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Are you interested to learn more about the rivers of Africa? Then you have come to the right place! In this article I will tell you all about the most famous rivers in Africa, why these rivers in Africa are so well known and lots of other fascinating facts about the rivers of Africa! Ready to learn more? Keep scrolling…

The 18 Most Famous Rivers of Africa

Rivers of Africa

When we talk about rivers, Africa is extremely lucky to have dozens of famous and eye-catching rivers. The rivers of Africa are immensely important for the economy and irrigation requirements of African countries.

More crucially, they are indispensable for tourism and host thousands of visitors annually. If you are considering visiting Africa and need to decide on the rivers you should visit there; then this article is for you.

Here, I will tell you about the most famous rivers of African that can satisfy your wanderlust….

Top 18 Most Famous Rivers of Africa To Visit

If you want to enjoy the wildlife paradise, here are the top 10 must-see rivers of Africa

1. Nile River

Rivers Of Africa
Nile River By Givaga

The first and most famous of the rivers of Africa on this list is the Nile. The Nile was thought to be the longest river in the world throughout the century. This one of the famous rivers of Africa is divided into two tributaries – the Blue Nile and White Nile. The Blue Nile is the shorter of the two but contributes more than 80% of the Nile water.

The river is surrounded by populated regions known as the Nile valley. The valley has been the center of early Egyptian civilization. The Nile water is used for agricultural purposes across Egypt and other surrounding regions.

Flowing between the regions of the Meditteranean Sea and Lake Victoria, it stretches a massive 4130 miles. Despite having an enormous length, the amount of water it holds is substantially lower than the other rivers in Africa. The reason is its shallow depth.

2. Congo River

Rivers Of Africa
The Congo River – Exploring a Legend By Pascal Maitre

The Congo River is one of the deepest and the ninth-largest rivers across the globe. The second largest river of Africa – after the Nile – pumps a massive amount of water each year.

Multiple islands, waterfalls, swamps, and lakes beautify this river. Congo has the highest diversity of fish among all the African rivers. On its banks, one can spot the abundance of rainforest animals like okapis, monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.

The river is also used as a waterway for trade. The transport of timber, cotton, rubber, and minerals are transported through Congo. Approximately 75 million people living in its surroundings have their lives dependent on this river.

3. Orange River

Rivers Of Africa
Orange River By Riverraftingtrips

River Gariep or Orange River is amongst the most amazing rivers of Africa. Located in the Drakensberg in Lesotho, it flows to Alexander’s Bay and falls into the Atlantic Ocean. It also forms Namibia’s southern border with South Africa.

It is the longest river and a key driver for South Africa. It was named Orange River in honor of William V of Orange. This river is significant because it is one of the major sources of irrigation.

Your trip to Orange River can be the most adventurous one. From enjoying African fish eagle hunting to rafting down one of the world’s greatest rivers and staying in base camps, you can make your trip memorable.

4. Zambezi River

Rivers Of Africa
Zambezi River By Looks and Travels

Out of all the eastward-flowing rivers of Africa, the Zambezi is the longest. It is host to many spectacular birds and animals as it has multiple wildlife areas across its stretch. Fishermen from around the globe come to this river to catch the famous Tigerfish.

The upper reaches of the river have a steady flow due to the flatness of the topography. The regions near the upper Zambezi have a low-density of population. The people’s lives there are heavily influenced by the river’s dynamics as they have to move their homes during times of flood.

Along the lower and middle reaches of the river, the famous Victoria falls are found. They are counted among the seven natural wonders of the world. Victoria falls is almost 1500 meters wide and is considered to be the largest waterfall in the entire world.

Zambezi’s water is also used to generate hydroelectricity. Two large dams – Cahora Bassa and Kariba have been built on this river for this purpose.

