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Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyasa. It is the third largest lake in the larger Eastern Rift Valley, and the ninth largest lake in the world. Discovered way back in 1616 by one Caspar Boccaro, a Portuguese explorer. The lake is considered the greatest tourist attraction in the country of Malawi. It was actually David Livingstone who named it Lake Nyasa. It is shared by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
It occupies approximately 365 miles from north to south, with a breadth of approximately 52 miles. By virtue of lying in the Rift Valley, it runs extremely deep. It is approximated to be 700 m deep.
The lake is fed by not less than 14 permanent rivers and a host of seasonal inlets, the largest of which is River Ruhuhu. It has only one outlet in River Shire, which is a tributary of the Zambezi. The country of Malawi is naturally landlocked, but they still fondly refer to Lake Malawi as their inland sea.
Lake Malawi is a major source of different fish species. They include the famous Red Zebras, Malawi eye biters, and cichlids, among thousands of other species. There are reportedly up to 700 different species of cichlids. Lake Tanganyika is the only one that rivals this figure.
As a matter of fact, the country’s GDP is largely reliant on the fishing industry, employing hundreds of thousands of the general population either directly or indirectly.
What to Do During Your Visit
Lake Malawi offers plenty of holiday options for all types of visitors. The clean sandy beaches provide a serene environment. The cool breeze rivals famous world coastal seashores and oceanic views.
- Scuba Diving
- Wind Sailing
- Deep water diving
The most accessible parts of the lake are found in the central and southern parts. You’ll find family-friendly island lodges here. They include Kaya Mawa Lodge. Charges start from about $300 per person. On Mumbo Island (from $250). Club Nkwichi Lodge (from $355 per person) among others.
For an unforgettable water experience, there is a host of water-based activities to get you going around these beach lodges. You may go scuba diving, kayaking, and sailing during your stay.
Other Tourist Attractions
- Lake Malawi National Park
The water experience is just a tip of the iceberg. There is so much to see around Lake Malawi if you’re not limited by time. This is the home of the world’s largest freshwater national park; Lake Malawi National Park. It is situated in the southern region of the lake, in the famous Cape Maclear. The park is characterised by a not-so-vast land area, and number of small islands measuring around 330ft offshore.
This is an aquarium of colourful fish species that promises a panoramic view of thousands of freshwater fish. With available tour guides, you can access explore the interiors of the waters courtesy of boats for hire. Enjoy a one-on-one interaction with the aquatic life. The fish are already used to tourists, and you can feed them directly from the hand as you sail past them.
Further north into the park, there is the Marelli Island. It can be accessed through the Salima/Senga Bay. The luxurious Blue Zebra Island Lodge, a five star resort, is also found in this island.
- Likoma Island
This is found near the shores of the lake where it borders Mozambique. Known as the romantic island, Likoma is inhabited by friendly locals who will not shy away from helping you get around. It is home to some amazing sandy beaches and warm water lines, not forgetting the colourful fish species.
This is also where you’ll find the Likoma Cathedral, which rivals Winchester Cathedral in England in terms of size. If you’re looking for a surreal holiday experience, the Likoma Island is certainly one spot you should not miss.
Where to Stay
Areas around Lake Malawi have been developing at a very high rate. Thanks to a continuously increasing population of both local and foreign tourists coming to explore the lake. From the lakeshore to cropping urban centres nearby, you can find attractive alternatives for lodging and dining.
Areas between Monkey bay and Mangochi are famous for their wonderful white sand beaches as well as food and accommodation resorts. Most of the lodges are concentrated around Mangochi owing to the fact that Monkey Bay is a port town with lots of commercial activities.
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Other popular places where you can find good lodges include Nkhotakota, Chintheche, Dwangwa, Nkhata Bay, Senga Bay, and Karonga. The list is endless, but a good guide should see you enjoy your stay around the lake.
What to Eat and Drink
When in Rome …The rule of thump here is, you cannot come here and not indulge in their greatest export, fish. As a world renowned tourist site, the lodges around Lake Malawi provide a lot of global delicacies. Visitors stream in from different parts of the world, and they are sure to find their favourite meals at these hotels. There are hotels providing worldwide cuisine.
Bars provide all sorts of beers and wine. You’ll most definitely enjoy wine as you watch the sundown after a nice day of exploring. If wine is your drink of choice.
How to Get to Lake Malawi
Malawi has only two international airports in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Whereas Blantyre offers easy access to Lake Malawi through the south, Lilongwe is the best option if you want to go to the western shores, including Likoma island and Nkwichi Lodge on the Mozambican side. Malawian Airlines and South Africa Airways provide competitive rates throughout the year.
You may also easily get to the lake by road, but it is better if you have your own as renting one is usually expensive. There are several bus companies operating between different points of the lake. This is much cheaper than renting a car or a professional tour guide. It takes between 4 and 5 hours from Blantyre airport to Monkey Bay by bus or a minibus. You will save time by using a rented car.
Best Time to Visit
The most suitable time to visit Lake Malawi is between the start of May and before the end of October when the climate is more favourable. During that time it is warmer, and it normally does not rain during that time. Worth noting also, there is little risk of malarial infections as compared to rainy and cold seasons.
It is instrumental to conduct an extensive research of the best times and places to visit before embarking on a journey, especially for foreigners. Knowing a thing or two can go a long way in making your holiday even more worthwhile.