Secret Islands of Africa: 8 Mysterious Lake Isles to Explore


Does your idea of an epic vacation revolve around a tropical paradise surrounded by warm, azure waters? The secret islands of Africa offer a great alternative to your everyday island vacation.

Set on the continent’s picturesque lakes, these island destinations are secluded getaways off the beaten path. They are home to fascinating landscapes that you will not find anywhere else.

These remote and untouched gems host vast populations of animas and bird species, some of which are only found here. While some boast mysterious volcanic wonders, others are world-renowned for their archaeological and cultural significance.

For anyone who has a taste for the unusual, these hidden destinations are everything you ever dreamed of. Take a look at the continent’s most astounding lake isles that you can add to your bucket list.


Takawiri, Rusinga and Mfangano Islands, Lake Victoria, Kenya

Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater lake in Africa, home to numerous habitable islands. Some sources estimate a total of 84 clusters of islands with about 3,000 islets in all. It covers parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and is a popular African safari destination. Top among its gems are three serene isles that few people know about.

Takawiri Island

Takawiri is famous for its pristine white sandy beaches, which is a bit unusual for its non-coastal location. It has gracious palm trees that sway gently in the breeze and an unspoiled feel. The views of the lake from here are simply stunning. Crystal-clear waters surround the island, begging you to take a dip. This hidden island is a haven for birdwatchers with a stunning variety of water birds, fish eagles and kingfishers.

Rusinga Island

Add a historical twist to your island vacation with a visit to Rusinga Island. This 16-kilometers long isle is known for its rocky shores and lush vegetation. It is also home to archaeological sites with important fossil discoveries. For the history buffs, the Tom Mboya Mausoleum is a point of interest. Birdwatchers will appreciate the variety of avian life here. There are at least 369 species that live and breed on the island.

Mfangano Island

Aside from its stunning scenery, Mfangano Island is famous for its remarkable rock art. It has priceless gems in form of rock paintings that date back about 2,000 years. These are among the earliest forms of expression and creativity among humans. There are three rock art sites and 36 sacred sites here, all currently on the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s tentative list.

Rubondo Island, Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Another precious gem in the secret islands of Africa is Rubondo, an island on Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. It is home to Rubondo National Park, the largest island national park on the continent. If you love off-the-beaten-track adventure, this is the place for you. It is completely off the tourist radar, offering matchless seclusion.

Rubondo consists of 11 islets where elephants, sitatunga antelope and chimpanzees roam free. It tells a remarkable conservation story of chimps. Over a span of four years, conservationists introduced 17 chimps to the park. The project had remarkable success and the current population numbers over 60.

Most of the area is under the dense cover of equatorial rainforest. Take a hike through it to observe the chimps in their natural setting. There are beautiful waterways and swamps to explore as well. A boat safari is the best way to tackle this landscape and get up-close with hippos and crocodiles. For the birding enthusiasts in the house, there are at least 200 species found here. Some of them are endemic to this area alone.

Likoma, Lake Nyasa, Malawi

Also known as Lake Malawi, Lake Nyasa is the sixth deepest worldwide. Among the world’s freshwater lakes, it is the fifth largest by volume and the ninth largest by area. For the most epic diving adventures on a lake, Likoma is one of the best secret islands of Africa to visit. Situated close to Mozambique, this beautiful paradise is home to golden sandy beaches, untouched wilderness and huge baobabs.

There are 20 dive sites from which you can explore the incredibly clear waters of Lake Malawi. You will enjoy swimming with the colorful cichlids here. Some of them are endemic to the area. Because it is a relatively small isle, you can take a foot tour around it. Alternatively, there are great mountain biking and quad biking trails.

Take a tour of St. Peter’s Cathedral, an iconic architectural marvel completed in 1911. it is the size of the largest European cathedral, Winchester Cathedral.

Central Island, South Island and North Island, Lake Turkana, Kenya

Nicknamed the Jade Sea, Lake Turkana is a place of stunning beauty and enchanting mystery. An unusual shade of green characterizes its waters. As the largest permanent desert lake worldwide, it sits in an arid landscape. It is the most saline lake in the East African region and the largest alkaline lake worldwide. In the heart of this extreme environment, three islands are home to vibrant ecosystems and spellbinding beauty.

Central Island

Central Island consists of active volcanoes that constantly emit steam and smoke. The three have three crater lakes – Tilapia Lake, Crocodile Lake and Flamingo Lake. These three collectively host the largest population of Nile crocodiles anywhere in the world. If you love volcano destinations, you will love the black lava beaches here. Take a wildlife tour of Central Island National Park to see Grant’s gazelle, lions, hippos and giraffes.

South Island

South Island is one of the best secret islands of Africa for water bird lovers. There are about 84 different species of water birds recorded here. 34 of these are European migrants that you are likely to see between March and May. South Island National Park has numerous natural wonders that inspire its nickname, Isle of Mystery. Top among these are volcanic vents that glow in the dark and a terrain covered in volcanic ash. Together with Sibiloi National Park and Central Island National Park, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sibiloi is on the shores of Lake Turkana and is renowned for its fossils).

North Island

The smallest of the three isles, North Island primarily consists of tuff rings and tuff cones. It has plenty of geothermal activity, evident from its hot springs, fumaroles and steam vents. Among its 60 species of fish is the almost exclusively marine pufferfish. The isle is also famous for its high population of venomous snakes. These include red spitting cobras and carpet vipers among others.

Lake Island Vacations: Extraordinary Adventures Away from Tourist Crowds

Lake islands are typically associated with unique vacation experiences that you cannot replicate anywhere else. These secret islands of Africa clearly demonstrate the truth of that. They are pristine, untouched spaces ideal for secluded getaways. They offer matchless opportunities to watch unique bird, wildlife and fish species in their natural habitats.

If you are looking for an extraordinary vacation adventure away from tourist crowds, these will certainly hit the spot. For more island holiday locations, take a look at these hidden islands of Africa on the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

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