This vast inland sea was first made known to the European world in the mid 1880’s by the English explorers Richard Burton and John Speke in their pursuit of the source of the Nile.
The Lake is bordered by four countries – Zambia in the south, Tanzania and DRC along the east and west coasts; and Burundi in the north. Commonly referred to the meeting place of Africa where north, east, west and south meet, the lake is a kaleidoscope of culture, landscape and nature.
The lifestyle of the lake inhabitants has changed little over the centuries while the influence of Arabia can be seen in the design of the wooden boats and dhows which ply this ancient trade route.
Tradition is still strong in lakeside villages, where fishing is the way of life and respect for the Spirit of the Lake observed.
Regarded as one of the most biologically unique habitats on earth, Lake Tanganyika is also a showcase due to its great stability and age.
Although Zambia can only claim 7% of the lake’s surface area, Nsumbu National Park encompasses some 100 kilometres of the lake’s most pristine shoreline.
Every conceivable shoreline is represented within Zambian waters.
The national park offers a haven to both big game, as well as an important protected area for fish and other aquatic life.
On the eastern side of the park some of the most dramatic landscapes are found with escarpments plunging 400 metres into the lake.
During the rains many of the valleys cascade with running water forming spectacular and remote waterfalls, many without even names.
Cichlids are a family of fish found throughout the world and extremely diverse.
Due to its great age and size, Lake Tanganyika is literally a cichlid paradise with an estimated 300 species of which 95% are endemic.
Cichlids are highly intelligent fishes that tower above the generality of freshwater fishes when it comes to behavioural sophistication. Cichlids exhibit sophisticated parental care of their eggs and newly hatched fry. Many species also care for their fry when they become mobile.
Lake Tanganyika is by no means just another African Great Lake or just another inland sea. Nowhere else can one find as large and as deep a lake whose lifespan encompasses so many millions of years of uninterrupted and gradual evolution.
Within the lake the ‘island’ type of evolutionary system seems to be at work. All around the lake are rocky areas that are like islands, separated from each other by open sandy or grassy areas. The fishes living in the rocky areas are effectively isolated from those in adjacent areas because they are bound to the rocks for protection. Should they leave the rocky areas and venture into the open they would be at the mercy of the predators that roam the open waters. As a result, breeding populations are restricted to their own area and are free to go off in their own evolutionary direction, independent of what is going on in other parts of the lake.
Habitat diversity, feeding techniques (scale eaters, herbivores, and pelagic predators), breeding habits (mouth brooding, bottom brooders, shared parental care in fish) as well as other external factors have all influenced the divergence of fish in Tanganyika.
The largest cichlid in Tanganyika and indeed the world is Boulengerochromis microlepis; whilst the smallest cichlid, at a mere 4 cm, is Neolamprologus multifasciatus. Both species are abundant in the areas around Ndole Bay Lodge and easily observed during a dive.
Lamprologus callipterus have adapted to utilise shells for breeding, the male is far too large to fit into a snail shell but he is three times larger than the female who can fit in.
The species Altolamprologus compressiceps has adapted to life in the lake by developing a unique shape. This high-backed, laterally compressed fish is so narrow that it can squeeze between rock crevices where it feeds upon small freshwater shrimp.
Along with other common species such as Eretmodus cyanostictus Opthalmotilapia, ‘the featherfins’, huge shoals of colourful Cyprichromis, Benthochromis tricoti (Tanganyika princess of the deep) the variety of colours, behaviours, size, shape and habits make the underwater world of Tanganyika as fascinating as any forest or national park above water.
Feisty Cyphotilapia frontosa are a favourite amongst divers, being extremely bold and easily habituated to people.
These are but a few of the myriad of diverse and specialised cichlids that inhabit this incredible lake, Lake Tanganyika and its cichlids are a shining example of nature’s evolution at work.
At over 2,000 km2 Nsumbu offers a wilderness experience that is becoming a rarity the world over. With only Ndole Bay bringing visitors here, the likelihood of encountering another person is virtually nil.
An astoundingly diverse protected area that stretches from underwater habitats teeming with life, through floodplains, mysterious Mushito swamp forests and densely vegetated mountain slopes within a few short kilometres.
