Lake Victoria, also called Victoria Nyanza , largest lake in Africa and chief reservoir of the Nile, lying mainly in Tanzania and Uganda but bordering on Kenya. Among the freshwater lakes of the world it is exceeded in size only by Lake Superior in North America, its area being 26,828 square miles (69,484 square km). An irregular quadrilateral in shape, its shores, save on the west, are deeply indented. Its greatest length from north to south is 210 miles (337 km), its greatest breadth 150 miles (240 km). Its coastline exceeds 2,000 miles (3,220 km). Its waters fill a shallow depression in the centre of the great plateau that stretches between the Western and Eastern Rift Valleys. The lake’s surface is 3,720 feet (1,134 metres) above sea level, and its greatest ascertained depth is 270 feet (82 metres). Many archipelagos are contained within the lake, as are numerous reefs, often just below the surface of the clear waters. Lake Victoria has more than 200 species of fish, of which the Tilapia is the most economically important. The lake’s basin area covers 92,240 square miles (238,900 square km).
The search by Europeans for the source of the Nile led to the sighting of the lake by the British explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858. Formerly known to the Arabs as Ukerewe, the lake was named by Speke in honour of Queen Victoria of England. A detailed survey of the lake was made by Sir William Garstin in 1901. Plans for gradually raising the level of the lake’s waters were completed in 1954 with the construction of the Owen Falls Dam (now the Nalubaale Dam) on the Victoria Nile at Jinja, Uganda. The dam provides hydroelectric power on a large scale and made the lake a vast reservoir. A second dam, Kiira, was later constructed 0.6 mile (1 km) from Nalubaale. It was completed in 1999 and began producing hydroelectric power the next year.
In the South- East Corner of the Lake is Speke Bay. This fascinating area of the lake had its coastline flooded in 1999, after the construction of the Kiira dam, and significant areas of farmland were submerged to form large areas of marsh, with beautiful papyrus grass, and small islands within. The marshes team with hippos and an amazing variety of birds. Only three kilometres from this marsh is the Serengeti National Park, which TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) intends to connect to the lake via a small extension of the park’s Western Corridor.
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