This is the world’s second largest fresh-water lake at 68,000 sq. km and is as large as Ireland. A shallow lake, its deepest part reaching 80m, the waters straddle the equator and consequently has a high rate of evaporation which has a major effect on the local climate causing cloudy skies in the mornings, clearing in the afternoons.
Explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke explored this area extensively in the 19th Century. Today it is widely accepted to be the main source of the Nile. Rivers from west Kenya, north Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda all feed the lake and feeding the river as it journeys 6000km to the Mediterranean Sea.
Three countries share Lake Victoria – Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya with the Kenyan portion being the smallest and mostly within the Winam Gulf.
Most visitors to Lake Victoria are there for the excellent Nile perch fishing or tilapia but there is also wonderful bird life, around 100 species including the rare double-toothed barbet, some fossils and rock paintings to see.
Camps are found on Mfangano Island, Rusinga Island as well as on the main shoreline and are used mainly by fishing guests. A number of guests fly to Lake Victoria for day excursions from the Mara however we recommend spending a night or two if you consider flying all the way to the lake in the first place!
This is the largest of the islands with a small population of around 20 000. There is no local transport and the inhabitants move around on foot along a well-worn network of paths.
On Mfangano Island there are 18 000 year old rock paintings left by the Twa Pygmies who lived in caves dotted around Mount Kwitutu which rises to 1695 m. There are also a wide range of birds, giant monitor lizards, otters, vervet monkeys and some crocodiles are on the nearby Sacred Island. Hippo are not seen but that is not to say there are none left at all although they are kept at bay by the local fishermen.
Smaller than Mfangano, the island is dominated by high cliffs and inhabited by a small population of fishermen. There are three main fossil sites on the island although fossils can be found all over. This is the site where Dr Mary Leakey found a five million year old anthropoid ape skull, the last common ancestor of the great apes and man. Other finds include ancestral elephants, rhinos, pigs, giant, horse sized hyrax and numerous reptiles, plants, rodents and gastropods. Guides are available on the island to talk visitors through the various fossils. There is a chance of finding the spotted-necked otters on the island although sightings are quite few and far between.
Tom Mboya’s Mausoleum is situated on the island. A human rights activist who was assassinated in 1969 his family maintains the mausoleum from next door. The Kenyan government has provided funds to maintain the collection of memorabilia which includes the briefcase he was carrying when he was shot.
Ndere Island National Park
This tiny 4.5 kilometre square island was declared a national park in 1986. Birdlife is prolific, some hippo and the spotted crocodile with some introduced impala sometimes seen on the lake shore.
Lake Victoria affects surrounding parts of Kenya quite dramatically as well as the immediate shoreline. Moist air from the lake rises above the western slopes of the Mau range and feeds the indigenous rain forests with heavy rain. There is a great diversity of plant life from broad-leafed evergreens and semi-decidious trees however on the eastern slopes, lying in the rain shadow, vegetation changes dramatically to species such as cedar and olive trees.
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