Mwanza is one of the best places in Tanzania to see Lake Victoria, though it is far off the usual tourist itinerary despite being the country's second largest city. It has an attractive setting on the lakeshore and is dominated by Bismarck Rock—a massive outcrop of granite rocks.
Founded in 1892 as a German administrative post and a commercial center for the cotton-growing areas in the Lake Victoria region, today it is a bustling, lively city that has close trade links with Kenya. Since the 1990s it has received a major economic boost thanks to the substantial gold mining developments in the southern lake region. The city has few attractions as such, but has good facilities including decent hotels, and it is the terminus for the Central Line railway. The airport has regular flights to and from both Dar es Salaam and Arusha.
Mwanza provides access to the western end of the Serengeti National Park and is also a convenient starting point for trips to the islands in Lake Victoria. The nicest and most tourist-friendly is Rubondo Island National Park northwest of Mwanza. This park features verdant dense forests, papyrus swamps with beautiful flowering orchids, and empty sandy beaches. Its home to around 420 species of birds; other animals include crocodile, monitor lizard, hippo, bushbuck, sitatunga (a swamp-dwelling antelope) and monkeys. The lake itself harbors Nile perch and tilapia fish. It only has one luxury lodge and an airstrip, and attracts a small number of visitors each year, mainly game fishermen and bird-watchers.
Mwanza is 709 mi/1,141 km northwest of Dar es Salaam.
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