Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria


Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake is located in East Africa and covers three countries: Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya.
Lake Victoria has an area of about 68,800 square kilometers and an average depth of about 40 meters. The lake is famous for its unique biodiversity, including many fish species such as tilapia, spider perch, and others.
Lake Victoria belongs to the Great African Lakes in the African Rift Zone. To the north, east, and south, the lake shores are low-lying, sandy, with many bays; the western shore is more elevated. The largest bays are Kavirondo (Vinam) and Spik (named after the discoverer of the lake). Most of the lake’s runoff is rainwater, with the largest tributary being the Catera River.
Lake Victoria’s water is used for a variety of purposes, including fishing, agriculture, industry, and drinking water. However, due to human activities and climate change, Lake Victoria has faced a number of problems, including water pollution and declining water levels in the lake.
Despite these problems, Lake Victoria continues to be an important source of life and economic development for local communities, as well as attracting tourists from around the world who want to enjoy the beauty of the lake and its natural surroundings.


On July 30, 1858, Englishman John Henning Speke (1827-1864) was the first European to arrive on the shores of a vast lake in East Africa. This lake was called Ukerewe by the Arabs and Nyanza by the natives. Speke saw fit to map the lake as Victoria Nyanza.

The African explorer himself came from a wealthy family and set out on dangerous journeys across the Black Continent, apparently by vocation. In India, where Speke served as an officer in the British colonial army, he met the traveler Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). Together they explored Somalia (in 1854-1855 and in 1856-1859) and in 1858 discovered Lake Tanganyika. After that Burton, because of an attack of malaria, had to stay in the city of Tabor (now Tanzania), and Speke made the trip by himself to the lake, about which he had already heard a lot from the locals.

Spik assumed that the lake he discovered was the source of the White Nile, for he already knew from the locals that a large river flowed from this lake to the north, on which large ships had once sailed. Speke knew that the governor of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha (1769-1849), had made three expeditions to the upper Nile River to control the mining of the Sudan and the slave trade. The reason for the inability of large ships to enter Lake Speke was thought to be the rapids in the upper Nile.

But Burton, who considered the source of the Nile to be the Tanganyika, disagreed with Spick. But Burton had to delay again because of illness, this time in Aden, and Speke reported his discovery in London in 1859. The Royal Geographical Society sent a new expedition to check the validity of the discovery and to link it with previous explorations. This time it was Scotsman James Augustes Grant (1827-1892) who accompanied Speke on his journey in 1860.

This time the explorers discovered the main tributary of the lake, the Caguera River. On July 21, 1862, Speke went to the source of the Nile. He sent a telegram to London: “All is well with the Nile.

But Burton and another famous African explorer, David Livingston, raised doubts about Speke’s discoveries. Two books published by Speke in subsequent years did not resolve these doubts. Although the description of the route, ethnographic materials, herbaria, maps, observations of the climate, and other materials of Spick’s expeditions, as well as Grant’s book that came out, should have seemed to convince anyone. But then the opinion that rivers begin in the mountains and cannot flow out of the lake seemed irrefutable. In addition, measurements of the depth of the lake, taken in different parts of it, yielded unequal results.

In 1864, shortly before a public debate with Burton, who was eager to prove that the lake consisted of two isolated bodies of water, Spick was killed while hunting by a careless shot. Burton was convinced his opponent was right after his death. But everything really turned out to be all right with the Nile.

The search for the source of the Nile yielded results in 1858, but it was not until 1859 that John Henning Speke announced that he had discovered the largest lake in East Africa and the source of the White Nile. To confirm his discovery, he had to return again to the shores of the lake, to which he had given the name of Britain’s Queen, Victoria.


The environmental situation around Lake Victoria and in its waters is already of serious concern not only to scientists and governments of neighboring states, but also to the world community. The great lake is dying from human activities.

It is the dependence of the lake level on rainfall that has largely determined its shoaling in recent years. Scientists explain the reduction of precipitation not only by the general warming of the climate, but also by active deforestation in Africa, including in the vicinity of the lake.