Arguably the most pristine shoreline of the whole of Lake Tanganyika falls within the Park boundaries providing scores of idyllic beaches and coves inhabited by hippo and crocodiles.
The last significant Sumbu – Itigi forests in Africa are found here and form impenetrable vast stands of vegetation with their own unique assemblage of plants, insects, birds and mammals. Whilst making game viewing difficult in certain areas the Itigi forests are a favourite dwelling of large herds of buffalo and elephant and a crucial part of the wider African ecosystem.
The wetlands provide one of the most visible populations of the shy Sitatunga antelope and the tiny blue duiker resides on the hill slopes.
The eastern Park boundary is formed by the substantial Lufubu River, remote area waterfalls are finally tamed into large oxbow lagoons before the river empties into Tanganyika feeding vital nutrients into the system.
Whilst not having the teeming herds and large prides of the more famous parks of Africa, there is something special about gazing at a herd of breeding elephant with a vast expanse of water as the backdrop and realising you are probably the only soul for mile
Tongwa GMA is a multiple use conservation zone. Controlled hunting, fishing, wood harvesting and other uses are allowed under supervision and all benefits are utilised by local communities.
The area itself is stunningly beautiful with a vast floodplain rich in birdlife and teeming with herds of Puku, Sitatunga and other wildlife.
Tondwa makes a great game drive destination or overnight camping excursion.
Ndole Bay Lodge intends entering into an agreement with the Community Resource Board to start encouraging tourism in the area and bringing much needed income.
Canoe trips across the floodplain are an absolute must!
Being a GMA also allows certain freedoms to visitors, camping is allowed anywhere.
Northern Waterfalls The far North of Zambia has a huge variety of hidden gems.
The places described here are great spots to visit for the self driving visitor, we recommend making a trip of several days to Ndole Bay and several days back.
Please see our Getting there page for the options of three driving routes.
Almost 30% of all the fresh water in Africa originates in Zambia and a large portion of this is in the Northern province of Zambia.
There are an untold number of waterfalls in the region, all are spectacularly beautiful; from the roaring Lumangwe (AKA Victoria falls of the North) and Kabweluma falls to the gorgeous and picturesque Ntumbachusi.
Many of these hidden gems are rarely visited and several are virtually unknown and even more magnificent for it.
As a display of Nature’s simplistic beauty waterfalls are unequalled, their allure over the ages is evident by the volume of rock art in their immediate vicinity.
Many of the waterfalls of Northern Zambia still hold Mythical significance to the Local people: spirit houses and incantations are still in use….and not for the sake of tourism, the power of these waterfalls is as it has always been.
Kalambo falls Situated several kilometres upstream of where the Kalambo river flows into the lake is Africa’s second highest single drop waterfall. Ndole Bay Lodge offers overnight tours to Kalambo, the climb from the lake is hugely rewarding and the views from the escarpment are truly spectacular!
Lumangwe Falls Is several kilometres downriver from the Kalungwishi bridge on the Mansa to Kawambwa road. An absolutely spectacular waterfall over 100 meters wide and about 30 meters high. Isolated in surrounding Miombo woodlands, one of the best kept secrets of northern Zambia.
Ntumbachusi Falls Situated only a kilometre off the tar road there is a delightful array of swimming holes above the falls and the campsite is charming at the base of the falls. An ideal overnight stopover on the way to Ndole Bay
The Lufubu River forms the eastern National Park boundary and has gouged a 40km long and 10 km wide valley through the escarpment.
The lower reaches of the Lufubu valley are inhabited by local Lungu people, their history intertwined with the history and legends of Nsumbu and Lake Tanganyika.
The upper valley is a beautiful wilderness along the Lufubu river itself, cascading waterfalls and tropical jungle islands are dotted all along the river.
The flat lands and tall Miombo forests are in contrast with the vast escarpment rising into Nsumbu NP and an ideal walking destination.
More than 100 years later, that description of Lake Tanganyika still holds true. Africa’s most magnificent stretch of water, crystal clear, calm, warm, mysterious and very, very deep.