Where is Lake Tanganyika Located and How Deep is It?

Lake Tanganyika is located in four African countries, including Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Zambia. It ranks as the world’s second deepest lake with an average depth of 570 m (1,870 ft.) and a maximum depth is 1,470 m (4,826 ft.) measured from the northern basin.

Africa is blessed with some of the most spectacular wonders of the world and one such is Lake Tanganyika. It is located at a very auspicious place as the lake serves as a demarcation between Eastern and Western African regions. This explains why it runs between 4 countries before it finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean via the Congo River.

This natural beauty also ranks as the longest freshwater lake in the world and the second-deepest and largest river after lake Baikal in Siberia, Asia. More so, for the places it flows through, Lake Tanganyika has enhanced the productivity of those regions and serves as a source of income to more than 10 million people in those precincts.

Which Countries Share Lake Tanganyika?

Although Lake Tanganyika had been in existence for hundreds of years, its discovery is however credited to the European explorers Richard Burton and John Speke. These men were on a wild goose chase to find the source of the Nile sometime in the 1800s. In the course of their journey, they arrived at Ujiji in Tanzania where they found the vast Lake Tanganyika whose waters spread across, Tanzania, Burundi, Congo DR, and Zambia.

Tanzania claims up to 46% of the lake, DRC has 40%, whereas  Burundi and Zambia share the remaining quota. The lake is also known to have notable ports which can be found at Kalemi in Congo DR, Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, Mpulungu in Zambia, and Kigoma, as well as Ujiji in Tanzania. More so, the waters of Lake Tanganyika are known to drain into the Atlantic Ocean, passing through the Congo River.

Lake Tanganyika’s location is also notable for lying in the floral regions between Western and Eastern Africa. This accounts for the many Bantu speaking natives living in the lake’s eastern region whose origins can be traced to the Congo River basin region.

How Long & Deep Is Lake Tanganyika?

Lake Tanganyika which covers a catchment area of 231,000 km2 (89,000 sq mi) is ranked as Africa’s longest lake and it holds about 16% of the available freshwater in the world. This makes it the longest freshwater lake in the world and in terms of volume, it is the second-largest, coming second to lake Baikal in Russia. Its maximum length on record is measured at 673 km (418 mi) and has a maximum width of 72 km (45 mi). The lake is known to also spread across the ground, covering approximately 32,600 km2 (12,700 sq mi) with a 1,828 km (1,136 mi) shoreline.

Lake Tanganyika
image source

Another notable feature about Lake Tanganyika is its depth and as of now, it ranks as the world’s second deepest. Its recorded average depth has been given as 570 m (1,870 ft) whereas its maximum depth is 1,470 m (4,826 ft) measured from the northern basin. Its water volume has also been estimated to be 18,900 cubic kilometers.

More so, it is known that the rivers Ruzizi, Malagarasi, and Kalambo all drain into the lake whereas the primary outflow from it is the Lukuga River. However, the water level in the lake is greatly controlled by evaporation and precipitation as 90% of the lake’s water is gotten from rainfall and direct evaporation accounts for 90% of the lake’s water loss.

Are There Crocodiles or Sharks In Lake Tanganyika?

A natural beauty like Lake Tanganyika also comes with its dangers. The fearful creatures swimming in Lake Tanganyika are not sharks, rather they are vicious and hungry reptiles. One such that have found their home in this big African lake are crocs and a notorious one is the Nile crocodile who goes by the name Gustave. The beast has shredded hundreds of people into pieces with its giant teeth.

However, recent findings revealed that the population of crocodiles that can be found in Lake Tanganyika has drastically reduced. This is mainly due to the fact that crocs became a source of food during the 12-year civil war in Burundi. Only a few of them can now be seen in the lake and its surroundings. More so, some individuals in that region like a man named Albert Ngendra, have taken it upon themselves to preserve some of such creatures that face the danger of extinction. He reported bought some baby crocs some years back to add to his collection of wildlife pets which included snakes, tortoises, pigeons, and a monkey at then.

What Makes Lake Tanganyika Special?

Apart from being a lake with rich historical facts, there are several other unique features of Lake Tanganyika’s flora and fauna that makes it very special. One such is the intriguing nature of the water in the lake which has been described as extremely transparent to the extent that one can see as deep as 20 meters into the lake. Another remarkable phenomenon about this body of water is the uniformity in its temperature as it has been discovered that all regions in the lake have the same temperature apart from the lower regions which are about 3°C cooler than the surface.

Lake Tanganyika
image source

The biodiversity of the marine life of Lake Tanganyika is also another unique feature. As of now, it has more than 250 varieties of cichlid fish out of which 98% are endemic. This makes it the only lake in the African continent to have such a high collection of endemic cichlid. This massive number has been attributed to the lake’s long years of existence and its marine life can only be compared to Lake Malawi which is equally an ancient body of water in Africa.

More so, on the east coast of the lake, tourists have the opportunity to explore a section preserved for chimpanzees at the Mohale Mountains National Park in Tanzania. It’s also thrilling that the only means of moving through the region is by foot as the boats usually drop tourists very close to the park to continue the rest of their adventure on foot. Another park close to the northern axis of Lake Tanganyika is Gombe Stream National Park which is notable for being the home of the Kakakela Chimpanzee Community – these chimpanzee groups have been widely researched on and more studies are still ongoing about them.

Lake Tanganyika Stands At The Risk Of Extinction

Over the years, the productivity of Lake Tanganyika has dropped drastically, and the reasons for such range from human activities down to climatic conditions. The lake which is a source of food and income for many people in that region has witnessed an upsurge in fishing activities, especially since the various fish species are being exported. This demand has wreaked havoc since fishing companies use all sorts of methods to catch fish, including fingerlings which in the long run can lead to the ultimate extinction of the different fish species in the lake.

Fishermen at Lake Tanganyika image source

The issue of deforestation along the shores of the lake is another factor that is threatening the existence of the lake. More so, there’s also the problem of climate change, especially when it increases the temperature of the lake. The ultimate impact of this global warming crisis might not just stop at excessive warming up of the lake but there is a possibility that excess water can also be lost which would eventually lead to the drying up of Lake Tanganyika – this fate is also the same for several lakes around the world, including the notable Lake Victoria.

A Quick Summary Of Lake Tanganyika’s Statistics

  • Lake Tanganyika’s Catchment Area: 231,000 km2 (89,000 sq mi)
  • Maximum Length: 673 km (418 mi)
  • Maximum Width: 72 km (45 mi)
  • Average Depth: 570 m (1,870 ft)
  • Maximum Depth: 1,470 m (4,820 ft)
  • Surface Area (Maximum Area): 32,900 km2 (12,700 sq mi)
  • Water Volume: 18,900 km3 (4,500 cu mi)
  • Shore Length: 1,828 km (1,136 mi)
  • Surface Elevation: 773 m (2,536 ft)
  • 3 Major River in-flows: Ruzizi River, Malagarasi River, Kalambo River
  • 1 Major River Out-flow: Lukuga River
  • Mean Water Temperature: 25 °C
  • Average pH Value: 8.4
  • Completely Frozen Over: No
  • Shoreline Composition:
    31% of sand beach
    43% rock
    21% sand beach and rock
    5% wetland
  • Population in the lake’s region:
    1 million persons at the shoreline
    10 million persons in the catchment area


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