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The lakes of Tanzania are as dramatic as they are varied. On soda lakes, like Manyara and Lake Natron, wildlife gathers on the desolate salt flats and shimmering views take on a lunar landscape which at sunset descends into shades of various pastels. The soda lakes are alkaline and brackish, home to large populations of flamingos, storks, and herons. Bird watching and game viewing are popular activities, but must be done from a distance as the soda flats along the lake shore are difficult to walk or drive upon. Still, a visit to the soda lakes of Tanzania is an unforgettable experience. Game still thrives along their unpopulated shores and the sheer ethereal beauty of the water, colored silver and white by the mineral deposits, Is an unforgettable part of the African experience. Towns and industries take full advantage of the freshwater lakes in the region, the largest of which is Lake Victoria (Nyanza) in the northwest of the country. Fishing has long been a mainstay of residents who live around the natural resources, and transport across Tanzania’s many African borders is also an economically profitable activity. Because of the easy supply of fresh water irrigation, Tanzanians also farm the areas around fresh water lakes extensively, and both subsistence and cash crops are grown around their shores. Visitors to the fresh water lakes can embark on fishing trips, hikes and go swimming, and enjoy the rich bird – and fish – life that surrounds the water. In many populated areas, cultural tourism programs are also popular.
- LAKE EYASI (MANYARA REGION – NORTHERN TANZANIA)
A salt and rift valley lake situated between the Rift Valley’s Eyasi escarpment and the Kidero Mountains, the area around Lake Eyasi is home to the Hadzabe (Hadza) people, some of the last remaining hunter – gatherers on the African Continent. The Hadzabe (Hadza) have inhabited the acacia forests and scrubland around Eyasi for over 10,000 years and visits to nearby clans can be arranged through local guides in the area.
LAKE EYASI AT A GLANCE
Lake Eyasi is where four (4) tourism wonderlands meet. To the northwestern tip of the lake, lies the shadow of Oldeani Mountain, on the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority(NCCA), and the horizon is dominated by the crate Highlands: to the north, beyond the escarpment, are the plains of the Serengeti. Over 100 years ago, when the stronger Maasai tribe moved into the Ngorongoro and Serengeti, the Datooga and the indigenous Bushmen living there were pushed south. To the Southeast of the lake is the Yaeda Chini Valley, home to the Wahadzabe (Hadza) and Datoogas that have made Lake Eyasi and its surrounding bush and forests their home since the last millenia.
ACCESSIBILITY / GETTING THERE
A 4WD is recommended. It is about 240 km from Arusha town. Lake Eyasi is accessible through the southwest of Karatu town. After an over two hours drive on rough roads to get there at the northern shore of Lake Eyasi. This friendly, tourist area is famous for two remote tribes where you can get real insight into the way of life of some of Tanzania’s fascinating tribes, most noticeably the Wahadzabe (Hadza) and Datooga people. Eyasi is not somewhere to come in search of game, but it is an interesting part of Tanzania to see if you are prepared for a bit of slow time. This region is particularly suited for exploring on foot and a day. Half – day hikes are also highly recommended. It is a beautiful, peaceful piece of real estate, which everyone should experience, if you enjoy hiking.
LAKE EYASI IS AN ALKALINE LAKE (SODA LAKE)
Lake Eyasi is a soda lake located at the southwest corner of the Ngorongoro crater in the conservation area highlands. The Lake is around 1,050 sq.k (400 square miles) and is 1,040 metres (3400 feet) above sea level. The main tributary is the Sibiti River and the secondary tributary is the Baray River. The source of Baray River has now become one of the primary onion growing regions of Tanzania. The scenery of Lake Eyasi differs dramatically to that of the surrounding areas. Compared to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Highlands this area seems down right tropical. The palm trees lining its banks are the only sign bordering the lake. Other trees in this area include the umbrella thorn acacia and sandpaper bush. Lake Eyasi’s water levels vary between the rainy and dry seasons. During the dry season, the lake is almost non – existent. The meadows along the shores of the lake and the forests are home to a wide variety of wildlife, and animals are forced to share whatever water is left, which makes for easier wildlife viewing. And the lake can get quite deep during the rainy season and it attracts hippos that like to cool off in its brackish waters. Among the acacia and doom palm forests at the northeast end of the lake by small lava outcropping is located Kisima Ngeda Farm. This owes its survival to freshwater springs in the area that allows grass and vegetables to grow. The spring also keeps a small reservoir used as a small tilapia fish farm. The farm is owned by a German family whose main source of income is fresh milk produced from the cows they keep and sold in local villages. Within the farm borders are high – end tented camp, Kisima Ngeda boasts of an interesting glorious past. The rustic timber rooms with wide verandas stand on a patch of high ground, most magnificent views of the lake, giving the impression of an Ocean front. Because of its incredible rugged beauty and unique isolation, many well – off visitors and tourists spend their holiday here.
CLIMATE AT LAKE EYASI
The weather is nearly always hot and intense, as the lake is located in the floor of the Rift Valley, the oldest rift in the world. The rift was thought to have opened over 65 million years ago, shortly after dinosaurs became extinct.
