All About Lake Malawi in the Warm Heart of Africa
Lake Malawi, also known as Lago Niassa (Mozambique) and Lake Nyasa (Tanzania), is the main reason tourists flock to gorgeous Malawi. With its lovely water and plentiful fish, it’s no wonder it’s so popular.
This massive lake stretches for 580 km, making it the ninth-largest lake in the world, and the third-largest and second deepest in Africa. Located between Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique as the southernmost lake within the East African Rift System, the lake occupies one-fifth of the country’s total area.
The Lake drains an area larger than Malawi itself yet, only one river, the Shire (pronounced “Shiray”) flows from it. The river runs for 402 kilometres through Liwonde National Park where large concentrations of hippos are common along its shores. Eventually, it reaches the Indian Ocean via the River Zambezi.
The surface of the Lake is about 470m above sea level and in the north, it is extraordinarily deep – plunging well below sea level to 700m. This reflects the enormity of the natural faulting of the Great Rift Valley which is the origin of the lake itself.
For much of the year, the lake is placid, but when strong winds blow north or south, unpredictable gales sweep through the area giving rise to its reputation as the Lake of Storms.
Lake Malawi National Park, located at the southernmost end of Lake Malawi, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Lake Malawi has two inhabited islands: Likoma Island and Chizumulu Island, which are home to some of Africa’s most stunning beachside lodges.
Steamboats, motor ships, and air transport are the most common means of transportation between the villages on the shores of Lake Malawi.
A fun fact about Lake Malawi is that it’s also known as The Calendar Lake because it reaches a length of 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.
Often described as the “Lake of Stars” because of the many fishing boats drifting on the water at night, with their lanterns visible from the shore, the lake is integral to the country’s economy because of its plentiful fish.
Because of the unique quality water, numerous fish species evolved and now the lake is home to more fish species than any other lake. Species include over 700 types of cichlids.
Cichlids are small, bright rainbow coloured, fish seen flickering in shallow water. They can be found all over the world but are mostly located in Africa where over 1600 cichlids are living in freshwater lakes and rivers.
More than 500 species can be found in Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi, and Lake Tanganyika. Since most cichlids species feed on different food, many cichlid species can live in one location without much competition.
Some Cichlids can grow up to four centimetres, but the largest cichlid species, the Boulengerochromis microlepis also known as the emperor cichlid, can grow up to 90 cm.
Male blue tilapias dig a pit in their mouths in shallow water when spawning begins. When courting females, these cichlids defend their territories.
If a female is interested, she will lay her eggs by the male cichlid, which he’ll then fertilise. After the eggs have been fertilised, the female cichlid puts the eggs in her mouth and swims away to hatch her eggs elsewhere.
Females allow their young to swim back inside her mouth when danger is nearby.
Malawi, known as the Warm Heart of Africa, is a plentiful, generous, and friendly country where tourists can truly immerse themselves in the African warmth and way of life.
Days can be spent exploring the villages, drumming on the beach, swimming, snorkelling, fishing, horse riding, or just sitting back and enjoying the slow pace of Africa.
David Livingstone, a Victorian explorer, ventured through Malawi in the 1850s. In 1889, a British protectorate was established and by 1907, Malawi had attained its formal name “Nyasaland”. This titled stayed until 1964 when the protectorate was disbanded and it became an independent country. Two years later Malawi became a republic.
During mid-December to mid-April, it’s classified as the rainy season in Malawi. Expect heavy rainfall early in the morning followed by sunny skies and clean air.
Mid-May to the end of July is classified as the windy season. During this season, it’s difficult for water sports enthusiasts to venture into the lake as there are rough waves.
End of July to December is considered the dry season. Temperatures can be expected to rise to an average of 32°C without any humidity present. During the evenings you can expect tropical, calm temperatures.