Where Is Lake Victoria Located and How Big Is It?

Lake Victoria is located in Eastern Central Africa. The body of water named after Queen Victoria following its discovery by explorer John Hanning Speke is the largest lake in Africa and second-largest lake in the world. 

Lake Victoria, which is said to be about 400,000 years old, was discovered by Speke in 1858 while he was on an expedition with another explorer named Richard Francis Burton on a quest to locate the source of the River Nile. From then to date, Lake Victoria continues to be a very intriguing place that has attracted a lot of attention from people all over the world. However, the impact it has also had on the native residents that surround its region over the past hundreds of years cannot be overemphasized.

Lake Victoria Runs Through 3 African Countries

Lake Victoria it cuts across 3 African countries lying majorly in Uganda and Tanzania with borders in Kenya. The total area of the river is divided between the 3 countries as follows: Tanzania, which holds 49%, has 33,700 km2 or 13,000 sq mi; Uganda, which accounts for 45% of the lake, covers 31,000 km2 or 12,000 sq mi; and Kenya, which holds the smallest percentage with 6%, covers 4,100 km2 or 1,600 sq mi). This makes Lake Victoria the largest lake by area in the whole continent and because of its location in Eastern Central Africa, it is the largest tropical lake in the world. Its coordinates on the map have been given as 1°S 33°E.

Lake Victoria
image source

Among the countries that define the location of Lake Victoria, Uganda is particularly notable. This is so because it is through Uganda that the lake drains into the Nile River which is arguably one of the longest and most relevant rivers in the world. From Lake Victoria, the Nile travels up north passing through eastern Africa right into Egypt before flowing into the Mediterranean sea.

The Region Around The Lake Is Noted For Its Diverse Characteristics

Due to the enormous size of the lake, it cuts across several regions and countries however, there are different aspects to the shores of Lake Victoria at the various regions around it. The lake’s southwestern coast is best described as very steep and it is 300 feet (90 meters) high. On the western side of the lake is the Kagera River and its coast is home to abundant papyrus plants as well as ambatch swamps.

Lake Victoria
Kagera River with abundant papyrus plants: image source

The lake’s northern axis is deeply indented in addition to being flat and bare. The Ugandan cities of Entebbe and Kampala are found on the northern axis and from that area, a tiny channel makes a water path for water to flow into the Kavirondo Gulf that is approximately 16 miles (25 km) wide. The Gulf also spreads out for about 40 miles (64 km) towards the east to the Kenyan city, Kisumu. At the lake’s southeastern corner is Speke Gulf, and at the southwestern corner, one can find the Emin Pasha Gulf.

The regions around Lake Victoria are also notable for its numerous islands, which includes the Ukerewe Island which is the largest in the lake and ranks as the world’s 5th largest lake island. Its area is 530 km2 (200 sq mi) and it can be found in the Ukerewe District of Tanzania. At the northwestern corner of the lake, one can find the popular 84 islands of the Sese archipelago with most of them radiating the beauty of nature.

Lake Victoria Is The World’s 9th Largest Continental Lake

Lake Victoria is known in Uganda as ’Nnalubaale (Home of the Gods), in Kenya, it is known as Nam Lowe (body of endless water). Both of its names are allusions to its grand scale. Several explorers have spent numerous years studying this lake and its dimensions. Lake Victoria has been ascertained the largest lake in Africa by area and the largest tropical lake in the world.

When it comes to freshwater lakes, it comes second behind Lake Superior in North America. It has a surface area approximated at 59,947 km2 (23,146 sq mi). With regards to its volume, Lake Victoria is the world’s 9th largest continental lake, containing approximately 2,424 km3 of water.

The lake’s shape is best described as an irregular quadrilateral shape with its west shore deeply indented. More so, with a length of 210 miles from north to south and a breadth of 150 miles, it has a coastline that exceeds 2000 miles. The surface of the lake is 3,724 feet (1,135 meters) above sea level.

The African Lake Is Not As Deep As People Think

Lake Victoria’s greatest depth that has been recorded, as of now, as 270 feet (82 meters) and averagely, its depth is about 130 feet (40 meters). For one of the greatest lakes in Africa, that is quite shallow. Its catchment area is said to cover 169,858 km2. It also has a shoreline of 7,142 km (4,438 mi) when it is digitized at the level of 1:25,000, and 3.7% of its length is made up of islands. Notwithstanding its shallow depth, Lake Victoria has always had water following through it and it has gone on for a very long time without drying up.

More so, its shallow depths have not prevented it from being the home of a large range of fascinating fishes. One such fish collection in the lake is cichlids and there are more than a hundred different species of this fish, each having distinct features.

How Long Does It Take To Cross The Famous Lake?

Over the years, Lake Victoria has been utilized as a way of transporting freights, passengers, and vehicles across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. There are several ferries operational on the lake while some are dedicated to passengers transport only (Catamarans), some are used for simultaneous transport of goods, passengers, and vehicles (Ro-Pax ferries), and some are used to transport vehicles and goods alone (cargo ships, Ro-Ro ferries and train ferries)

According to reports a typical journey time crossing the lake is said to be 13 hours from Port Bell in Uganda to Kisumu in Kenya, and then 19 hours from Port Bell to Mwanza in Tanzania.

Recap Of Lake Victoria’s Statistics

Lake Victoria’s catchment area: 169,858 km2 (65,583 sq mi)
Maximum Length: 359 km (223 mi)
Maximum Width: 337 km (209 mi)
Shore Length: 7,142 km (4,438 mi)
Surface Area: 59,947 km2 (23,146 sq mi)
Surface Elevation: 1,135 m (3,724 ft)
Average Depth: 40 m (130 ft)
Maximum Depth: 82 m (270 ft)
Water Volume: 2,424 km3 (582 cu mi)

Is It Dangerous & Unsafe To Swim In Iconic Lake?

