Discover the Longest Lake in the World

Lake Tanganyika

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Updated: July 26, 2023

Share on:


Of all the water on our planet, only 1.2% is freshwater. The world is 71% water, and the oceans occupy 96.5% of Earth, so the remaining 3.5% belongs to rivers, ponds, streams, and lakes. Take note: the freshwater mostly comes from lakes.

Lakes are almost steady, slow-moving bodies of water suspended between masses of land. They are often set apart from any outlet, making them localized in a basin. Most lakes contain freshwater. They are also home to many ecosystems that provide a habitat for many plants and animals.

There are records of deep or large lakes, but have you ever found out about the longest lake recorded? It’s so long that it is sometimes mistaken for a river! Today, let’s dive deeper and discover the longest lake in the world.

What is the Longest Lake in the World?

Lake Tanganyika is considered Central Africa’s natural wonder and the world’s longest lake.

Situated along the borders of four African countries, namely Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Burundi. Lake Tanganyika is considered Central Africa’s natural wonder and the world’s longest lake.

Lake Tanganyika is a freshwater lake that stretches 676 kilometers long, which is 739,283 yards! It is also 50 kilometers, or 54,681 yards wide. It has a maximum depth of 1,470 meters or 4,820 feet. Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake next to Lake Baikal in Russia and the fifth largest on the planet. It was accidentally discovered in 1858 by two European explorers while searching for the source of the Nile River.

The lake is considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as Africa’s most significant reservoir of fresh water and the second greatest in the world. It is also considered one of the most biologically abundant lakes on Earth as it is home to over 2,000 species of life forms found in the lake, and over half are located around its area and shorelines.

What lies within the history of Lake Tanganyika?

Considered one of the 20 ancient lakes on Earth, Lake Tanganyika is estimated to have been formed around 20 million years ago and is about 10 million years old. This ancient lake was created during the rifting of the African plates that gave birth to the Great Rift Valley, which happened 12 million years ago. Because of this, the African Great Lakes were significantly affected by the ice age that took place 18,000 years ago, which increased the aridity within Lake Victoria and dried it up completely. Also, the shorelines of Lake Tanganyika and another lake named Lake Malawi fell 400 meters below their present levels today.

Two thousand years ago, the first Bantu groups from Central Africa, called the Ha tribespeople, arrived to live along the shorelines of Lake Tanganyika. Despite being situated in Central Africa, they always believed in their oral tradition that they had always lived in the region they call Buha.

In 1858, European explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke were searching for the source of the Nile River when they located Lake Tanganyika. They continued until they found the source, which was Lake Victoria.

During the First World War, the lake also served as a battlefield between the British and the Germans through naval engagements. Their purpose was to mainly secure control of the lake as it held great importance when it came to resources. Since the start of the war, the Germans had already dominated it and used it to their advantage.

What are the features of Lake Tanganyika?

Lake Tanganyika has the same temperature as its deepest regions, with only a three-degree difference from its surface temperature.

The lake’s water is very clear. You could visibly see its surface beneath, reaching down to 20 meters. While looking at its surface beneath the water, you can see wonderful underwater geological sights such as huge boulders, fascinating drop-offs, and a shell-covered bottom. 

A strange phenomenon also happens in this lake: uniform temperature. Its deepest regions have the same temperature, with only a three-degree difference, from its surface temperature. 

What is Lake Tanganyika famous for?

As much as it is famous for being the longest lake on the planet, Lake Tanganyika is also renowned as a tourist destination for tourists and locals. There are many tourist accommodations around the lake, even in the southernmost part of the lake. There are also a lot of recreational opportunities here, such as water activities like diving, snorkeling, sailing, and hiking. You can as well visit the fishing villages of the locals.

It is also safe to swim within the lake’s clear waters, but cautious approaches should be taken to avoid swimming too far from the shore. Huge waves, rain, or bad weather are fairly common here, and visibility within the water is reduced as a result.

What is the wildlife thriving in Lake Tanganyika?

Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika has over 2,000 species of plants and animals thriving in and around the area.

Others have said that no place on earth holds such a variety of life as Lake Tanganyika. It is indeed true, as the lake has over 2,000 species of plants and animals thriving around the area. This makes it one of the richest freshwater ecosystems in the world. The most abundant species found here are fish. Over 350 different species were found, with at least 250 species of cichlid fish and 150 species of non-cichlid fish. 95% of the fish species living here are endemic to the lake, resulting from long-term isolation. Because of this, fish from the lake has become one of the primary protein sources for the locals living around the area.

Different species of arthropods can also be found here. Aside from fish, several mollusks were found: crabs, shrimp, copepods, jellyfish, leeches, etc. Amphibians are also common. Birds like vultures, heron, wagtail, eagle, kingfisher, osprey, hornbill, and bee-eater mainly fly around the water and shorelines.

There are also mammals and reptiles found around Lake Tanganyika, such as:

It is not surprising that many people regard Lake Tanganyika as one of the most biologically unique ecosystems. It is known for its ability to sustain abundant life even in its old age. Lake Tanganyika is indeed a wonder, and it is just one place we’re sure you will never take your eyes off.

Where Is Lake Tanganyika Located on a Map?

Lake Tanganyika is located in the Albertine Rift in a mountainous valley. Thus, its surface elevation is 2,536 feet. The major rivers flowing into the lake are the Ruzizi, Malagarisi, and Kalambo Rivers, while the Lukuga River is its major outflow. Nearby settlements are Kigoma, Kalemie, Bujumbura, and Mpulungu.

Share this post on:
About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.