, there are enough hippos and crocodiles in the area that render it a swimming prohibited zone.

 

Stay while you Safari – Speke Bay Lodge at Lake Victoria

Speke Bay Lodge is a friendly lodging for travellers to Lake Victoria, and can be reached via dirt road from Arusha through the Serengeti National Park or from Mwanza or Kenya on tarmac roads. Speke Lodge is approximately a 7 to 8 hour drive if you’re coming from Nairobi. You can fly in from Arusha, to the Tanzania National Parks airstrip, which will require a further 1 hour ride to the Lodge. Alternately fly in to Mwanza International Airport which has connections to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali.

Speke Bay Lodge can be found on the south-eastern coast of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. A 15 kilometre drive from the Serengeti National Park, and 125 kilometres north of Mwanza. Speke Bay Lodge, in Speke Bay, derives its name from the Speke Gulf which in turn was named after the famous explorer John Hanning Speke who documented Lake Victoria in 1858 as being the source of the Nile.

Encompassed by the savannah, the Speke Lodge resembles a quaint village, reaching out along the shores of the

Speke Bay Lodge at Lake Victoria

Speke Bay Lodge at Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria. The main buildings of the lodge and the luxury accommodation are built round in form, made to perfection, coated in white paint and thatched in the traditional style of the local tribe, the Sukuma, with a grass roof. Being that the Speke Lodge is just outside of (but very close to) the Serengeti National Park, it is considered to be the most ideal accommodation to begin and end your day’s safari and to relax during your Lake Victoria travels. Excursions are available from Speke Lodge on boats and on mountain bikes, allowing you to truly experience Africa. You can go fishing from the beach for Tilapia, walk through the Lodge’s 100 hectares of savannah, relax in the peacefulness of the area, or go looking for birds.

 

Going on Safari into the Serengeti from Speke Bay Lodge

The Western Corridor of the Serengeti National Park holds an unimaginable beauty that is sometimes left out of the plentiful tour itineraries. What makes this area an especially fantastic attraction is the year round availability of the water in the Grumeti River due to heavier rainfall than the remaining parts of the Serengeti. This abundant water source makes for large resident herds of wildebeest and scores of other game. This region is also part of the migration route of the wildebeest – you will see as the dry season intensifies, that the population of wildebeest travel away from the eastern plains to the north and west towards Lake Victoria.

Trying to view animals during the dry season can oftentimes be disappointing. The Western Corridor is an excellent area to come see animals even during the dry season. Wildebeest, gazelle and zebra can be seen all year round, as well as a variety of other animals like lions, cheetah, elephants and hippo, and exceptionally large crocodiles! The area never does become dry and dusty like the eastern plains. The Speke Lodge makes for an exceptionally good home base and starting point for going on safari in the Lake Victoria area. It is located only 15 kilometres from the Ndabaka Gate, and you are almost guaranteed to immediately encounter the park wildlife. Usually be the time you’ve travelled less than 50 kilometres you have seen the majority of the game you’ve set out to see, and you can return to the Speke Lodge to clean up, enjoy a meal, and relax in the cool breeze coming in off Lake Victoria.

 

Bujora Village on Lake Victoria has plenty to offer:

 

While you’re in the area, if you travel through Bujora village you should definitely make time for the Sukuma Museum in Bujora. It’s a unique open-air museum where, along with other things, you can discover traditional Sukuma dwellings, a traditional healer’s grass house, a rotating cylinder illustrating different Sukuma words for counting from one to ten, and blacksmith’s tools. You’ll also find in the little Lake Victoria town, the royal drum pavilion built in the shape of a king’s stool, which holds a collection of royal drums that are still in use – they are played on traditional church feast days, special events, and official government visits. You can see the church built in 1958 by David Fumuka Clement, the Quebecois missionary priest who founded the Sukuma museum. The church has various traditional Sukuma stylings. The museum is also capable of organizing traditional drumming and dancing performances on request, for up to nine people per performance. It’s also possible to take a Sukuma drumming lesson – just negotiate a price with the instructor. It’s best to be flexible with your expectations especially with Sunday opening times as it depends on ‘whenever mass finishes’.

 

Butiama, Musoma – the little town on Lake Victoria:

The first President of Tanzania was Julius Nyerere, and he was born here in the unassuming little town of Butiama.

Butiama Village

Butiama Village

If you find yourself in the Butiama region of Lake Victoria on your travels, stop to see the small museum within the family compound, which celebrates his work and his life. It is modest, containing shields, stools, boxes of the former president’s personal effects, tools, President Nyerere’s diaries, a handwritten Swahili translation of a piece of Plato’s Republic as well as collections of his poetry are here – request to see the writings as they aren’t permanently displayed. In the family compound alongside the museum you will be able to view his two homes, admission 8am to 6pm. One is still occupied by his wife and son. One was his father’s house. YOU Will also be ablie to view the graves of Nyerere and his parents. His mother’s house where Nyerere was born along with the houses of his father’s other twenty-one wives are no longer standing. So if you’re interested in Tanzanian history, take a trip to the museum. The visit to the town and the interest your presence will generate is interesting itself.

Little Musoma is the capital of the Mara region, sitting quietly on a Lake Victoria peninsula which offers both beautiful sunrise and sunset views over the water. Musoma is of those quaint towns with seemingly nothing extraordinary to it, yet somehow attracts you with it’s inexplicable appeal. Mukendo Road offer internet cafés and bank services. And it’s well known that the most exciting thing to do in Musoma is to take a trip to Matvilla Beach at the very tip of the peninsula! Follow Mukendo Road,  Musoma’s main street, north of downtown for 1.5 kilometres and discover the beach with its pink-grey granite boulders. This beach is the perfect place to watch the sunset after a long day and have a drink – there are several bars there to assist you with acquiring whatever beverage you’re looking for.

History buffs will also love a trip to the tower of the old German boma, a fortified living compound. During colonial times, it was an administrative office, and now exists as part of the Musoma District Commissioner’s Office. You can find it just past the post office behind Mukendo Hill. A visit to Mwigobero Market is also a good way to pass some time. You can find it on the city’s eastern shore. Lake Victoria passengers and cargo from small lake boats to nearby islands and villages load and unload here.

 

 

Getting to Victoria Lake via Musoma:

 

The airport is located close to the Musima city centre – a five-minute walk. Precision Air flies four times weekly from Dar es Salaam via Mwanza. You can book any further tickets at Global Travel across from Barclays Bank. There is a bus terminal 6 kilometres out of town at Bweri, though you will have to do any business with booking offices in the town centre. Dalla-dallas – the pick-up trucks or minibuses –  travel through frequently, and buses connect Musoma and Mwanza on a four hour ride. Mohammed Trans has decent service – 5am and 1pm – and their buses depart from their ticket office east of CRDB bank. To travel to Ukerewe Island, take a dalla-dalla to Bunda one hour, and from there get on a bus or dalla dalla to Naniso, the ‘capital’ of the island. Between Coast Line, Kimotco and Manko there exists a direct bus to Arusha daily – an 11 to 12 hour trip beginning at 6am, which passes through Serengeti National Park using the Ikoma Gate as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. However, you have to pay an unbelievable $110 in park fees to ride through this route. It’s considerably better to fly if coming to Lake Victoria from that distance.

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