Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is big. Really big. It is Africa's largest lake, the largest tropical lake in the world, and the world's second largest fresh water lake in area. Looks can be deceiving, however because the lake is relatively shallow. This means that its size can greatly vary when rainfall over its basin varies. The lake is only the seventh largest freshwater lake by volume.

The mighty Lake Victoria was thought for a long time to be the source of the Nile. It is in a sense. Waters from the large lake leave by the Victoria Nile to head north to join the Albert Nile in northern Uganda. When the water leaves the massive Lake Victoria, it does so in a spectacular fashion. The water pours out of the lake at the Ripon Falls, also known as Owen Falls Dam, in Uganda. It then goes by the Victoria Nile to Lake Kyoga before joining the Albert Nile. The lake itself is shared by three countries: Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The headwaters for the streams that feed the lake, however, originate from the mountains of Rwanda and Burundi.

The exact southernmost source of the Nile was only found by German explorer Dr. Burkhart Waldecker in 1937. It is a small bubbling spring in the hills of Burundi. Other water sources start their journey in the snow melt fed creeks of the Mountains of the Moon of Rwanda. These mountains were known even in ancient Greece and have always had a sense of mystical reverence about them.

The idea that Lake Victoria was the source for the Nile was proclaimed by it's British discover John Hanning Speke in 1858. Maps of the lake by Arabic explorers, however, date back to the late 1100's and the Roman Ptolemy seems to have drawn a map of the Nile with large lakes near its source. The lake's current name comes, like the other two lakes mentioned below, from British royalty, specifically Queen Victoria.

MODIS image of the lakes of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria. Red squares show fires.