Lakes, Rivers & Waterfalls
A different way to safari
Lakes, Rivers & Waterfalls in Uganda
The world’s longest river, River Nile; the worlds second-largest lake, Lake Victoria; and Africa’s second deepest lake, Lake Bunyonyi, are all found in Uganda. Also in Uganda are 4 of the African Great Lakes; Albert, Edward, Kyoga and Victoria. There also numerous crater lakes that have been formed over thousands of years in the west and southwest of Uganda
Murchison Falls and Kazinga Channel offer a chance to do boat cruises and adventure activities like white-water rafting and bungee jumping can be done on the Nile in Jinja. Eastern Uganda is not left out Sipi Falls and Lake Bisina in the area.
Geological studies have shown that Lake Victoria has dried up completely a few times in the past, the last time being approximately 17,300 years ago.
Measuring an outstanding 68,000sq. Kms, Lake Victoria is also the largest tropical lake in the world and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Superior in North America.
Lake Victoria is estimated to be about 400,000 years old and was created by the same geological shifts that created the great African rift valleys. Victoria’s shallow basin with an average depth of 40m is in the centre of the great plateau that stretches between the Western and Eastern Rift Valleys.
Rainfall is the primary source of water for Lake Victoria, complemented by thousands of small streams. River Kagera, which starts in Burundi and flows through Rwanda and Tanzania, also empties into Victoria. The Lake Victoria region is one of the most densely populated in Africa, by a host of bantu-speaking tribes in all three countries, and the Nilotic Luo in Kenya. The Ugandan cities of Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja lie along or near the northern coast in an area that is largely inhabited by the Baganda and Basoga tribes.
Before her discovery by Europeans and long after that, Lake Victoria was known by several indigenous names. In Uganda the Baganda whose kingdom surrounded the lake, called it Nalubaale.
The River Nile
The source of the River Nile has long been disputed. Initially, it was thought to be Lake Victoria, However, in 1837, German explorer Dr. Burkhart Waldecker claimed that the source could be traced further back to the headwaters of the River Kagera, the largest river that feeds Lake Victoria. Even as recently as In 2006, explorers from the UK and New Zealand posited that the true source is in Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda. Notwithstanding all the claims the Nile does indeed leave Lake Victoria as Victoria (White) Nile at Ripon Falls (Owen Falls) in Jinja. The Speke Monument, one of Uganda’s tallest monuments stands in the exact place where Speke first beheld the ‘Mighty Nile’.
The authentic monument is located on a picturesque hill on the west bank of the Victoria Nile with panoramic views of Lake Victoria and the great River Nile.
To add to its grandeur, this River that snakes its way across half of Africa has its source at Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and largest tropical lake in the world. River Nile takes its name from the Greek word Nelios meaning river.
Visitors to Uganda will encounter the magnificent Nile in two key places; the launch cruise on the River Nile in Murchison Falls Park is the ultimate game viewing experience for an array of animals and birds, and in Jinja town adrenaline junkies can enjoy several adventure activities that happen on or around the Nile.
The British explorer, Sir Samuel Baker who first visited the falls in the 1860’s reported in his book: “Upon rounding the corner, a magnificent sight burst suddenly upon us.
The most spectacular thing on the Nile
At the top of the falls, six million cubic meters of water from the Victoria Nile crash through a 7meter gap in the rocks each second, before plunging 43meters into a deep gorge, the Devil’s Cauldron.
Unbelievably, Murchison Falls used to be even more powerful before 1962 when massive floods created a second channel and the smaller Uhuru Falls.
Famous visitors to Murchison include Winston Churchill who in 1907 walked the 86kms from Masindi, American President Theodore Roosevelt IN 1909 on an East African Safari, and American novelist Ernest Hemingway who survived a plane crash close to the falls, and Queen Elizabeth in 1959. The incredible Murchison was a backdrop in the 1951 Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart film The African Queen.
The Kazinga Channel
The 32km long Kazinga Channel is located in Queen Elizabeth National Park and links Lake Edward with Lake George. It is an oasis for the fascinating wildlife and boat ride from the Mweya Peninsula, along the Kazinga Channel towards Lake Edward is the park’s most popular attractions. The boat ride enables you to see several animals including elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and hippos and it is also home to various birds species like pelicans, saddle bill storks, African fish eagles and kingfishers. The boat ride lasts around 2 hours long.
Lake Bunyonyi is home to 29 islands scattered across its surface. Most lodges in the area are perched on hilltops with incredible views of the lake. The islands of various shapes and sizes are mostly uninhabited and have fascinating stories:
Akampene Island - The Punishment Island.
Kyahugye Island - the nearest island to the mainland.
Bwama and Njuyeera - Sharp’s Islands.
Bucuranuka Island - The Upside Down Island.
All the islands can be reached by canoe and several have trails for nature walks and hikes to explore the birds, wildlife and flora.
The Batwa are the oldest peoples of Uganda with a rich heritage and enthralling music and dance. The Bakiga have cultivated the steep slopes of the Kigezi hills for centuries and their culture, legends and traditions are a part of the beautiful Bunyonyi. Community visits and cultural tours to the heart of Bakiga and Batwa settlements are recommended.
Lake Mutanda is a small, little known freshwater lake nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Mountain Range, about 20kms north of Kisoro Town. The lake’s clear waters are dotted by several islands that are surrounded by sprawling green hills. All the islands are uninhabited except the biggest one, Mutanda that is inhabited by the Abagesera people.
The lake can be explored on canoes that can also stop off on some of the Islands
Alternatively, visitors can take a mountain bike ride along the steep banks of the lake to the tops of hills for a view like no other. Because the lake is free of bilharzia and large predators visitors are can to swim and sport fish in its cool clear waters. The interactive Buniga Forest Walk around the lake brings hikers in contact with the Batwa, the original inhabitants of the forest
Other Lakes and Rivers
Uganda is full of other lakes and rivers that can be explored, for example:
Lake Mulehe in Bwindi
Lake George and Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Lake Albert in Semliki National Park