A Guide to Lake Tana, Never Miss Anything


Tana? You probably have heard the name “Tana” around Addis Ababa in many cases. There is a Tana building in Merkato that is quite old and famous. But also, there is a hotel and a resort. Yet the main name belongs to the Ethiopian Lake that is in Bahir Dar. And to be more specific the coordinates are 12°0′N 37°15′E.

Tana is one of the few lakes in Ethiopia that has its own unique wildlife, culture, and religion fused together. The lake is a source of higher temperatures near the towns in some months, and at the same time, it is a place for fishing, boat tours, a religious place in the middle of the lake.

A 20th-century geographer identified 37 landmasses, of which he thought 19 have or had hermitages or house of worship on them. Lake Tana (also denoted T’ana, Amharic: ጣናሀይቅ, Ṭana Ḥäyq, T’ana Hāyk’; the eldest alternative is Tsana, Ge’ez: ጻና Ṣānā; every so often called “Dembiya” following the province to the north of the lake is that the cause of the headstream and is that the biggest lake in Ethiopia.

Lake Tana is one of the most important lakes in Ethiopia not only for its astatic and strategic position but also for its connection to the Nile river. Lake Tana has been part of the discussion, in the Nile conversation and deal between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Nile River is the source of farming and place for recreation for the Egyptians and the renaissance dam Ethiopia has been seen as a threat for their survival. Studies suggest that Lake Tana is probably the source of the Blue Nile that meets the White Nile in Sudan and flown to Egypt.

Ethiopia is home to more than 20 lakes. Lake Tana is the largest lake found in Ethiopia and it contributes up to half of Ethiopia’s freshwater and contributes approximately 60 % of the Nile River. Lake Tana is located in the northwestern part of Ethiopia situated in the Amhara region. Its primary inflows consist of Gilgel Abay which rises from the mountains of Gojjam and flows north into Lake Tana, Kaliti River, Magech River which surges just above the city of Gondar and flows south into the lake, Reb River, and Gomera River which arises from mount Guna and flows into Tana from the east.

It has a maximum length of 84km, a maximum width of 66km, a subsurface area 3200km2, and a maximum depth of 15m. This measure has been gradually changing due to the influences of activities around the shore. Lake Tana is a result of volcanic activities which prevented the inflow of nearby rivers in the ancient Pleistocene epoch, this is approximately 5 million years ago these volcanic activities also created numerous islands in the lake.

2-3 million people live around Lake Tana. Cities like Bahir Dar which translates as ‘by the lake’ contributing up to 1 million of the population existed since the 16th century flourished in the vicinities of Lake Tana. Bahir Dar is located in the southwestern extremities of the lake.

Where Is Lake Tana Ethiopia?

Lake Tana Ethiopia is located in the …. latitude and longitude. The lake is located north of the Bahir Dar city.

Lake Tana Map and Locations

Situated in Amhara Region inside the north-western Ethiopian Highlands, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers (52 miles) long and 66 kilometers (41 miles) wide, with the highest depth of 15 meters (49 feet), and an elevation of 1,788 meters (5,866 feet).

The lake is fed by the Gilgel Abay, Reb and Gumara rivers. Its vastness extends from 3,000 to 3,500 square kilometers (1,200 to 1,400 square miles), watching on time and rainfall. The lake level has been controlled since the advancement of the control weir where the lake explodes into the headstream. This controls the movement to the headstream Falls (Tis Abbai) and hydro-power base. At 1,830 m altitude, the lake is located on the basaltic Plateau of the north-western plateaus of Ethiopia encompassing a region of ca 3,050 km2. lake Basin is that the second biggest sub-basin of the headstream which includes a neighborhood of 15,114 km2.

lake tana plants

What is About Lake Tana Ethiopia?

The tana lake was larger than what it seems these days. There are forty seasonal rivers and seven big consistent rivers. The main inflows are from the Megech, Rib rivers, Gilgel Abbay (Little Nile River), and, Gumara river. This great lake basin only in Ethiopia and outflows into the much greater Blue Nile.

For The Reason, That of the sizeable seasonal alterations in the inflow of its rivers, rain, and dehydration, the water concentrations of Lake Tana naturally vary by 2–2.5 m (6.6–8.2 ft) in a year, reach your peak in September–October just after the most crucial wet season. When the water amounts are high, the valleys around the lake often are flooded and other long-lasting wetlands in the territory become linked to the lake.

Going down the historic lane we see, about 5 million years ago, a volcanic activity that closed off the rivers that flowed in created this Lake. And after that, just like the pharos in Egypt, the remains of ancient Ethiopian rules and their wealth are said to be hidden away on an isolated island, including Mertola Maryam, Ura Kidane Mehret, Daga Estifanos, Kebran Gabriel, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam, and Narga Selassie).

