Fancy a beach holiday but not by the sea? Some of Africa’s enormous inland lakes provide fabulously unique beach retreats on soft sandy beaches with warm turquoise waters to swim in, whilst others provide breath-taking mountain and forest scenery on its lakeshores. Like the American Great Lakes these are Africa’s hidden gems. With all that these have to offer who needs the sea?!
Most people will have heard of Lake Malawi, also called Africa’s Lake of Stars by the explorer David Livingstone. It has long been an exciting holiday destination famous for its clear blue waters, beautiful mountain scenery, excellent diving opportunities and stunning sandy beaches. Lake Malawi is part of the Great Lakes region in the East African Rift system and can be found between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. It is third largest lake in Africa and the second deepest at an unbelievable 700m or 2300ft deep! It also ranks as the ninth largest in the world at 580 kms long and 75 kms wide. In fact it is much more like an inland sea than a lake.
The lake and its environs are protected by national park status and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hundreds of species of fish are endemic to the lake and as such mean the lake is not only a great holiday destination but also vitally important environmentally. There are lots of fishing villages along the lake and also beach hotels but at the same time there are long stretches of totally uninhabited beaches and lakeshore, lapped by crystal clear waters and surrounded by lush greenery. Kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and water skiing are just some of the lake activities available to visitors. Accommodation ranges from campsites to luxury hotels and everything in between. We offer a variety of places to stay including Pumulani with its stunning views, Chintheche Inn which is in an area famous for its beaches and Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island.
Lake Tanganyika was discovered by Burton and Speke in the mid-1800s during their search for the source of the Nile. Its central location mean that Lake Tanganyika’s waters meet the borders of Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and Zambia. It is the longest fresh water lake in the world at 677 kms long (but only 50kms wide) and the second deepest after Lake Baikal in Russia. The immense depth is because it lies in the Great Rift Valley, which also has created its steep shoreline and which makes it very scenic. In fact the depth of the lake reaches an incredible 1433 metres (4,700 feet) in places which is an astounding 642m below sea level! This beautiful lake is also a fabulous place to visit for a beach holiday and is a place for a truly romantic getaway.
Greystoke Mahale is on the Tanzanian side of the lake and is in a perfect location. The camp is right on the white sandy beach with the most scenic background imaginable of unspoilt forest and the 8,000ft high Mahale mountains. The camp was built to blend into the background so the little private wooden chalets known as bandas have been built from reclaimed wood from wrecked or retired dhows from the villages along the lakeshore. Old fisherman’s canoes as used as ladders and thatch is made from palm trees. Its remote location and its small size (just 6 bandas) means that the beach is incredibly peaceful and unspoilt and the whole atmosphere of the place is enchanting.
Lake Kivu is another one of the African Great Lakes. It lies on the border Rwanda and Congo DR, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. It is 89 kms long and 48 kms wide and is the sixth largest lake in Africa. A stay on the lakeshore makes for a fantastic stopover between the national parks of Rwanda and a relaxing to contrast to the demanding exercise of gorilla trekking.
The scenery here is stunning with the lush verdant fields and terraces leading up the high peaks of the surrounding mountains and cloud forests. This lake not only has beaches but it also has historic colonial towns and stunning views everywhere you look. You can stay at the Lake Kivu Serena, part of the upmarket Serena chain of hotels, or if you are looking for somewhere smaller and more intimate then the Cormoran Lodge is the place for you. Lake Kivu really is the definition of a hidden gem!
Finally for something a little different this beautiful lake in Ethiopia may not be somewhere you have heard of but for those of you who fancy visiting the incredible historic sites of Ethiopia, this place makes a fantastic finale. Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, gives you the chance to relax on the shores of the lake for some much needed time out. The lake is 96kms long and 50 kms wide and is in the northern part of the East African Rift System. It is home to a variety of different islands some of which have historic monasteries and churches hidden away. We offer a great place to stay where you can soak up the delights of the lake in comfort and style. Kuriftu Resort enjoys cool off-shore breezes all year round, breath-taking lake views and a clever blend of native Ethiopian architecture and décor. The resort comprises of 28 suites, a gigantic swimming pool with sunbathing terrace and a gourmet restaurant so you can relax in total comfort.
Whether you are looking for a beach holiday with a twist or for a relaxing finale at the end of your safari then you really should consider a stay on the shores of one of Africa’s Great Lakes!
Posted by Ruth Bolton