MV Liemba

Quick facts:

Address: Kigoma

Access: By road, train or flight

Attractions: The ship (MV Liemba)

Activities: History walk

Accommodation: Available nearby

Best time to visit: All year round

MV Liemba was built in 1913 at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. It was originally named SS Graf von Goetzen after Count Gustav Adolf von Götzen, the Governor of German East Africa from 1901 to 1906

Stepping onto MV Liemba is like stepping back in time. This legendary ferry, with its rich history and timeless allure, has been an integral part of Tanzania’s maritime heritage for over a century. Traversing the sparkling waters of Lake Tanganyika, MV Liemba holds captivating tales of adventure, making it a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and adventurous travelers alike.

MV Liemba was built in 1913 at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. It was originally named SS Graf von Goetzen after Count Gustav Adolf von Götzen, the Governor of German East Africa from 1901 to 1906. After its construction, the SS Graf von Goetzen was then dismantled and transported to Tanganyika in 5,000 crates where it was later reassembled in Kigoma, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, and launched in 1915

During World War I, the lake became a crucial battleground between German and British forces, and MV Liemba, known as Graf von Goetzen at the time, played a pivotal role in the conflict where she transported soldiers, equipment, and supplies, providing support to German forces stationed around the lake

However, in 1916, as the Germans were losing to the British and Belgian forces and retreating from Kigoma, they decided to scuttle the ship to prevent it from falling into British hands. They greased the mechanical parts so well before scuttling as they were hopeful they’d recover it post-war. They lost the war

Post-war, the British Royal Navy raised the ship in 1924. Because it was well-greased, the British found the ship still usable and decided to renovate it. While preparing to work on it, the ship sank again (positioning and slope) and had to be raised again. In 1927, the restoration of the ship was completed and it was officially renamed Liemba, a local name for the lake at the time. It has been in service ever since, and it is the only vessel of the German Imperial Navy still actively in operation.

MV Liemba has undergone a few major renovations, with the last one being in 1993 by a Danish shipyard. Its capacity has also been increased with every major renovation. It now runs on diesel engines and carries 200 tonnes and 600 passengers (originally 200 passengers)

MV Liemba’s captivating story caught the attention of author C.S. Forester, who immortalized her in his novel “The African Queen.” Although the book’s story was set on a different lake, the novel’s success brought global recognition to the legendary ferry. Later, in 1951, the novel was adapted into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. While the film was shot elsewhere, the essence of MV Liemba’s adventure and mystique lived on through the silver screen

Stepping onto MV Liemba is like stepping back in time. This legendary ferry, with its rich history and timeless allure, has been an integral part of Tanzania’s maritime heritage for over a century. Traversing the sparkling waters of Lake Tanganyika, MV Liemba holds captivating tales of adventure, making it a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and adventurous travelers alike.

MV Liemba was built in 1913 at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. It was originally named SS Graf von Goetzen after Count Gustav Adolf von Götzen, the Governor of German East Africa from 1901 to 1906. After its construction, the SS Graf von Goetzen was then dismantled and transported to Tanganyika in 5,000 crates where it was later reassembled in Kigoma, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, and launched in 1915

During World War I, the lake became a crucial battleground between German and British forces, and MV Liemba, known as Graf von Goetzen at the time, played a pivotal role in the conflict where she transported soldiers, equipment, and supplies, providing support to German forces stationed around the lake

However, in 1916, as the Germans were losing to the British and Belgian forces and retreating from Kigoma, they decided to scuttle the ship to prevent it from falling into British hands. They greased the mechanical parts so well before scuttling as they

were hopeful they’d recover it post-war. They lost the war

Post-war, the British Royal Navy raised the ship in 1924. Because it was well-greased, the British found the ship still usable and decided to renovate it. While preparing to work on it, the ship sank again (positioning and slope) and had to be raised again. In 1927, the restoration of the ship was completed and it was officially renamed Liemba, a local name for the lake at the time. It has been in service ever since, and it is the only vessel of the German Imperial Navy still actively in operation.

MV Liemba has undergone a few major renovations, with the last one being in 1993 by a Danish shipyard. Its capacity has also been increased with every major renovation. It now runs on diesel engines and carries 200 tonnes and 600 passengers (originally 200 passengers)

MV Liemba’s captivating story caught the attention of author C.S. Forester, who immortalized her in his novel “The African Queen.” Although the book’s story was set on a different lake, the novel’s success brought global recognition to the legendary ferry. Later, in 1951, the novel was adapted into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. While the film was shot elsewhere, the essence of MV Liemba’s adventure and mystique lived on through the silver screen

As of July 2023, MV Liemba ‘runs’ on diesel engines and carries 200 tonnes and 600 passengers (originally 200 passengers)

Interesting facts about MV Liemba

  • MV Liemba is the oldest “operating” passenger ship in the world. It’s been sailing the waters between Kigoma, Tanzania and Mpulungu, Zambia since 1915
  • It is also the only vessel of the German Imperial Navy still actively in operation
  • The vessel can carry a total of 200 tonnes and 600 passengers

Getting to MV Liemba

MV Liemba is currently found in Kigoma and traveling to see it is an adventure in itself. From Dar es Salaam, the journey to Kigoma, the main port on Lake Tanganyika, can be made via several modes of transportation

Flight: The quickest and most convenient option is to take a domestic flight from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. The flight takes approximately two hours, offering stunning aerial views of Tanzania’s landscapes

Train: For travelers seeking a more immersive experience, the central route train connects Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. The train journey takes around two to three days, passing through picturesque landscapes and offering a glimpse of rural life

Road: An alternative option is to embark on a road trip from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. The journey takes approximately 20-24 hours, depending on road conditions and stops along the way

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