As historians have spoken, on Tana Qirqos they have researched that the introducer of Christianity to our country was buried there. Furthermore, the biblical figure and the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Saint Mary had been there from her trip to and from Egypt.

Lake Tana Monasteries

There is also information about the Daga Islands and the great rulers of Ethiopia Yekuno Amlak, Fasilides, Za Dengel, Zara Yaqob and Dawit I. Other notable islands here are Gelila zekarias, halimun, Mitraha, Dek and Briguida.

As far as the architecture in these sites goes, the monasteries are said to have been built a long time ago on former religious sites. In the 14th century the Debre Maryam, on the 18th-century Narga Silasie, the Ura Kidane Mihret is also known as Regalia and the tana Qiros is known for having housed the covenant ark until it moved to Axum.

The boat ride in this site connects Bahir dar through dek island and various lakeshore villages with Gorgora. On the southwest side of the lake there is the zege headland, which is a part of the Azawa Mariam abbey. Nile countries that are found by the east downstream have religious, ecological, environments, political, social and economic provision from this basin, as well as the Blue Nile river.

Blue Nile River and Lake Tana basin give political, environmental, economic, social, ecological and spiritual benefits also for downstream eastern Nile nations. The basin difficulties have also impact in downstream eastern Nile states. Food safety and conservation sustainability are big questions in the basin. Ensuring ample supply and quality of water for water consumer sectors in the basin continues to be a challenge.

The hygiene and cleanliness treatment remain not significantly enhanced compared to the unparalleled population increase. The basin suffers from easily perceivable land-living, soil and water dilapidation which are demonstrated in diverse forms: Sedimentation, reimbursement of wetland, canalization of the streams, augmented trend of eutrophication, toxigenic cyano microbes, the incidence of aggressive species like water hyacinth (Eichorniacrassipes), shareholders conflict, inappropriate blockading, erection of constructions in the Lakeshore areas.

These are ordinary upbringing and feeding lands for some fish and bird species, underprivileged waste administration, increased occurrence of waterborne sicknesses particularly in the riparian community which largely depend on raw water for drinking and regeneration are major difficulties of the Basin.

The climate shift is also getting its impact. Though the challenges and challenges are known in the area, successful actions proportion to the enormity of the problem is not yet undertaken adequately.

lake tana

It is deficient in nutrients and the foundation of the Blue Nile River also known as the Great Abbay, with a drainage basin of ca 16,500 km2. The Lake has been developed by volcanic movement, hindering the course of action towards the inside rivers surrounded by the early Pleistocene periods ca 5 million years ago. The lava also removed the Lake and its headwaters as of the lower Blue Nile basin by 40 m high falls at Tissisat, 30 km downstream from the Blue Nile drainage.

Terraces imply that the Lake was originally much larger than it’s today. Seven large permanent rivers feed the lake also as ca 40 small temporary rivers. the most streams to the lake are Gilgel Abbay (Little Nile River), Megech River, Gumara River and similarly the Rib River. Simultaneously they contribute quite 95% of the whole yearly inflow. The Blue Nile is that the only outflowing tributary.

The shallow lake (median depth 8 m, max. depth 14 m) is Ethiopia’s biggest lake, including half the country’s freshwater reserves, and the third-largest surrounded by the Nile Basin. within the main season (July—August) the inflowing rivers bring a heavy load of delayed silt into the lake, thereby growing the turbidity of the lake water. The postponed sediments diminish the underwater power and in and of itself the first manufacture, the premise of the food cycle.

When it comes to the fauna and flora more than 230 types of birds, including 80 wetland kinds, like the African darter, hamerkop, great white pelican, ducks, kingfishers, ibis, and African fish eagle are all found at this location. A number of Palearctic migrant water birds find this ground as a great settling and feeding. Associated with additional tropical lakes, the streams in Lake Tana are comparatively cold, normally ranging from almost 20 to 27 °C (68–81 °F). The water has a pH that is neutral to some extent alkaline and its clarity is pretty minimal.

The fish population of the Lake is dominated by cyprinid fishes, 20 of the 27 fish varieties (e.g. Labeobarbus spp., Barbus spp., Garra spp.) are endemics to the Lake collection. This speciation was feasible because incipient Lake offered new environments for radiation and maintained its isolation for several years from the lower Blue Nile.

Wetlands are situated all-round the lake, apart from the Northeast. Together they’re the most valuable within the country and essential parts of the complex Tana-ecosystem. They adapt permanent swamps, seasonal swamps, and areas subjected to frequent inundation.

