Travel

The Legend of Lake Ngozi, Tanzania

Why I love this blog is because I can write about things that I am genuinely interested in, and things in this world that so far removed from what see in the UK. Tanzania is one of the most interesting places on earth, and it is largely overlooked by tourists.

One of the regions that most fascinates me is the Mbeya region. Close to the Kitulo, one of Tanzania's national parks, and 38km away from Mbeya city sits Lake Ngozi; the highest and world's second-largest crater lake. But there is so much more to this mysterious emerald green lake hidden in the mountains.

So let me ramble on a little bit about the Lake, why it is so special and the fascinating myths and legends that surround it.

 

 

Why is the Lake Special & How Big is it?

Caldera lakes are fairly common, but this one is something special. A caldera is created when a volcano implodes and leaves a gigantic crater - there are many of these in Tanzania, including the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater. The crater that is home to Lake Ngozi was a result of an explosion 12,000 years ago during a 'Plinian eruption' - one with an extremely powerful venting of gas which catapults a huge amount of pumice.

Lake Ngozi itself is over 2.5kms in length, is 1.6km wide and is about 75m deep. There isn't much explanation as to why, but some suggest the lake could be as deep as 300m. Which ties into the mystery surrounding the emerald green shores.

The crater is part of the Poroto Ridge which is a larger section of the caldera rim, where the highest peak is an elevation of 2620m high. Almost double a Scottish Munro.

Although there has not been any volcanic activity in the area of thousands of years, Lake Ngozi still pumps out a potentially deadly amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and still shows signs of a potential eruption which will produce a noxious cloud of volcanic gas (limnic eruption).

The Lake is not usually part of a Tanzanian Safari, but it gives you a great reason to visit the South of the country.

 

 

The Nyakyusa, A Serpent & German Treasure

The people who are local to the crater and highlands are called the Nyakyusa, they are the predominant ethnic group in this region of southern Tanzania. They tell tales and have created a mythology that surrounds the lake and the surrounding area. While many places are subject to local legend, there is at least some truth behind the stories that the local people tell.

It is true that often animals, cattle and people have mysteriously disappeared or died on the water's shore without explanation. The local area is cured, hides a vicious beast or is it something else?

 

The Nyakyusa people say: 

One year, the people chased Lwembe from his village as a child. It was said that he was Sharman who had brought sickness to their village from his trickery; he found a home at the water's edge. After this point, cows and cattle started to go missing whenever they grazed nearby. Then people started to disappear too. It was Lwembe who had cursed the people from his watery layer.

To dispel the Sharman, elders from the local village super-heated a rock that was pushed into the water as they cast spells of their own.

 

German Treasure? 

A less common myth came with the Germans, who had colonised Tanzania during the 1880s. It is said that a group of German Soldiers had hidden a large amount of extremely valuable treasure in the water, so they could come back for it and reap the benefits later. They never returned.

Some say that they had put a spell to protect the treasure, and others say they summoned a 12 headed snake to keep it safe. A snake as emerald and the lake itself, that comes out on Sunny days.

 

The truth? 

Whether there was ever treasure, or a snake, or a Sharman is up to whichever you enjoy the most. The truth is, the volcanic gasses that the lake produces are deadly, and it is possible that the unlucky people or cattle suffocated in a pocket of deadly gas. This is common in the Congo after the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo.

The water itself is home to a surprising number of marine life and the surrounding forests are home to a spectacular array of birds, chimps and other rare animal life including the Black and White Colobus Monkies and Three Horned Chameleon (Chameleon Fuelleborni).

The area is largely untouched by the feet of tourists, or humans for that matter.

 

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