On a sunny Friday morning in April, we left school early and flew from Kilimanjaro airport to Mwanza to spend the weekend at Lake Victoria. It was a one-hour flight that saved eight hours of driving across the Serengeti, and so we were excited when Fastjet had an airfare sale and we could buy tickets for $70 each round trip. Since Mwanza is the major city on the lake and the second largest city in Tanzania, we figured we would stay outside the city so we would experience more of the lake and less of the city.
Tripadvisor, my favorite, recommended a small privately-owned resort on a peninsula next to the lake. It had vervets, hyrax, monitor lizards as big as crocodiles, actual crocodiles, kytes, birds, pythons and cobras. Exciting. Wag Hill also had a family bungalow to fit all of us, and came with kayaks, a pool, fishing gear, and a communal kitchen. We loved it. We saw all the wildlife, minus the snakes, which was perfect.
A car, airplane, 4×4 landcruiser and a boat ride later, we arrived in time for dinner and an epic rain. Mwanza had even more macho-rain than Moshi, and it monsooned with thunder and lightening the first night. The sky lit up over the lake with sheet lightening illuminating local fishing boats out on the water. The local fishermen were brave souls. Imagine the sky opening up and spilling buckets of water all at once. That is what a monsoon sounds like. It was awesome, but we were glad to be on land.
Fishing was first on the agenda, it was a lake after all, ironically one that wasn’t safe for swimming. Bilirhizia, lovely. Didn’t want that. But holding back three boys from a large, open, inviting piece of water was not a piece of cake. Fortunately there were crocodiles in the lake that persuaded them it was a good idea to stay on land. A cobra had been spotted the night before near the pool. Exciting. Worms for hooks came from the rainforest and we had sticks of bamboo with fishing line tied to the ends. We were set. Tate was the first to catch something. An adorably, cute little cichlid. We threw it back to grow a bit. We fished some more and started to get ready to drive into Mwanza for lunch and to learn more about the Sukoma tribe.
Sam, Reid and Tate had been poking at each other all morning. They had been teasing, testing, and altogether demonstrating the kind of brotherly love which borders on pestering that worries mothers. If Brannan were here he would have had them doing laps or throwing a football to divert their edginess. He is good at that. The lodge had a set of African drums that were wonderful and echoed throughout the high-ceilinged, wood communal dining room. Sam and Tate were into those drums. Reid was not. Pestering festered and Reid ended up getting hit in the back of the head with a drum stick which resembled a mallet. He cried so loud that I thought he had been bitten by a snake – all of the staff at the lodge did too, and we all came running. A bump on the head that we won’t call a minor concussion later, Sam was grounded at the lodge while Reid, Tate and I went to town for lunch. While grounded, homework, an essay about Lake Victoria, and a lecture on the lack of good medical care in East Africa were on the agenda for Sam. Normally I wouldn’t break up our little tribe when traveling away from home, but I was afraid that the close quarters of the car would translate into too many chances for Reid to exact revenge on Sam (and vice versa) throughout the day. One minor concussion per day was enough. Off our almost-tribe went.
The day in Mwanza went fine and the Sukuma Museum in need of some TLC but still very interesting. The Sukuma grow cotton and tobacco, but are most famous for their dancing with animals. The dangerous and pointy kind – snakes, hyenas, hedgehogs, porcupines. Meanwhile, I worried about Sam being left behind in the bungalow, and my mother’s brain pictured him standing on top of a table surrounded by cobras. We returned by dinner to find Sam napping in the bungalow with the Lake Victoria essay already written. Thirteen year-old retired drummers are still cute when they are sleeping.
Sam interviewed one of the Sukuma locals working at the lodge, and here is his summary about Lake Victoria:
Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater lake in Tanzania as well as Africa. It is also the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Superior in the USA is the biggest. Lake Victoria spans three countries: Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. A large city that is close to the lake is Mwanza. Many different types of fish live in the depths of Lake Victoria. Among them are the nile perch, cichlid and the tilapia. Speaking of tilapia, there is the Tilapia Hotel close to the Yacht club which is located some distance away from the center of Mwanza. It is very dangerous to swim in Lake Victoria, because there are many microbacteria in the water. It is the source of the Nile River.
There are different methods of fishing used by fishermen in Lake Victoria. Among them are using fishing poles made from bamboo, and fishing from boats or on shore, using nets from boats, and although illegal and really bad for the lake, fishermen also use poisoning. The poison is killing the lake. Mwanza is okay, I hope the fisherman stop poisoning the lake and the corrupt officials do something soon.
The next morning we woke up and went fishing again. Sam caught two nile perch. One was 30 lbs and bent the aluminum net. He gave it to Reid. That summarizes Lake Victoria. Back to Moshi we went.0