Zambia’s only harbour port; Mpulungu town is situated at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika, between mountains, along the shores. In fact the town has been a port since the 1930s!
The Lake is shared by four countries; Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), Tanzania and Zambia.
Located between mountains, the soil is rocky and temperatures are usually on the higher side. This combination makes it difficult for any meaningful agriculture and the raising of animals. Thus, the main occupation is fishing and the people’s livelihood depends on it.
The town is situated in Mpulungu district as indicated below…
It provides the only gateway by ferry to the neighbouring countries. Zambian exporters of Sugar and Cement use the port a great deal.
The population is mostly found near the lake and composed mostly of fishermen as fishing is the most common occupation in this part of Northern Zambia. The fish is taken long distances to markets throughout Zambia, especially on the Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces. Commercial fishing is also done on a small scale.
Every Friday morning, the local people trek to the harbour to wait for the arrival of the SS Liemba. The ferry brings the people of Lake Tanganyika region together, bringing traders from Bujumbura in Burundi and Kigoma in Tanzania to sell their merchandise in Zambia. On its outward journey, it takes goods from Zambia to markets further north.
The ferry is capable of carrying up to 500 passengers together with their cargo. On the SS Liemba, you will meet different people from different cultures. Originally, the ferry was a cargo vessel belonging to the Germans during the First World War. After the war, the British converted it into a cargo and passenger vessel.
Traveling to this place is an adventure in itself. If you are traveling by road, you will use the great North road via Mpika and Kasama. The nearest airstrip is at Kasaba bay for chartered flights only. But this will leave you with 60 kilometres by boat to Mpulungu. As of now, there’s no road network between Kasaba bay and Mpulungu. It’s cut off by mountains.
Accommodation is plenty, but care must be taken, the town is full of guest houses and Lodges which are very basic and on the low side. But there are some like the Kasakalawe lodge on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It offers en suite chalets and campsite. Campers and back parkers are welcome. The lodge is 3 kilometres from town.
Perhaps the most popular place is the Nkupi lodge. Situated on the edge of town, it’s very good especially for back parkers and campers.
Also worth trying is the Tanganyika Lodge (+260 4 455130) and others a few kilometres west of town are Ndole Bay Lodge, Nkamba Bay Lodge, Kasaba Bay Lodge and the Mishembe lodge. All these lodges are on the shores of the lake.
Apart from the above there are some guest houses along the main road of town.
If you have been to the town and haven’t seen Lake Tanganyika, then you haven’t been there. Lake Tanganyika is synonymous with the town. Lake Tanganyika, the fresh water lake, and the third largest lake in the world, is home to more than 500 species of fish.
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