I would like to travel by ferry from Mwanza in Tanzania to Kisumu in Kenya. Is there a ferry on that route / something close to it, and if so are there published schedules for them?
This is a non-definitive answer with some guides as to where to learn more.
From what I have found "on web" it sounds like there is probably not a direct passenger ferry service, there may be a long duration two-leg service via Kampala and the trip by bus or other road vehicle is liable to be a viable alternative.
I have a friend who visits the greater central-Africa area annually. I don't think he ever travels by ferry, but I'll ask him if he can add to this.
There used to be a number of ferry companies and ferries but there has been a very substantial reduction in service is the last two decades with companies going out of business and some rail links closing.
This Mwnza ferry travel information page only lists Bukoba - Mwanza. The page came from a 'Mwanza Guide' index page and when the link re ferry travel is clicked this is the only offering. Bukoba is not really in the right direction for you. Of possible value is the telephone number for the "Mwanza Guide Office" and Booking Office (see cited page). Presumably they could tell you what other services were currently available.
This lonely planet reader forum page from 2007 provides answers which were apparently definitive then and may still be. Or not.
Reader Mike / Arbirk2 provides a range of useful advice. He says you need to go by road, that many buses are available and that there are freight ferries but that they are not allowed to take passengers. What he says sounds useful and interesting enough to bear repeating here. Even if a ferry was now running it sounds as if the road route is a viable alternative. I've left the spelling unchanged.
From Kisumu to mwanza you have to take the buses.
There are no ferries. And it is illegal to use the goods ferries.
You have to take a bus from Kisumu to the border post at Isebania (The Tanzanian side is called Sirari) from here a bus to Mwanza. The road on this route is all tarred.
There is only one bus a day from Kisumu departing 6.30 in the morning to Isebania. Nyahunga company. From Kisumu busstation. Of course you can take matatus all day. (The matatus seldon go the whole way but they will guide you through without any problems if you pay the entire fare at once.)
I don't remember the fare but it is around 3-400 Kshs.
The ride Kisumu - Isebania takes around 3½ hours.
From Sirari to Mwanza there are many many buses last one leaving around 3 pm. The ride takes around 3 hours.
NB! It is a pity to go the whole way on one day. You should stop in Kisii and visit the soapstone carvers outside of the town (on the road to Isebania) Take a detour to Kuria country in Tanzania (visit e.g. the village Nyambury close to MUgumu). Stop in Bunda and go to Ukerewe - for bicycle rides and cultural and historic tours. From Ukerewe direct to Mwanza by ferry. Visit the Sukuma Museum in Kisesa outside Mwanza
This page of unknown age, but perhaps 2012, implies you need to travel via Port Bell (Kampala) with trip times of 19 + 13 = 32 hours. They say:
- The main ports on the lake are Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja. Typical journey times between Port Bell, in Uganda and Kisumu, in Kenya, are 13 hours and between Port Bell and Mwanza, in Tanzania, are 19 hours.
Mwanza guide for travellers culture, phrase list, behaviour, ... .