Lake Kyoga is a large shallow lake and is located in central Uganda north of Lake Victoria; 914 m above sea level. The lake has fingerlike extensions with a surface of 1,720 sq. km. Its average depth reaches 3 m; its maximum depth is 5.7 m. The Victoria Nile flows through Lake Kyoga on its way from Lake Victoria to Lake Albert.
Extensions of Lake Kyoga include Lake Kwania, Lake Bisina and Lake Opeta. These “finger lakes” are surrounded by swampland during rainy seasons. All lakes in the Lake Kyoga basin are shallow, usually reaching a depth of only eight or nine meters, and Lake Opeta forms a separate lake during dry seasons.
Lake Kyoga has three different environmental zones: the open water deeper than 3 m; the water less than 3 m, which is covered completely with water lilies and water hyacinth; and the swamps mainly papyrus, which fringe the shoreline.
Lake Kyoga has a rich biodiversity. These include flora and fauna such as Cyprus Papyrus, Hyppo Grass (Vossia Cuspidate), Cattail (Typha spp.), Water Lily (Nymphea spp.), and Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiodes). Large crocodile populations are also found in the lake.
46 different fish species live in Lake Kyoga, some of them are endemic. The Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) was introduced into Lake Kyoga in the late 1950s to increase the fish production. The Nile Perch profileration led to the almost complete elimination of many domestic fish species, such as Synodontis victoriae, Engraulicypris argentus, Barbus kiogae, Tilapia esculenta, Tilapia variabilis, Mormyrus kanumme, Clarias mossambicus, Schilbe mystus and Haplochromis macrodon.
Lake Kyoga has enough water, because of two rainy seasons, the first from the months October to December and the second between March and May.
In the dry period from December to February, the temperatures in the North of Uganda are higher than in the South.
The lake has a catchment area of about 75,000 sq. km. The main human activities in the Lake Kyoga basin are fishing, cultivation and livestock keeping. There are no industrial enterprises in the area, due to lack of grid or any other power connectivity.
The lake is dotted with large islands of papyrus and water hyacinth mats (suds).
As a result of poor agronomic practices in the catchment area and siltation caused by the Victoria Nile, the suds became habitable to fishermen around 1997-1998, thus continuously reducing the quality and quantity of the lake.
The papyrus also forms floating islands that drift between numbers of small permanent islands. Extensive wetlands fed by a complex system of streams and rivers surround the lakes. Nearby Lake Kwania is a smaller lake but deeper.
Excessive El Niño rains in 1997–98 resulted in exceptionally high water levels, causing large islands of papyrus and water hyacinth mats to become dislodged on the lake and to accumulate at the lake’s outlet into the Victoria Nile. This blockage caused the water level to become even higher, flooding about 580 square kilometers of the surrounding land and resulting in population displacement and severe socioeconomic damage.