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Your secret African travel destinations:
Riches of Lake Tanganyika
Its mere size makes it a small universe of its own, providing the traveller with large cultural and natural variety. Exploring the shores of Lake Tanganyika is a pleasant experience that can take a lifetime.
However, the legendary old ferry MV Liemba does not take a lifetime. Once a week, this boat stemming from German colonial times still cruises up and down the lake. The Liemba, known as Graf von Götzen until 1917, definitively is the best way to travel on Lake Tanganyika.
The ferry, operational since 1913, was made world famous by its role in the 1951 film "African Queen", was carefully sunk by its German crew in 1917 to prevent it from falling into British enemy hands. It was lifted again in 1924, put into traffic in 1927 and overhauled in 1970 and 1993. Read more about the fascinating story of the Liemba and its current state here.
The somewhat run-down ferry has its main base in Kigoma, the main Tanzanian city on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and a regional centre. The bustling town is a charming destination by itself, surrounded by rugged mountains and lush forests.
Kigoma is connected to Dar-es-Salaam by rail and air, making it one of the easiest places to start your Lake Tanganyika journey. It is also close to several other "secret" Tanzanian destinations, including chimpanzee safaris in both Gombe Stream National Park - made world famous by Jane Goodall - and Mahale Mountains National Park.
The Gombe park, also bordering Lake Tanganyika north of Kigoma, is an absolute highlight. It can be reached by lake taxis or chartered boats from Kigoma. Here, small groups are guided through the mountainous forests in search of chimpanzee families and other primates. Views are spectacular and the park also is perfect for hiking and swimming. Accommodation is available.
On the MV Liemba
Back to Kigoma, the MV Liemba currently heads south towards Mpulungu in Zambia every Wednesday afternoon, but timetables are often changing. There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd class cabins, all at a reasonable price.
Between Kigoma and Mpulungu, the MV Liemba stops at 19 small Tanzanian towns, most of which do not have a quay. Small boats gather at the ferry's side, serving as taxi boats for passengers and goods for and bringing foo
Time on the Liemba is spent gazing at the views, relaxing with a good book, chatting with local travellers or in the bar and restaurant. To get access to the latter, you need a first class ticket. Here, beers and soft drinks are cold and food is tasty but the menu is limited.
Mpulungu, Zambia's only port, is worth a short stay. The fishermen town offers fresh lake delicacies, and Mpulungu is a good destination to arrange sports fishing trips into the lake. Catches include Goliath tigerfish, Nile perch and many of the lake's endemic fish species.
The Zambian town also offers one of the best opportunities to take a swim in Lake Tanganyika. Most of the shores are unsafe because of crocodiles, but noisy and trafficked Mpulungu is considered safe from both reptiles and the bilharzia parasite disease (all of Lake Tanganyika is bilharzia-free). Bathing temperatures are heavenly and the water is lovely.
Mpulungu also has a long and tiring road connection to Lusaka and the rest of Zambia and Southern Africa. The region south of Mpulungu boasts of several national parks and game reserves, well equipped with tourist lodges and safari guides.
Burundi and DR Congo
From Kigoma, there is also a passenger ferry to Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. The daily MV Mwongozo uses about 14 hours on the trip, but services are suspended from time to time. Also this ferry has three classes, all reasonabl
Here, in the northern part of Lake Tanganyika, landscapes are greener and more rugged that in the south. Actually, most agree it is the most beautiful part of the lake, with Burundi and eastern Congo being very interesting travel destinations.
It therefore is a petty that security issues leave you best advised to avoid both Bujumbura and the western, Congolese shore of Lake Tanganyika. Both countries are theoretically consolidating peace, but there may be very sudden rushes of uncontrolled violence in Burundi - including the capital - and all of eastern DR Congo.
Going there anyway, you must be very well oriented about current political risks and you should have local contacts that can provide you with information and protection in case anything happens.
On the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania and Zambia, you should not meet any such problems. Here, you can be on a total holiday mode, fully exploiting the riches of this great lake.
Your secret African travel destinations series
This article is one in an afrol News series dedicated to the many genuine and "undiscovered" travel destinations in Africa, published daily throughout the (northern) summer of 2010. Click here to get more inspiration and new ideas for travelling to the great and welcoming continent of Africa.
By staff writer
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