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Fancy swimming across Lake Tanganyika to help conserve its natural beauty and biodiversity? On 8 November this year a group of 14 intrepid and slightly insane aquatic conservationists will be braving crocodiles, malaria and, heaven forbid, warm beer. They will strike out from Cape Wapembe on the Tanzanian side of the lake headed for Nangu Headland inside Nsumbu National Park on the opposite Zambian shore, a distance of just over 40km.

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The aim of the swim is to raise awareness for Conservation Lake Tanganyika (CLT), a small Zambian NGO tasked with helping to conserve the uniquely beautiful Nsumbu National Park and raise awareness of the plight of the lake after which it is named.

Initiated in 2012 by Craig Zytkow of nearby Ndole Bay Lodge and Christiaan Liebenberg of Chongwe Safaris, the swim started with the pair and some chums covering the entire 150km lake boundary of Nsumbu National Park, swimming relay-style over a period of a few days, cheered on by supporters and fellow conservationists.

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This year, the challenge has transcended to a true trans-Tanganyika, cross-border open-water swim in an effort to bring wider recognition to the lake’s critical position as one of the most biologically unique habitats on the planet.

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Lake Tanganyika supports millions of people across the continent, who depend on the viability of the lake for fresh water and food. It is the longest fresh water lake in the world and the second deepest after Lake Baikal in Russia. Its clear waters are home to more than 350 different species of fish and it is renowned the world over as a sport fishing and fresh water scuba diving destination.

Sadly, due to global climate change, overfishing, bad land practices and the poaching of large mammals, substantial deterioration of Lake Tanganyika and protected areas like Nsumbu National Park is taking place. CLT works to preserve and promote the biodiversity of the lake and concentrates its efforts around Nsumbu, one of Zambia’s true hidden natural gems.

“Swimming across the lake in effort to save Nsumbu is a bold effort by all participants, but additional help is needed to turn this action into concrete reality,” says Zytkow. “Without an ultimate injection of funding, our passion to save this beautiful lake and national park for the benefit of the community and species within cannot happen.”

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Zytkow explains that all funds from the swim will be used to directly support CLT’s conservation work, which includes resource protection, by providing suitable equipment and training to effectively police the protected area for illegal activities, as well as community engagement at the grassroots level, which provides the best prospect for long-term conservation hopes.

“Ultimately, the fundraiser provides a great opportunity for swimmers, supporters and sponsors of CLT to gain exposure for their generous contributions through an eco-friendly, physically challenging, and community-based event,” says Zytkow. It’s also a great opportunity to do something a little different, and a little crazy, perhaps, for a truly great cause.

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If you would like to support the 2014 Swim for Nsumbu please donate at http://www.backabuddy.co.za/charity/profile/conservationlaketanganyika.

For more information, visit http://www.conservationtanganyika.org/swim-for-nsumbu/ or go to: facebook.com/ConservationLakeTanganyika

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Africa Geographic Travel
Sharon Gilbert-Rivett

Award-winning writer and film-maker Sharon Gilbert-Rivett began her love affair with Africa as a child when she lived with her family in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. She began working in journalism in the UK as a rock music writer in the early 1980s before moving into mainstream journalism, moving back to SA in the early 1990s. She specialises in conservation, sustainable tourism and travel and has also written and produced natural history documentaries and TV series. She consults to the safari industry when she's not writing.