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Lake Tanganyika

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Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake. It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, after Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world's longest freshwater lake. The lake is divided among four countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia, with the DRC (45%) and Tanzania (41%) possessing the majority of the lake. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.


The lake is situated within the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the geographic feature known as the East African Rift, and is confined by the mountainous walls of the valley. It is the largest rift lake in Africa and the second largest lake by volume in the world. It is the deepest lake in Africa and holds the greatest volume of fresh water. It extends for 676 km (420 mi) in a general north-south direction and averages 50 km (31 mi) in width. The lake covers 32,900 km2 (12,700 sq mi), with a shoreline of 1,828 km (1,136 mi) and a mean depth of 570 m (1,870 ft) and a maximum depth of 1,470 m (4,820 ft) (in the northern basin) it holds an estimated 18,900 cubic kilometres (4,500 cu mi). It has an average surface temperature of 25 °C and a pH averaging 8.4.

The enormous depth and tropical location of the lake prevent 'turnover' of water masses, which means that much of the lower depths of the lake is so-called 'fossil water' and is anoxic (lacking oxygen). The catchment area of the lake covers 231,000 km², with two main rivers flowing into the lake, numerous smaller rivers and streams (due to the steep mountains that keep drainage areas small), and one major outflow, the Lukuga River, which empties into the Congo River drainage. ' The major river that flows into this lake, beginning 10.6 ka, is the Ruzizi River, entering the north of the lake from Lake Kivu. The Malagarasi River, which is Tanzania's second largest river, enters the east side of Lake Tanganyika. The Malagarasi is older than Lake Tanganyika and was formerly continuous with the Congo river. Lake Tanganyika is presently the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume.


The lake holds at least 250 species of cichlid fish and 150 non-cichlid species, many of which are unique to this lake and most of which live along the shoreline down to a depth of approximately 180 metres (590 ft). Many species of cichlids from Lake Tanganyika are popular fish among aquarium owners due to their bright colors. Recreating a Lake Tanganyika biotope to host those cichlids in an habitat similar to their natural environment is also popular in the aquarium hobby.

Lake Tanganyika is thus an important biological resource for the study of speciation in evolution. The largest biomass of fish, however, is in the pelagic zone (open waters) and is dominated by six species: two species of "Tanganyika sardine" and four species of predatory lates (related to, but not the same as, the Nile perch that has devastated Lake Victoria cichlids). Almost all (98%) of the Tanganyikan cichlid species are endemic to the lake and many, such as fish from the brightly coloured Tropheus genus, are prized within the aquarium trade. This kind of elevated endemism also occurs among the numerous invertebrates in the lake, most especially the mollusks (which possess forms similar to those of many marine mollusks), crabs, shrimps, copepods, jellyfish, leeches, etc.


There are two ferries which carry passengers and cargo along the eastern shore of the lake - the MV Liemba between Kigoma and Mpulungu and the MV Mwongozo, which runs between Kigoma and Bujumbura.

  • The port town of Kigoma is the railhead for the railway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
  • The port town of Kalemie is the railhead for the D.R. Congo rail network.
  • The port town of Mpulungu is a proposed railhead for Zambia.

Air is the quickest and most direct way to get to Lake Tanganyika. There are airstrips at the following towns:

There is limited lodging in the Lake Tanganyika region, but two notable hotels include the Lake Tanganyika Hotel in Kigoma, Tanzania and the Lupita Island Resort and Spa on a private island near Kipili, Tanzania.

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