Taking a dip in the longest freshwater lake in the world can be both dangerous and thrilling. If you search “swimming in Lake Tanganyika,” one of the top results is about a 70-year-old man-eating crocodile named Gustav. But there is much more to Lake Tanganyika — which is 410 miles long and runs across Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia — than hungry reptiles.
In the west of Burundi, in a remote and isolated town known as Rumonge, the shores next to the Blue Bay Resort are covered in white sand. The area is free, thankfully, of crocodiles and hippos. Lake Tanganyika is in the western branch of East Africa’s Rift Valley and is surrounded by mountains that make the views — both in and out of the deep water — spectacular. You might just forget that you are in a landlocked country. With fishermen in rowboats in the distance, it’s like time is standing still.
Jumping off the pier into the bluest, clearest (non-crocodile-infested) waters is a refreshing break from the heat. The water is the perfect temperature, rejuvenating but not too cold, and so clear you can see to the bottom of the lake without the sting of salt in your eyes. The water is very calm — no waves or tides. There are more than 350 fish species, 250 of which are rare cichlids, most of which can only be found in Lake Tanganyika.
Located an hour’s drive from the capital city, Bujumbura, this idyllic area is sheltered from the political instability that has dragged on since April 2015, when the country’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, clung to power for a third term, defying the country’s constitution. Still, things have improved and tourists are returning. “This year, the political situation has been very calm, good for our business and we are getting back on our feet,” says Joseph Furaha, Blue Bay’s executive manager. By 2016, most international tourists had stopped visiting Burundi, but political and constitutional solutions are being sought and there has been a reduction in protests. Most foreign nationals still need to apply for visas before arriving in Bujumbura; check with authorities before planning a visit.
Check out my full article for Ozy here.