Lake Victoria History & Facts


Learn about Africa’s largest lake and the world’s second-largest lake. Millions of people fish in Lake Victoria and rely on electricity generated by a dam on the Victoria Nile River, which flows into the lake.

The Largest Lake on the Continent

The lake is 68,800 square kilometres in size. This makes it Africa’s largest lake in terms of surface area. Furthermore, it is the world’s largest tropical lake and, after Lake Superior in North America, the world’s second-largest freshwater lake by surface area. Kenya (6 %), Tanzania (49%), and Uganda share the lake’s area (45%).

A History that Predates its Name

A British explorer gave the lake the colonial name Victoria. The name is said to honor Queen Victoria, during whose reign the British greatly expanded their colonial empire. Nam Lolwe (Luo), Nnalubaale (Luganda), and Lake Nyanza were all previous names for the lake. 

An Eventful History

Lake Victoria is especially sensitive to changes in weather and climate. According to geologists, the lake has lost all of its water multiple times throughout history. The most recent time this occurred was over 17,000 years ago.

A Source of the Nile River

Uganda is arguably the most notable of the countries that border Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria empties into the Nile River in Uganda. One of the world’s longest and most important rivers, the Nile makes its way north from Lake Victoria, flowing thousands of miles north through eastern Africa into Egypt and eventually out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Sourced (mostly) from Rain

Lake Victoria provides electricity to the surrounding area as well as a source of water for the Nile River, but the vast majority of the water in the lake is rainwater.

As rainfall is responsible for up to 80% of Lake Victoria’s water, seasonal changes and dry weather can profoundly affect conditions along the lake

A small portion of Lake Victoria’s water comes from local streams in addition to rainfall.

A Relatively Shallow Lake

For tens of thousands of years, Lake Victoria has not been completely dry.

The lake, however, is only about 130 feet deep on average, making it relatively shallow for one of Africa’s Great Lakes. Lake Victoria is 276 feet deep at its deepest point.

Home to the 3000 Islands

The lake has more than 3000 islands, most of which are uninhabited. Ssese Islands in Uganda, a large group of islands in the northwest of the Lake, are becoming a popular destination for tourists.

Larger Lake Victoria Wildlife

When you think of large wildlife that you might see around a large African lake, the mighty hippopotamus is probably the first thing that comes to mind. If that’s the case, Lake Victoria will not let you down.

Hippos in groups are common in the lake’s shallow areas, and they are known to leave the lake’s waters to graze along the shore on occasion. African antelopes are another facet of larger wildlife native to the Lake Victoria area.

The Kagera River is the largest river that flows into the lake 

Numerous rivers and streams drain into Lake Victoria. The principal affluent is the Kagera River, which enters the lake along its western shore, draining the highlands of Burundi and Rwanda. 

Captivating Universe of Fish

Despite its relatively shallow depth, Lake Victoria’s fish world is enormously diverse and fascinating. The variety of fish in Lake Victoria is mind-bogglingly large and complex.

There are hundreds of colourful species of Lake Victoria cichlids, each with its own distinct appearance and behaviour.

While some fish species that once swam in Lake Victoria have become extinct, the lake still contains a number of visually appealing cichlids.


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