Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest (660km), second-deepest (more than 1436m) and second-largest (by volume) freshwater lake. At somewhere between nine and 13 million years old, it’s also one of the oldest. Thanks to its age and ecological isolation it’s home to an exceptional number of endemic fish, including 98% of the 250-plus species of cichlids. Cichlids are popular aquarium fish due to their bright colours, and they make Lake Tanganyika an outstanding snorkelling and diving destination. Not all of the lake is bilharzia free, so it’s best to check locally before diving in.
Kigoma is the only proper town on the Tanzanian shore, though small, rarely visited settlements line the shore. They offer a fascinating look at local life, while the rolling countryside around the villages is beautiful and ideal for day treks. Besides the services of the MV Liemba, lake taxis travel the shoreline at least every two or three days. Getting around can be difficult, and sometimes expensive, but with perseverance you can, eventually, get to all lakeside towns and villages overland by a mix of some of the world’s most overcrowded buses or by a variety of boats.
Travelling in western Tanzania has long been the preserve of the determined. You had to put up with atrocious roads and be ready to rough it on the backs of trucks. The roads were so bad that buses simply couldn’t get through. Today things are changing fast and almost all the main routes are being upgraded and paved. This is reducing journey times and allowing buses to replace trucks. In fact, if you stick to the main routes it’s very unlikely you will need to ride in anything other than a bus. Despite this, road conditions are more challenging here than in much of Tanzania and journey times are often long. Many people take to the skies instead. There is an increasing range of internal flights linking towns and parks in western Tanzania.