The sand is not golden yellow. It’s light brown and features small, crystalline stones which glisten in the sun. In front of me is a cloudy brown lake. I’m assured the water cleanses the skin. There is an Ethiopian family, the father playing with giggly children. Elsewhere, in a charming scene, a trio of men are pretending to save one another from drowning, taking turns to be lifeguard and damsel in distress. Why all the fuss over swimmers and Lake Langano? Quite simply this is one of only a handful of lakes without bilharzia in Ethiopia, making it a safe bet for water sports enthusiasts.
Our journey to Langano had been a culture shock. From the relative comfort of our van it was like looking at a flickering old film. Blink and you missed it. The locals seemed bamboozled by the unfamiliar white faces. Some stared. Others waved. A few laughed. The pace of life was slow despite the streets brimming with the chattering masses selling all manner of items. As I look out of the window, hundreds of Orthodox Christians dressed in long white garments make their stately way to church for Sunday services.
At Lake Langano, the waters are all but still. Opportunities for bathing in Ethiopia are rare and visitors are mainly wealthy families from Addis Ababa. This is one of the most fashionable places to go for the middle classes escaping city life. There’s a light ripple on the lake from the faintly audible breaths of wind. The soft wind disguises the intense heat. There is enough free space on the beach to switch easily between shade and sunlight, heat and cool air. I revel in the remoteness, the isolation.
I took a motor boat tour across the waters and glided along the shoreline. Only the pelicans with their poky pink and red beaks stood out in the vast swathes of emptiness. We approached the birds in a sly ploy to capture a shot of them flying into the distance. On the third occasion it worked. Later, I go fishing for the first time. In my naïve pre-conceptions, I had assumed it would be easy. Like a caveman hunting for food to feed his family, I thought I’d find an abundance of tilapia fish to hand to the resort’s restaurant for grilling. How wrong I was. On one occasion I was convinced I’d caught something. The hook sunk into the foot of a perplexed, but not upset, five year-old girl in a red bathing costume who venturedtoo close.
In the evening, as the tide came in, the wind occasionally bellowed like an angry man. The sound of the waves remained audible in the wind. Lake Langano may not be pretty, but it keeps you in touch with nature.
FIVE GREAT LAKES TO EXPLORE IN AFRICA
Lake Bunyoni, Uganda
Its name means ‘place of many little birds’ and it is Uganda’s most popular lake. The lake encircles 29 surrounding islands. Visitors can grab a canoe and discover the surrounding wildlife.
Lake Malawi, Malawi
This long lake has a steamer sailing up and down it. With everything from kayaking to scuba diving available to visitors, there are plenty of water sports to keep you occupied.
This is the largest lake in Africa and second biggest in the world. Archipelagos are contained within the waters as are numerous reefs. Bordering Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, the area has more than 200 species of fish, most of which are of the tasty tilapia variety.
This is the second largest lakein East Africa and the longest freshwater lake in Africa. Spectacularly large rivers discharge here including Kalambo, which has one of the highest waterfalls in the world at over 700 feet.
Not normally on the tourist route, the lake is on the far northern tip of the Rift Valley bordering Congo and Uganda. Located at the lowest and hottest part of Uganda, hippos, crocodiles and elephants enrich the wildlife.