During the raining time, these wetlands relate to the lake. They act as nurseries for many of the fish populations within the lake and operate a piece of land for waterfowl and creatures. round the lake and its catchment, including the town of Bahir Dar, live about 2 million people. This lake and adjoining wetlands provide immediately and indirectly a livelihood for quite 500,000 individuals. The Blue Nile drains the NE Ethiopian Plateau (total catchment: 324,000 km2). Already in ancient Egypt society, this river was of key significance to early agriculture and today the river remains of critical significance for the economies of Sudan and Egypt.

What Attractions the Lake Tana Has?

The lake and its region have the potential to produce coffee, oilseeds, and grains because of the abundant rainfall it gets. Also, cattle and fish, that use the old ways of papyrus reed boat, raising is important.

There are 27 fish varieties in Lake Tana and 20 of them are ordinary. This comprises one in only two known cyprinid multiplicities clusters. It comprises of 15 relatively large, up to 1 m, Labeobarbus hooks that beforehand were contained in Barbus in its place. Along With these, L. megastoma and L. truttiformis L. acutirostris, L. longissimus, are strictly piscivorous, and L. macrophtalmus and L. platydorsus, L. kdainellii, L. gorguari, are mostly piscivorous.

Their most important victims are the diminutive Enteromius and Garra types. The lingering Labeobarbus in Lake Tana generate other distinct nurturing habits: L. beso that is non-endemic and not closely associated with the others eats on algae, L. surkis totally on macrophytes, L. gorgorensis on macrophytes and molluscs, L. brevicephalus on zooplankton.

However, youths of all governments of the varieties flock prey on zooplankton), L. osseensis on macrophytes and adults bugs, and L. crassibarbis, L.intermedius the non-common but intimately related with the others), L. nedgia and L. tsanensis on benthic invertebrates like chironomid larvae. Among the widespread Labeobarbus, eight species spawn within the lake’s wetlands and the continuing move seasonally into its rivers where they spawn.

Apart from the Labeobarbus species flock, the endemic species are Enteromius pleurogramma, E. tanapelagius, Garra regressus, G. regressus and Afronemacheilus abyssinicus (one of only two African stone loaches). The outstanding non-endemic species are Nile tilapia (widespread in Africa, but with the endemic subspecific tana within the lake), E. humilis, G. dembecha, G. dembeensis and large African sharp tooth catfish.

Lake Tana supports an enormous fishing industry, mainly buttressed the Labeobarbus barbs, Nile tilapia and sharp tooth catfish. per the Ethiopian Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 1,454 abundance of fish have been landed in 2011 at Bahir Dar, which the department estimated was 15% of its sustainable amount.

However, in a very review that compared catches in 2001 to those ten years earlier, it had been found that typical sizes of both the tilapia and also the catfish had decreased substantially, and populations of the Labeobarbus barbs that breed within the rivers had significantly declined.

Among the widespread fish, most are considered endangered (endangered or vulnerable) or data deficient (available data insufficient for evaluating a status) by the IUCN. within the early 2000s, authorities at the primary time introduced a fishery law-making and it’s hoped this may have a positive effect on the fish populations.

lake tana animals duck

Is There History in Lake Tana That I Should Know About?

Lake Tana has been the center of the political and spiritual part of Ethiopian history. It plays an important part in the rise and fall of dynasties of the Christian empire. According to the legends, Emperor Menilik the first, A son of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, went to Jerusalem and returned with the ark of the covenant to Ethiopia. He then hid it in the islands of Lake Tana and constructed monasteries and churches around it. Due to this reason, the islands are a destination for religious sanctuaries.

The islands and peninsulas are also historic tourist sites. They house various churches which are approaches through the southern end. Debra Mariyam, Daga Estefanose, Narga Selassie, Tana Cherkos, Bete Mariyam, and Azwa Mariyam are some of the many churches and monasteries found in the perimeter of Lake Tana.

What Are the Monasteries and Churches in Lake Tana?

Debra Mariam this monastery is located just before the Nile Bridge it is one of the younger monasteries found in the area it was built by emperor Tewodros in the 19th century. Daga Estefanose it is located on a hill 100m above Lake Tana. Its construction was the 16th century. In it found many mural paintings and mummified bodies of five previous emperors and is seen as the resting place of past emperors.

Nara Selassie was constructed in the early 18th century, established by Abune Hirut Amlak during the reign of Emperor Yikun Amlak. Entos Eyesus monastery located in the southern part of Lake Tana. This monastery was built by Abune Ze Yohanise in the time of Emperor Amade Tsion.

