Lake Malawi is the most popular tourist attraction in Malawi, with its sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, resorts, water sports and huge variety of fish life. Some of the rarest tropical fish in the world are unique to this vast lake.
Lake Malawi also known as the 'Calendar Lake' as it is 365 miles long, 52 wide and, rounded up, 1 mile deep, stretching from the northern tip of the country in the north to Mangochi in the South! Occupying 1/5 of Malawi's total area, it is the third largest lake in Africa.
This lake has shorelines on western Mozambique, eastern Malawi, and southern Tanzania.
For much of the year Lake Malawi is placid, but when strong winds blow north or south, it can become an angry monster. Because of its potentially rich harvest of fish, the Lake plays an important part in the country’s economy. Fishing villages are scattered along the length of the lake shore and the traditional industry and practices are an attraction to visitors.
Access to Lake Malawi is possible along much of its length but it should be noted that it is usually necessary to take a short detour off the main roads in order to reach the beach. Despite the attraction the Lake has to settlement, there are long stretches of totally uninhabited golden sand lake shore, and plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy activities on and in the waters.
Lake Malawi is a magnet for divers and snorkelers with it's clear warm waters and variety of fish. Some of the rarest tropical fish in the world are unique to this vast lake. Scuba diving courses are offered.
Lake Malawi offers warm, clear and calm freshwater diving. This in itself is a good enough reason to dive the lake, but in addition to this the lake is blessed with the amazing Cichlid tropical fish. Quoting from the book “Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat” by AD Konigs, "No lake in the world contains such a diversified and distinct community of cichlid fishes as Lake Malawi". These colourful fish coupled with the massive granite boulders that make up much of the underwater terrain, makes for a truly remarkable and unusual diving experience. Within the Lake Malawi National Park there are a number of accessible dive sites that demonstrate this.
Please note that many of these dive sites are some distance away - Boating to such sites will incur an additional charge (usually USD20)
Bakers Oven is a huge “swim-through” with multiple entry and exit points, with the deepest point being 15m. This dive gives the impression of a cavern dive, but with very few of the risks normally associated with cavern diving due to the multiple exit points and the ambient light. This dive really showcases one of the more exciting aspects of diving in the lake, namely diving through recesses between the massive granite boulders that constitute the underwater section of the islands.
The Aquarium: As its name suggests this is the place to see the fish! Scientists researching the remarkable Cichlids of Lake Malawi have routinely used the Aquarium as a dumping site for live fish captured for research from this and other parts of Lake Malawi. This has resulted in an amazing density and variety of fish at this site. It is a shallow, safe dive suitable for even the most inexperienced divers.
The Wreck is a 15m steel hull sunk specifically for diving. It rests in 30m of water. Penetration is possible and is safe due to the simple layout of the superstructure. There are resident catfish and the ever-present Cichlids.
The Canyon: This site runs from 18m to 48m in depth, offering large drop-offs, pinnacles, boulders and swim-throughs. You find yourself in an underwater canyon with huge granite boulders and slabs towering over you. A truly spectacular dive.
Zimbabwe Rock: This pinnacle is found 9kms from Cape Maclear in the deep waters of the lake. It thrusts almost vertically up from the lake bed offering huge drop-offs and an endless supply of maze like swim-throughs. This is for the experienced diver and an advanced certification is the minimum requirement to participate.
Rent a kayak and discovered the scattered islands of Lake Malawi.
The largest portion of the area of Lake Malawi or Nyaza is in Malawi. However, about a quarter of the area belongs to Mozambique. This area includes the waters surrounding the Malawian islets of Likoma and Chizumulu, which are this lake's only two inhabited islets.
Likoma Island is set about half way up the lake and 12 km from the Mozambique side. There are beautiful sights to see all around the island, as well as great interaction with the local community. The must-see sight of the island is St Peter's Cathedral in Mbamba town, over 100 years old and bigger than Winchester! Even if you’re not the cathedral type, it never fails to leave people awestruck. Hopefully Vincent the verger will be there to give you the grand tour – always entertaining!
Up on the north point of the island is a forest reserve, near to some beautiful beaches. Or you can head across the island to Mbamba town and see the small cobbled market where locals get their daily supplies. If you fancy a spot of local cuisine head for the Hunger Clinic at the bottom of the town road.
If you find yourself here on a weekend, you might be lucky enough to catch the local dancing groups as they compete with visiting dancers from Chizimulu Island. This is a very serious affair for the dancers and they show off their moves very proudly to all who come to watch and don’t mind if you join in either! The 'dancing season' start in September and culminates on new year's day.
The most important things to understand about Likoma is that this is probably the friendliest place in Africa. They say Malawi is the warm heart of Africa - well Likoma is the centre of the 'heart'. Feel free to wander off wherever you want, whenever you want, no maps or guides are necessary, just ask a Likoman the way home and they will probably escort you themselves.
There is something for everyone at Lake Malawi!