5. Niger River

Rivers Of Africa
Niger River by iExplore

After the Nile and the Congo, the Niger is the 3rd longest river of Africa. It is one of few rivers that don’t flow towards the sea. Instead, it flows inland and into the Sahara desert. The river has been used as a waterway for travel and trade for centuries. It also serves as a means for the cultivation of crops.

Previously, the Niger river was called the “Slave Coast.” The reason behind this name was that majority of the enslaved Africans were taken from this river during the times of slavery. Historically, it has also been used for the trade of gold.

An interesting story about the river dates back to the start of the 18th century when a British researcher named Mungo Park tried to discover the river’s source. He decided to travel the entire river on a boat but was interrupted by multiple attacks from the tribesmen.

Park and his team resisted the attacks but eventually failed against one. His boat drowned, and the mission was left incomplete.

6. Ubangi River

Rivers Of Africa
Ubangi River By Peter Prokosch

The Ubangi or Oubangui river is located in Central Africa and is one of the largest tributaries of the Congo river. It’s one of the shorter rivers of Africa, with a stretch of only 660 miles.

It has a total of eight tributaries, but the two famous ones are Mpoko and Lua.

Ubangi river starts between the Uele and Mbomu rivers and heads towards the west. Then, it bends towards the southwest and later towards the south. Finally, at Liranga, it falls into the Congo river.

It combines with the Congo river to form a vital artery between Brazzaville and Bangui riverboats. Hence, it’s an important trade path between the two important cities.

7. Limpopo River

Rivers Of Africa
Limpopo River By South World

The 1090 miles river originates from the Witwatersrand Mountains and Constantia Kloof. After running through several countries, the Limpopo meets the Indian Ocean near Gaza. Before joining the Marico river, it is also famously called the Crocodile river.

Back in 1498, the explorer – Vasco da Gama – on his way to India – discovered this river. He called it “Holy Spirit” or “Espiritu Santo.” Kruger national park is located at the border of the river; it’s a place worth having a visit if you plan to explore this river.

8. Kasai River

Rivers Of Africa
Kasai River By Congo Travel and Tours

The Kasai River is also known as the Kwa River or Rio Cassai. The 1338 miles river originates from Angola and discharges into the Congo river. Its importance in the region is due to it being a pathway for trade.

The river has six tributaries – Lulua, Loange, Kwango, Sankuru, Wamba, and Kwilu – running from east to west. All these tributaries can be navigated easily, making it an ideal waterway for local transport.

9. Shebelle River

Rivers Of Africa
Shebelle River By Shabelle English

The Shebelle River finds its origin in the Ethiopian Highlands. The 1130 miles long river ends up in the Jubba river but mostly dries up before getting there. If there’s sufficient rainfall in a season, it may also reach the Somali sea.

The wilderness of Wabe Shebelle (its alternate name) fascinates visitors. It has always been one of the hot choices for camping adventures.

10. Kwango River

Rivers Of Africa
Kwango River By Nick-Hobgood

The Kwango or the Rio Cuango river is 1170 miles long. Originating from Alto Chicapa, it eventually falls into the Kasai river at Bandundu. The four tribes – the Yaka, the Suku, the Pende, and the Mbala tribe – are located in Kwango’s river valley.

The people living here are experts in crafting and mask carvings. Tourists visit this one of the best rivers of Africa to enjoy fishing, boat riding, and sightseeing.

11. Okavango River

Rivers Of Africa
Okavango River By imagexphoto

An alternate name for this river in Portuguese is Rio Cubango. Starting from Angola Highlands, it stretches upto 1000 miles. A vast range of wildlife is one of its main attributes.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t discharge into an ocean. Instead, it ends up in an open land – Moremi Game Reserve. Its deposition forms the Okavango delta, which is a familiar name for people with a craze for travel.

The Okavango Delta was among the 1000 most beautiful sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Also, it is classified as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.

12. Volta River

Rivers Of Africa
Volta River By andreajoseph2011

The Volta River has three different sources – Black Volta, Red Volta, and Nakambe. After completing its 930 miles stretch, it eventually empties itself into the Atlantic ocean.

