Lake Tanganyika

Overview

Introduction

The world's longest and second-deepest freshwater body, Lake Tanganyika is also exceptionally beautiful, with its crystal clear waters hemmed in by the lush, green mountains of Tanzania's Rift Valley escarpment.

Kigoma, the main lake port, is an attractive sleepy center that is the terminus of the Central Line railroad from Dar es Salaam, which was built in the early 20th century to transport agricultural goods from the African hinterland to the coast. There is also a weekly local ferry service all the way south to Zambia. Although it is too remote to be included on most tourist itineraries by road, many visitors arrive by plane en route to the nearby wildlife national parks—Gombe and Mahale—both famous for their populations of chimpanzees.

At Ujiji, 6 mi/10 km southeast of Kigoma, a plaque marks the spot where Henry Morton Stanley uttered the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" A small museum commemorates the expeditions of these two famous explorers, and a tour guide will show you around. (Donations, for the guide and for the museum, are expected.)

From Kigoma, it's possible to make a day or overnight boat excursion to the Gombe Stream National Park, famous as the site of anthropologist Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees. There is the opportunity to go on a guided walk to look for the chimpanzees, but as they are susceptible to human infection, you will not be permitted to visit if you have even a common cold. The park headquarters is on the lakeshore at Kasekela, which is 14 mi/23 km north of Kigoma.

Travelers seriously interested in chimps may prefer to visit Mahale Mountains National Park, located about midway along the eastern shore of the lake. This wonderfully scenic park, though relatively rarely visited, is home to a population of around 1,000 wild chimps and one small camp of researchers. Travelers can stay at one of three tented camps during the dry seasons (roughly May-October and late December to mid-February) and take guided walks through the park's forests to track the chimps and other primates such as red-tailed and colobus monkeys. Few other large mammals are seen in the park, but the birdlife is excellent. The park is accessible by bush plane or boat only.

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