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Safety in Lake Victoria

Why you Should visit Lake Victoria

Hundreds of thousands of travellers visit Lake Victoria every year despite the fact that certain media sites will tell you it’s one of the most dangerous destinations in Africa. Here you have to look at the travel data – or lack of them – and decide for yourself if a holiday in Lake Victoria is worth it.

Swimming in Lake Victoria

Swimming in Lake Victoria is not recommended but you will see locals and international visitors swimming in the great lake. The main worry about swimming in Lake Victoria is the risk of contracting bilharzia. There are also large populations of hippo and crocodiles in the lake.

Fishing is one of the highlights of a trip to Lake Victoria but again, it’s important to know a vast number of people lose their lives as a result of boating accidents and drownings. There are a few reasons for this but extreme weather and boats capsizing are the main causes.

Bilharzia in Lake Victoria

This dreaded tropical disease is transmitted through bilharzia-infected snails. The medical term for bilharzia is Schistosomiasis or ‘snail fever’ to the locals. Schistosomiasis is common in the majority of large lakes in Africa.

Bilharzia is not immediately fatal like malaria but it causes very unpleasant symptoms. It’s can be life-threatening if the parasite lives in your body undetected or treated and causes irreparable damage to your organs.

The first symptoms of bilharzia are severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. Over a period of time, more serious symptoms will occur such as infertility, enlargement of the spleen (protruding stomachs) and organ failure.

Bilharzia is easy to treat but it can go undetected if you mistake the common bilharzia symptoms for something else. If you swim in Lake Victoria, it’s a good idea to go to a doctor when you return home and have bloods taken to test for the parasite.

Safety in Lake Victoria
Safety in Lake Victoria
Safety in Lake Victoria


Extreme weather conditions in Lake Victoria

It’s estimated that about 5 000 people die every year from water-related accidents in Lake Victoria. This is due to a combination of extreme weather patterns, inferior fishing boats and people not being strong swimmers.

The weather conditions on the great lake can go from mild and pleasant to torrid and life-threatening in a matter of minutes. Strong winds whip up high waves that can make you feel like you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean in a storm. The strong winds also push the boats onto rocks.

Windy conditions are worst in the months of June, July and August.

Hippos and crocodiles in Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is home to large populations of hippo and crocodiles. They are both highly dangerous and responsible for hundreds of fatalities every year in Africa.

Boating accidents in Lake Victoria

A fishing trip in Lake Victoria is safe as long as you take the usual precautions to prevent a tragic boating accident or drowning. The most important thing is you should only book a fishing trip in Lake Victoria through a reputable operator who has a reliable, ‘seaworthy’ boat and years of fishing experience on the lake.

The majority of boating accidents in Lake Victoria go unreported and usually it’s a tragic case of local people being caught out on the lake in extreme weather and in boats that are “unseaworthy”.

Other causes of deaths on Lake Victoria include overloaded boats, engines not strong enough, drunken sailors, negligent ferry operators, impaired vision at night, lack of policing and regulations and passengers not wearing life-jackets.

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