Tankwa: Paddling Around Ethiopia’s Magnificent Lakes


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Sprawling around lakeside and being entertained by beautiful water birds might be the most soothing way to pass time in Ethiopia, but it is good to remember that there is another interesting incentive for being around many Ethiopia’s magnificent lakes; it is witnessing the insubstantial, yet unsinkable Tankwa (papyrus canoe) made from woven papyrus.

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To make this particular virtual tour exciting, I pick three splendid lakes which offer the interesting Tankwa scenes of Ethiopia. The virtual journey starts from Lake Tana, which is of course known for Tankwa and continues to another lake from the northern part of Ethiopia-Lake Hayk. Last but not least, Lake Hawassa from the Southern part of Ethiopia.

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Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, covering over 3500 sq. Km and it is the source of Blue Nile.It is one of the celebrated lakes for papyrus Tankwa made by lakeside (Bahr Dar) boat builders called Woyto.

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Papyrus is tall water plant that grows in Africa. These papyrus Tankwa constructed for Lake Tana to carry passengers and goods to and from the many islands in the lake as they have done for centuries.

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Even though Tankwa appear to be dangerously fragile as they slide over the surface, it is astonishing to witness as they carry huge loads of goods like charcoals, firewood and so no.

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The small town of Hayk situated about 20 Km from Dessie. Only 2 km from the town, there is a beautiful 23 km lake laying at an attitude of 2,030 meter and encircled by lush hills.

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Lake Hayk is known for its bird life and for the historical monastery that stands on its western shore. The Tankwa scene on this magnificent lake is also interesting. It is just amazing to see many traditional fishermen paddling Tankwa comfortably and smoothly.

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In addition to the brave fishermen and Tankwa riders, spotting beautiful water birds hanging out on Papyrus Tankwa is one of the most remarkable scenes of Lake Hayk.

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Lake Hawassa is one of the magnificent Ethiopian Rift Valley Lakes. The lake is 21 meters (69 feet) deep, with a circumference of 62 km (38 miles).

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Unlike the highlanders, here in the Deep South, boat builders devise Tankwa from the balsa- like wood of the Ambatch tree.

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Well since I don’t have the skill or the courage to sail down on the Lake with Tankwa, I took a seat on one of the papyrus Tankwa which was parked along the side of Lake Hayk…

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…and the one thing I can tell you for sure is that it provides a sense of appreciation and respect for the Tankwa builders and for all the Tankwa sailors out there.

About Sara Genene

I am a traveler... on an endless journey of self-discovery!
This entry was posted in Addis Ababa, Adventure, Architecture, Bahr Dar, Birds, Ethiopia, Landscape, Nature, Tourism, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Tankwa: Paddling Around Ethiopia’s Magnificent Lakes

  1. teny says:

    Wow! Magnificent indeed 🙂

  2. Linda says:

    Thank you for another beautiful post!

  3. SeeNorway says:

    Fantastic nature! May I invite you to a digital return visit to my blog and Norway? Herer you’ll find more than 2300 ‘full screen pictures’ from different places throughout Norway. Please enjoy!

  4. Stunning pictures of charming nature.Have a wonderful holidays season.jalal

  5. Pingback: Ethiopian Girl - Photo Friday - Kiki Journey

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