Image: Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika, lake in east central Africa, in the Great Rift Valley, bordered on the north by Burundi, on the east by Tanzania, on the south by Zambia, and on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire). The lake, 680 km (420 mi) long, is the longest freshwater lake on the earth. Tanganyika is relatively narrow, varying in width from 16 to 72 km (10 to 45 mi). The greatest depth is 1,436 m (4,710 ft), making it the second deepest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the second largest lake in Africa after Lake Victoria, with a surface area of about 32,900 sq km (about 12,700 sq mi). The surface elevation of the lake is roughly 760 m (2,500 ft). The lake is fed by a number of riversprincipally the Ruzizi, the Malagarasi, and the Kalambobut drains only through the Lukuga, which then flows into the Congo. More than 200 native species of fish inhabit the lake`s waters, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses are found on the shores. The Bantu-speaking peoples who inhabit the area catch fish and cultivate rice in the fertile lake waters and surrounding lands.


Bujumbura, Burundi, is the largest and busiest port on Lake Tanganyika; the city of Kalemie, DRC, is another important port on the lake. The MV Liemba, the main passenger ferry on the lake, is one of the oldest regularly operating steamers in the world. Built by the Germans in 1914, this historic ship connects Bujumbura; Kigoma, Tanzania; and Mpulungu, Zambia.

As far as outsiders are aware

As far as outsiders are aware, Arabs and slave traders did not reach Lake Tanganyika until around the middle of the 18th century. Their main depot on the lake was Ujiji, Tanzania, just southeast of Kigoma on the lake`s eastern shore. With its history as a centuries-old market town, Ujiji is still an active trading post despite the decline of its harbor. European explorers did not arrive along Lake Tanganyika until 1858, when British explorers Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke came upon the lake while trying to locate the source of the Nile.

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