Facts About Lake Victoria, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania

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Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the world’s largest tropical lake. It is located in east-central Africa and borders Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The awe of Lake Victoria is not only its size but also its personality, history and more.

Here are some little known facts about Lake Victoria.

  • With a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres, it is Africa’s largest lake by far.
  • It is the world’s largest tropical lake.
  • It is the second-largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world. The largest freshwater lake being Lake Superior in North America.
  • It was named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
  • Lake Victoria is about 400,000 years old.
  • Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are the three countries bordering Lake Victoria.
  • The average depth is 40 meters while the deepest point is 84 meters.
  • Lake Victoria is a haven for wildlife. It is home to birdlife and wetland animals like the clawless otter and sitatunga, hippopotamus, cichlid, the elusive Lake Victoria Deepwater Catfish, more than 500 fish species and reptiles like crocodiles and turtles.
  • Lake Victoria is one of only two places in East Africa where you can watch the sunset over water without being on the coast! The other place is Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya. 
  • Rain contributes approximately 80 percent of the lake’s water while the other 20 percent is from small streams flowing into the lake.
  • The lake has dried up completely a few times in the past, with the last time being approximately 17,300 years ago.
  • Approximately 30 million people are live in the lake’s basin. 
  • The largest river that flows into the lake is the Kagera River.
  • The White Nile and the Katonga River flow out of the lake.
  • The lake was first discovered and recorded by Arab traders. They created a map of the lake which dates back to approximately 1160 AD.
  • In 1858, John Hanning Speke travelled the lake, becoming the first European to do so. He claimed that it was the source of the Nile River. It was initially debated in the scientific community before being proven correct.
  • John Hanning Speke named the lake after the queen of England at the time, Queen Victoria.
  • One of the worst maritime disasters in Africa’s history happened on the Lake. On May 21st 1996 the ferry MV Bukoba sank in the lake and about one thousand people lost their lives.
  • Lake Victoria helps to generate electricity via two hydroelectric dams located in Uganda.
  • There are other wonders within the huge body of water itself. The scenic and famous Ssese Islands is such an example. This 84 island archipelago can be found in the northwestern section of Lake Victoria within Uganda.
  • Maboko Island is another famous island in Lake Victoria found in Kenya. It gained popularity in the paleontological world in the 1930s when the myriad primate and reptile fossils were discovered there. The fossils were over 15 million years old!

Like many water bodies around the world, Lake Victoria also faces many problems that affect its ecological health. Here are a few:

  • Pollution: Many towns surrounding this body of water dump gallons of raw sewage into the lake daily. Fertilizers and chemicals from farms also cause a huge pollution issue.
  • Water Hyacinth: This plant reproduces rapidly and covers large areas of the lake and blocks sunlight needed for survival below the surface.
  • The booming fish-export industry: The demand for fish is always increasing. This has lead to fish populations becoming dangerously low.