Portuguese traders named it the Volta river – Volta means twists and turns. The name precisely describes its twisty nature. The river is the main river system of Ghana and is responsible for catering to its irrigation needs. A dam named Akosombo dam has been constructed on this river to generate electric power.

13. Umgeni River

Rivers Of Africa
Umgeni River By Nikki Brighton

Unlike some of the other rivers of Africa, the Umgeni is not a long river. However, its significance for neighboring cities is quite indispensable. More than 3.5 million people depend on this river for household water needs. Despite its small size, its importance is far more than the majority of the other rivers in Africa.

Apart from fulfilling the daily water needs of the nearby regions, Umgeni is one of Africa’s major power and electricity generation centers. Four dams – Nagle dam, Inanda dam, Albert falls dam, and Mimdar dam – are built on this river. Adding to its importance are the famous Hawick falls, which are a major attraction for tourists in Africa.

14. Breede River

Rivers Of Africa
Breede River By Malgas

The Breede river is widely recognised as the wildest river of Africa. The river is located in the Western region of South Africa, and most of its portion is easily navigable. Breede is a vital resource for the country’s economy as it runs through grape and wine farms.

The origin of the river is the Skurweberg Mountains. It runs through many valleys and scenic spots – making it an important location for the tourism industry.

15. Great Fish River

Rivers Of Africa
Great Fish River By Coisroux

The river finds its source in the sky-high mountains of Middleberg. The total stretch of this river is 692 km, and it heads southwards to join the Koonap river before discharging into the Indian ocean.

Throughout history, its basin has been used for agricultural purposes due to its high fertility. The basin is small but is substantially significant, being highly fertile. Another factor enhancing its importance is an irrigation project being planned. The aim is to fulfill the agricultural requirements of the nearby regions by designing a large irrigation channel through river Orange and the great fish river.

16. Levubu River

Rivers Of Africa
Levubu River By Sahistory

Another name for the Levubu river is the Luvuvhu river. It’s a substantially short river of only 120 miles originating from the Soutpansberg mountains. On its upper reaches, there is a worryingly increased amount of crocodiles. Sharks are also found in several locations in this river.

The middle section of the river has an important dam known as the Nandoni dam. However, the river’s hydroelectric potential is utilized by six more dams. They are named Damami dam, Albasini dam, Phiphidi dam, Mambedi dam, Vondo dam, and Tshakuka dam. So, the river has huge importance in the region due to electric power production.

17. Gamtoos River

Rivers Of Africa
Gamtoos River By NJR ZA

The 645 km long river is the only major source of water for the extensive lands of tobacco and citrus farms. That’s why this one of the most visited rivers of Africa is indispensable for the economy of this region.

Apart from irrigation, tourism is another important aspect associated with this river. It’s popular for white sand beaches located at its basin. These attractive beaches make it a tourist favorite destination.

18. Umfolozi River

Rivers Of Africa
Umfolozi River By Roger de la Harpe

The last of the rivers of Africa on my list- The Umfolozi is a small river formed by the conjunction of the Black and White Umfolozi rivers. It is located in the Natal (KwaZulu) province of South Africa. The presence of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve makes it an important tourist attraction.

Apart from tourism, being an ideal hunting location adds to its fame. Moreover, its river basin leaves fertile land for agriculture. The Umfolozi river ends up in the Indian Ocean, towards the south of St. Lucia.

The Most Famous Rivers Of Africa- Wrap Up

Rivers and Africa is a duo made in the heavens. From Neil to Congo, Ubangi to Orange, many rivers in Africa can captivate visitors.

In this post, I have told you all you need to know about the most famous rivers in Africa. The beauty and charm of these rivers are second to none and truly worth your time.

So, which one out of these eighteen rivers of Africa are you going to visit? Do let me know in the comment section!

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