Despite being a vital resource for the millions of people who live around its shores, this lake isn’t without its perils. Local officials have reported that due to the erratic nature of the weather, and several other unfortunate circumstances, they have estimated death of 5,000 per year in the lake which makes it one of the most dangerous places to swim on the planet.

Moreover, the lake is home to several wild animals among them are hippopotamuses, various reptiles, African clawless otters, snails, marsh mongooses, and several fish species which can be dangerous to man. The risk of (Schistosomiasis) Bilharzia is also an important dangerous factor.

Lake Victoria Is Home To Many Animals Including Crocodiles or Sharks

It is impossible to have a lake as big as Lake Victoria without some reptiles. So yes! There are crocodiles in the lake and they are a terror to people in the area especially fishermen. The crocs mostly found in the lake and its wetlands are Nile crocodiles. The Nile crocodiles are mostly found in freshwaters even though they can survive in salt waters. They are very aggressive species who can take on a variety of prey. They can feed on different species including fishes, mammals, birds, and even reptiles. They are very agile and ambush predators by waiting for hours and days for the right moment to attack.

Lake Victoria
image source

According to reports, Lake Victoria is also home to at least 7 shark species. Some of them are the great whites which can be 7 meters long and weigh close to 3 tonnes; these sharks include the  iridescent elephant sharks, the grey nurses, bronze whalers, the broad broad nose seven gills, the gummies, and the tie and dye Port Jacksons.

What Makes This Prominent Lake So Special?

One of the most incredible things about nature and natural phenomena is that it isn’t prone to human manipulation. If it were to be given by wealth, many countries would not be able to afford a lake as enormous as this but this prestigious lake has chosen to root itself in the African continent.

History has it that it was the search to know the source of the Nile river by Europeans that led to them stumbling upon the lake and this discovery was done by John Hanning Speke sometime in 1858. Although the Lake goes by different names as given by the locals around it – Nam Lolwe (Luo), ‘Nalubaale (Luganda), Nyanza (Bantu languages), and Ukerewe (unknown group) – it is Speke’s name, Lake Victoria, that has somewhat stuck with it. This name, by which it is popularly known, was given to it in reverence to the Queen Victoria of England.

However, it is ironic when international history claims that this enormous lake was discovered in 1858 and then go ahead to name it when it has been in existence for over 400,000 years. Despite all this, Lake Victoria remains a special heirloom in Africa with special features.

The Famed Lake Generates A Significant Amount Of Electricity

Later on, in the early 1900s, another British man, Sir William Garstin went on to make an in-depth survey of the lake. The plan was to gradually raise the level of Lake Victoria’s waters, which was eventually completed in 1954, alongside the building of the electric powerhouse – the Owen Falls Dam, which currently goes by the name, Nalubaale Dam.

This dam is found at Jinja in Uganda and it generates a large scale of hydroelectric power, making the lake a vast reservoir. Another dam which was called Kiira Power Station was built about 0.6 miles (1 km) from Nalubaale in 1999 and by the next year, hydroelectricity power generation began on the dam.

It Also Has Incredible Scenery

As previously stated, the enormous Lake Victoria stretches across three African countries with their diverse cultures and histories. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to explore the diverse and unique culture of the local communities, and sighting some of Africa’s most prized wildlife. However, apart from being a source of enormous cultural wealth for Africans, Lake Victoria is one of the only two places in East Africa where one can actually watch the sunset over water without being on the coast! How cool is that?

Sunset at Lake Victoria: image source

Another special thing about Lake Victoria is some of the wonders found in the body of water itself; one of such is the monumental Ssese Islands. This is an 84 island archipelago located in the northwestern section of Lake Victoria within Uganda. Some of these islands, like Buggala Island, have been made accessible to tourists who are interested in exploring unique local sceneries. Another of Lake Victoria’s famous islands are Maboko Island in Kenya and Ukerewe Island in Tanzania. The entire lake is said to have more than 3,000 islets.

Lake Victoria’s Is Currently Facing Serious Ecological Problem

The world’s most gigantic lake has also seen its fair share of survival struggles and with the ongoing activities around it, researches are of the opinion that Lake Victoria might vanish very soon. The lake’s health is seriously endangered by pollution as it is has become a dumping ground for thousands of sewage on a daily basis. The farmlands around it also contribute to making it very toxic as the chemicals and fertilizers from these lands drain into the lake.

The fish population in Lake Victoria has reached a significantly low level over the years as the place has attracted massive fishing activities to sustain the fish-export industries around. Scientists have also predicted that changes in climatic conditions like rainfall, and temperature may also result in the drying up of the waters in the lake in the near future.

Facts No One Should Forget About Lake Victoria

• It is ranked as the world’s largest tropical lake.

• With reference to its surface area, it is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world

• Rainwater supplies 80% of Lake Victoria’s water while the remaining 20% is sourced from streams that flow into the lake.

• The last time the lake dried up completely was about 17,300 years ago.

• The largest river that drains into Lake Victoria is the Kagera River.

• Lake Victoria is the source of the White Nile which is known as ‘Victoria Nile’ and the Katonga River.

• The basin countries in which Lake Victoria drains off include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Tyna G
Tyna G
A digital nomad with a never-ending curiosity and passion for discovering new places, cultures and creative outlets - this author has been writing her way around the globe for many years. Everything from entertainment to biographies, reviews to travel tips, you’ll always find stunning high quality content coming from her


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