There is no hope that this process will stop. For example, a report by the Swiss research institute Biovision, published in 2010, says that African countries need to triple their agricultural production by 2050, as the continent’s population growth continues and may reach two billion people in 40 years. This means that deforestation for farmland will continue. It will not be possible to improve the situation with food in the Lake Victoria area at the expense of fisheries – the same report shows that over the past 10 years on the lake, fishing has decreased by 10 times in some areas. The Ugandan government said in 2008 that it would be forced to stop shipping abroad one of the country’s main export commodities – the Nile perch. Poaching was cited as the reason for the decrease in the catch. However, ecological pollution of the lake has also led to a reduction of fish stocks in it.

Environmentalists are already predicting the death of all life in the lake within the next 50 years due to clogging sediment on the bottom and general environmental pollution. Chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, and industrial waste dumping have already posed a serious threat to all life in the lake’s waters and on its shores.

Another threat to Lake Victoria is the so-called water hyacinth, or eichhornia. It was once imported from Asia by Europeans, who decorated artificial ponds and reservoirs with this really beautiful aquatic plant. But today this delicate purple flower has taken over the entire lake-its overgrowth destroys fish, obstructs navigation and blocks the entrance to harbors, and clogs the filters and pipes at the Owen Falls power plant. The waters belonging to Uganda are already blocked by water hyacinth by 80%. They are trying to fight the dangerous beauty with pesticides.

Another attack is the so-called killer algae, which, multiplying, release toxins that kill fish and are dangerous to humans. An outbreak of such algae in 2009 near the town of Entebbe led to mass fish kills and shortages of drinking water. This phenomenon could have been caused by the accumulation of organic debris.

Conservationists are calling to declare Lake Victoria the heritage of the entire planet and save it by international environmental organizations under the auspices of the UN.

General Information

  • Official name: Lake Victoria, a lake in East Africa, the second largest freshwater lake in the world.
  • The countries of the lake are Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
  • The largest cities on the shores of the lake: Kampala (Uganda), Mwanza (Tanzania).
  • The main ports are Entebbe (Uganda), Mwanza, Bukoba (Tanzania), Kisumu (Kenya).
  • Important airports: Entebbe International Airport, Mwanza International Airport, Kisumu Airport.
  • Important rivers: Kaguera, Victoria Nile (White Nile).
  • The area of the lake: 68,870 km2.
  • Length of the lake: 320 km.
  • The width of the lake: 275 km.
  • Volume: 2,760 km3.
  • Length of shoreline: over 7,000 km.
  • Maximum depth: 80 m.
  • Average depth: 40 m.
  • Height above sea level: 1134 m.

Climate and weather

  • Equatorial monsoonal, two rainy seasons.
  • The average temperature in January is around +22 ºC and in July about +20 ºC.
  • Average annual precipitation of 1500-1600 mm.


  • Area of active industrial development, with a population of 30 million people.
  • Transport artery – numerous ports, from the lake depart from the railway and highway.
  • Fishing.
  • Agriculture (sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, cereals, cattle), intensive deforestation.
  • Enterprises of textile, chemical, pharmaceutical, metal-working, wood-working, leather-footwear, food industries; shipbuilding and ship repair.


  • National parks: Ruma (Kenya), Saiwa (Kenya), Rubondo Island (Tanzania).
  • Entebbe (Uganda): National Botanical Garden, Wildlife Education Center, Geological Museum.
  • Kampala (Uganda): National Museum of Uganda, Center for Archaeological Research, Tomb of the Kings of Buganda.
  • Jinja (Uganda): Ripon Falls, source of the Nile.
  • The ancient capital of the Busoga Kingdom, Bugembe.

Fun Facts

  • The Government of Kenya, in order to increase the inflow of tourists, has given the status of national treasures town near the shore of Lake Victoria – Nyagoma Kogelo. U.S. President Barack Obama’s father grew up here.
  • The islands of Lake Victoria have become a haven for the near-extinct Lake Victoria antelope sitatunga. In Rubondo National Park, this rare antelope, whose hooves reach 10 cm in length, can be watched while hiking – vehicles are prohibited here.
  • In the waters of Lake Victoria there are 300 million years old fossil lungfish, which can hold air in their gills like lungs. It is believed that such fish were intermediate between fish and land animals.
  • Lake Victoria may be home to a mysterious animal, a “luquata,” something like the local “Nessie.” Residents describe the mysterious creature as a “dragon” attacking boats with fishermen. The eyewitness accounts have led scientists to consider the possibility of some kind of dinosaur preserved in the lake. Of course, this is only a hypothesis.
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