Kristos Semere church established in the kristos semere peninsula is positioned at the eastern shore of Lake Tana served as a technological institute during the reign of Emperor Dawit in the 14th century. These monasteries are constructed using local materials such as wood, stones, and mud. They served as the building stone of the culture in the area and also as historical record keepers.

How can I visit Lake Tana and the monasteries?

Visiting lake tana is easy since the lake is located near the Bahir Dar City. You need to take a place from Addis Ababa or Lalibela or Gondar or any other city with an airport and fly to Bahir Dar. The city is also accessible by bus or by private vehicle.

Then you need to the part of the city where boats are easily available. Before departing to the monasteries, you should enjoy the lakeside hotels and restaurants. Order fish, in various forms and recipes, and eat with local hot sauces. Enjoy the lake view and the warm weather.

Then you will need to go and talk to the boats, or your restaurant could do that on your behalf. Boat rides could go up to 200 birrs (6 USD) each for foreigners.

The boats, against the water waves, will take you to the center of the lake where the islands are located. There you will find churches that have not been renovated for a long time. Most are made out of local ground and wood. These are old and not impressive for most visitors. Instead, learn the history of the place and the stories that may appear as a myth to you.

Take pictures of the books, the unique crosses, the priests, and the life of the people. Enjoy the local fruits and return back in an hour.

The entrance fee is about 3 dollars.

What Animals And Plants Can I Visit at Tana?

Lake Tana economic sector around Lake Tana is based on agriculture, wide range crop cultivation exists around the shores of Lake Tana. Crops endemic to the area such as sorghum and millet. Others such as rice and maze. Lake Tana gives rise to one of the biggest wetlands in Ethiopia due to this fact. This ecosystem both directly or indirectly affects and supports the lively hood of the area. The livelihood of the area, in turn, affects the ecosystem to be in a negative or a positive way

Lake Tana “A paradise of diversity” – The shores and islands of the lake have a high level of biological diversity. These shores adjacent to it are homes to numerous unique species of plants, plants, and reptiles. It acts as a resting spot for migrating birds from the different parts of the word, birds such as the northern pintail, northern shivelle, and black-tailed godwit.

This provides invaluable genetic recourse to add to the biodiversity of the area. It has also been internationally acknowledged as an important bird watching site. Close to 230 species of birds are found in the area including wetland bird-like storks, hamerkop, great white pelican, kingfisher, ducks, African fish eagle, and African spoonbill.

The lake itself has an exceptional collection of endemic fish species. Over 27 different fish species are found in Lake Tana 20 of which are endemic to Ethiopia. One being the Barabus fish which is said to be the only found in this place. Neither the less Lake Tana faces serious threats of distribution of habitats because of the rapid growth of population and urban growth of Bahir Dar and the equally growing demand of the city.

This results in current issues like pollution overfishing and erosion. One of the main problems faced by Lake Tana is the Water Hyacinth (eichhorinia crassipes) commonly known as the “Emboch Arem” which is a free-floating invasive plant. It restricts the flow of water, blocks sunlight from water surfaces and beds.  

Does Lake Tana Have Historic and Cultural Value?

Lake Tana is the backbone of Ethiopia and the region for its historical heritage (culture), economic value, and biodiversity.

Lake Tana has small islands amid its water surfaces, that are only accessible by a boat. In the highlands, are ancient monasteries that were built for their remote location from the public. The monasteries contain ancient churches, usually hut, and impressive, but ancient books and paintings and crosses. Residents also live on selling fruits and artifacts for the visitors. For its religious value, the lake Tana is much respected in the region.

Challenges of Tana

Habitat destruction and pollution are some of the other serious threats. Bahir Dar is growing fast and is also becoming an outsized city. The lake is being a waste disposal space due to the leaking of wastewater into it. The flora within the lake’s marshlands are being exonerated at a fast speed, but they are very crucial to the Labeobarbus and other fish.

An establishment of an outsized and effective rapacious species, which has been associated with frequent disappearances in the lake, just like the Nile perch is a hypothetically serious threat to this unusual environment. The piscivorous Labeobarbus of Lake Tana is comparatively unproductive hunters that only can take fish up to about 15% of the size of the hunter itself.


Between many more creatures, the lake chains comparatively a small number of invertebrates: There are 15 species of mollusks, as well as one common, and a common lake sponge. There are no crocodiles, but the African softshell turtle has been recorded near the Blue Nile outflow from the lake. Hippos are present, mostly near the Blue Nile outflow.

In the year 2015, the UNESCO recognized Lake Tana’s cultural, national and international importance.

Author: Aman Alemayehu

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