Named for the British monarch by explorer John Hanning Speke, the waters of Lake Victoria cover a surface area of 26,600 square miles and reach beyond national borders into Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Tanzania’s half of Africa’s largest lake—the world’s second largest—is off the typical tourist circuit and holds surprising charms for those looking for unforgettable fishing, local life interactions, and sanctuary safari experiences.

The shores of Tanzania’s Lake Victoria are actually deceiving in their serenity. The beaches are certainly beautiful, but the resident crocodiles and hippos have already claimed the most of the nooks and marshy coves as their own and can regularly be seen patrolling offshore. While not appropriate for swimming, the waters are ideal for fishing and hold a record-breaking abundance of Nile perch, some topping out at 220 pounds. Inland, the thick jungles are home to over 200 bird species, including rarities like the African Grey Parrot, Fish Eagle, and Sacred Ibis. There is also a fair amount of World War I history in the area, including German trenches and tunnels accessible by boat.

Lake Victoria’s southern edge is where its famed forested islands await exploration. Perhaps the most notable of these is Rubondo Island, a jungle sanctuary which together with several smaller islets make up Rubondo Island National Park. Uninhabited and unexplored for decades, Rubondo Island is the largest island national park in Africa and has become a haven for animals rescued from illegal animal trading, zoos, and circuses. The first cohorts to be released on the island in 1966 were chimpanzees. In the years following, species of antelope, elephant, giraffe, and black-and-white colobus monkeys joined the wild-born chimps to create a truly and uniquely wild state on the secluded, uninhabited island. Nature has literally let loose within the seemingly impenetrable tangles of vines, logs, and mossy trunks of Rubondo, and a visit to its wild mystery provides an exclusive glimpse of the untamed tropical paradises alive inside Lake Victoria’s waters.