Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. When I stood on its shores, it felt more like I was looking at the ocean. Huge, with stormy waves at times.
The lake’s Tanzanian name is Lake Nyanza. It has other local names – in Kenya and Uganda that share the lakes’ shores.
Of course in the eyes of the European “discoverers” the local culture was non-existent. So they “discovered” the lake, as if it was not already entwined for so long in the lives of the many tribes and nations that called it home. Since they “discovered” the lake, of course they felt entitled to be the ones to name it- as if it had no name. And they named it Lake Victoria, after their Majesty at the time.
It is not recommended to swim in the lake for three main reasons:
Mwanza is considered a safe city. It’s calm and peaceful despite its size (the second largest in Tanzania after Dar). Despite this, my personal rule is not to walk around after dark. Seems to me like it’s a good rule.
The Sukuma celebration
We decided to finally come and visit Mwanza when I heard of a special event taking place. A new catholic church was being inaugurated, along with its new head Priest, Emanuel Lyamba.
Not my cup of tea so far, but the Sukuma tribe is proud of, and known for, preserving their customs and traditions alongside Christianity. I was there for the famous Sukuma dancing and drumming skills.
It turned out pretty wonderful, meeting Emanuel Lyamba, the happiest Catholic priest I could ever hope to meet, and also meeting an old friend, the choreographer of the Bujora Dance Group, John Sombi..
It was a nice surprise- meeting an old friend – John Sombi- whom I knew from the time I was teaching in Bagamoyo on the coast of Tanzania over 20 years ago.
He was a student at the Bagamoyo college of arts, and I was volunteering as an English teacher in Usinga, a special youth project run by one of the college teachers. As a Sukuma tribesman, John also taught his tribe’s traditional dances at the college, and also in our little project.
Which gets me to:
John is the choreographer of the Bujora dance group and also gives private dance lessons. So if you’ve always dreamed of African dance, here is a great opportunity to experience it.
John Sombi- Whatsup +255768569508
My best places in Mwanza
Bujora Sukuma cultural center
The day before the celebration we went to visit the Sukuma unique heritage museum in Bujora- traditional huts each with a different part of the tribe’s history. I highly recommend visiting, and if you are lucky there just might be a tribal dance performance taking place.
Mwanza’s nickname is Rock City– after the huge rocks on the shores of the lake along the city.
This point is a particularly beautiful sight, thanks to the dramatic shapes of the rocks. I would say come before sunset, the reason why is in the pictures…
To get close to the rocks and even climb up some of them, you’ll be asked to pay a very symbolic fee – you should pay it. For the local community, for keeping the place clean, and for the chair you will receive…
A wedding photo shoot by Bismark rock
You can also take the afternoon to walk up the hill you will see on the left as you stand facing Bismark rock. This is a neighborhood with fancy houses built around the huge rocks. Sometimes the rocks are incorporated into the construction of the house.
Not far from Bismark rock is Tilapia Hotel. A more expensive hotel but it’s been fun to sit at its lakeside restaurant. Good food, great service, beautiful view and evening breeze.
Adden Palace Hotel
We also spent time at Adden Palace Hotel. It has a nice swimming pool at a reasonable price compared to other hotels in the city,
a restaurant with a lovely garden with good wifi and a pleasant breeze,
and the highlight is definitely Wema – the masseuse with the golden hands!
I came back three times for her! I highly recommend you to come and get a massage.
We stayed in Kwatunza Beach Land in gorgeous bungalows on the lakefront in the northern part of town, close to the airport. The staff made us feel at home. We enjoyed the quiet beach, the abundance of birds and the spectacular sunsets.
♥ For backpackers and low budget travellers- I received warm recommendations on Isamo Hotel in town.
Excellent Indian restaurant. I went twice. It’s important to clarify if you do not want the food to be spicy. And- there is no sign on the front with the name of the restaurant (inside there is a sign…) but the street is not long so it would be hard to get lost. I called their number and a nice waitress came out to show me the way.
This is for my fellow cake lovers. This place is a real treat. Come for the Molten lava chocolate cake. I’ve said enough…
They also have other cakes, excellent coffee, smoothies, pizzas and other light meals, a pleasant atmosphere and strong wifi.
Our taxi driver Eid was great. Speaks good English, reliable and offers fair rates. After several attempts with different drivers we stuck to him and he did not disappoint. Highly recommended.
Another Mwanza attraction to me was seeing the giant Marabu storks all over. Until now I have only seen them on safari. They are omnivorous and are seen all over the city near landfills and fish markets (along with the kites that like the same places and cover the sky around sunset).
In conclusion it was a relaxing and pleasant visit. Thanks Rock City 🙂