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Lake Victoria
The 2nd largest lake in the world

Few inland waters measure up to Lake Victoria, which has a surface area of 68,800 sq km and is bordered by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Unlike the lakes further west, Lake Victoria is not part of the Rift Valley system. Wide and shallow it is only 80 meters deep. The world's second largest freshwater lake (after Canada's Lake Superior), Lake Victoria is fed mainly by rainwater and drains more than 6,450 km to the north, via the Nile, to the Mediterranean Sea.

Source of the Nile discovered
First settled by the Luo peoples some five centuries ago, Lake Victoria was ‘discovered' as a potential source of the Nile by the English explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858.

Rare birds, massive fish
As a result of its unique climate and unusual composition the lake features papyrus beds and marshlands that harbour birds found nowhere else in East Africa. It also offers vast fishing potential, the main commercial species being tilapia, which grow up to 2 kg in weight, and the massive Nile Perch which can weigh up to 227 kg and make up 85% of the catch.

Host to ancient creatures
Other creatures include the lungfish, a unique snake-like creature so-called because it can breathe air into its swim bladder, which then acts as a set of primitive lungs. An earth survivor for over 300 million years, the lungfish may represent one of the transitional phases between aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates.

Realm of the cichlid
Until the 1960's the lake was also home to around 320 different species of brilliantly coloured tropical fish known as cichlids. Now only 8 species remain, their demise being due to the re-introduction to the lake in 1956 of the rapacious Nile Perch, which had been absent from its waters for millions of years.

Carpeted in water hyacinth
Today the lake suffers from an infestation of water hyacinth, which spreads like a floating green carpet across its waters. Originally a native of Brazil, the plant is thought to have been introduced to the lake from Rwanda.

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