BIRD WATCHING AND BIRD LOVERS
Bird lovers will be in paradise here, as the lake attracts vast numbers of birds of all sizes and colours. Some main birds to be found here include African spoonbill, greater and lesser flamingos, gray headed gulls, great white pelicans, pied avocet and yellow – billed storks. Flamingos, pelicans and plenty of others wanders frequent along the shallow soda lake and there is some good walking to be had in the form of expeditions from the Ngorongoro highlands down to the lake shore. The main fish found in the lake are catfish and lungfish, and only a few members of the local communities are involved in fishing activities.
VISITOR FACILITIES / ACCOMMODATION
Several pleasant, private camp sites are located in the forest clearings by the lake: these provide grassy tent spaces, shower and toilet facilities made as far as possible from local materials. At night a cool breeze keeps away mosquitoes
- LAKE BABATI (MANYARA REGION – NORTHERN TANZANIA)
Lake Babati, rift valley lake, is an important icon of Babati township, the Manyara regional headquarters, in northern part of Tanzania. The Lake is surrounded by five wards of Babati, Bagara, Bonga, Singe and Nangara. Its size is about 18 square kilometers and its catchment area is about 384 square kilometers. The lake is one of the freshwater lakes located at an elevation of 1,435 meter above sea level (4°150’ N, 35°43’ 60”E. Originated as the result of tectonic event in the past thousand years, lake Babati is part of Lake Manyara ecosystem. In 1960s and 1970s, the lake was the sole home of hippopotamuses in northern Tanzania. Today that is a story of the past as a vast part of Lake Babati is now being covered by weeds, twigs and shrubs, which are threatening to overlay the entire water body. The number of hippos has dropped to 150 from 400 in 1990s. Lake Babati is an important habitat for hippopotamuses, fish and other fauna, and plays a big role in creating micro climate in the area.
- LAKE TANGANYIKA (WESTERN TANZANIA)
Travel to Lake Tanganyika is mostly centred around visiting Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Park in Kigoma region. The lake’s dark waters from the world’s longest and second deepest freshwater lake, and the area is a regional centre for building dhow – fishing boats.
LAKE TANGANYIKA AT A GLANCE
Lake Tanganyika was “discovered” in 1858 by English explorers – Richard Burton and John Speke while seeking the source of the Nile. Creating a 672 km long boundary, Lake Tanganyika stretches through Tanzania, Burundi, DRC and Zambia. Its great depth is associated with the Great Rift Valley, which has also created its steep shoreline, with a depth of 1,433 metres (4,700 feet), which is an astounding 642m below sea level. It was the allure of this famous lake, which lured tourists around the world to visit. Common aquatic species to be spotted on Lake Tanganyika including the Egyptian goose, Saddle – billed and Open – billed stork, African jacana, Hammerkop and Squacco heron. Tanganyika water cobras, aquatic snakes, are the lake’s many unusual species. They are particular fish hunting snakes found nowhere else in the world except Lake Tanganyika.
- LAKE NYASA (MALAWI) (SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS OF TANZANIA)
Also known as Lake Malawi, the Tanzania side of Lake Nyasa borders the Livingstone Mountains and stretches out towards Malawi and Mozambique. The towns of Kyela, Itungi, and Matema make good bases from which to visit the lake, which contains almost a third of the known Cichlids (a species of freshwater tropical fish) in the world.
- LAKE MANYARA (NORTHERN TANZANIA – IN MANYARA REGION)
Lake Manyara is situated inside Lake Manyara National Park, the lake is home to large numbers of flamingos, pelicans, storks and other plentiful bird life, as well as hippos that can be observed at close range. Hot springs trickle into the shallow waters and during the dry season the lake shore retreats to leave striking white soda deposits in its wake.
- LAKE NATRON (NORTHERN TANZANIA – IN ARUSHA REGION)
A soda lake at the base of the active OL DONYO LENGAI VOLCANO, the area around Lake Natron is often described as having a desolate and almost lunar beauty. Walks around the Lake, and to the streams and waterfalls along the nearby escarpment, make for a fantastic adventure off the beaten track.
- LAKE VICTORIA / NYANZA( Mwanza, Kagera, Mara, Geita, Shinyanga and Simiyu Regions)
By far the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria’s fishing industries and the agricultural land around its shores has made the area an economic centre of Tanzania. Although fishing is a traditional mainstay of the region, coffee and cotton production are increasing the economic importance of the area, especially in Mwanza region. Telecommunications and transportation are also growing industries and have encouraged growth in the region, making it one of the most populated in the country. Trade with neighbouring Uganda and Kenya means that the ports on Lake Victoria are bustling with growth and economic activity. For visitors, attractions include trips to Rubondo Island and Saanane Island National Parks, and participating in various cultural tourism programmes on offer around the area. The lake has some spectacular varieties of fresh water tropical fish, many of which are exported to aquariums all over the world. Its shores are peaceful and pristine, and offer a quiet alternative to the constant movement and bustle of a safari itinerary. Gently sloping hills lead to the soft blue waters of the lake, as fish eagles swoop at dawn and dusk eager for the small fish that swim in Victoria’s rich waters. Bird watching and fishing trips make popular excursions and boating trips and hikes can be arranged.
The largest river in Tanzania is the Rufiji, which drains the southern highlands region and much of southern Tanzania. Other major rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean include the Ruvu, the Wami, the Pangani and the Ruvuma. Most of Tanzania’s lesser rivers drain into the country’s three major lakes – Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) or into other inland basins.