Dubbed “The Lake of Stars” by David Livingstone – due to the way the light dances across the deep blue water during the day, and then reflects the twinkling stars and fishermen’s lamps during the night – Lake Malawi should be on every Africa-travel nut’s bucket list.
Situated towards the southern end of Lake Malawi, the turquoise waters of Lake Malawi National Park are home to hundreds of fish species, including over 400 species of colourful cichlids, and the scenery within the park is scintillating.
Spanning 365 miles long and 52 miles wide (hence sometimes referred to as the calendar lake), Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa, and the ninth largest lake in the world. This ‘inland sea’ is a river-fed, meromictic lake (the various layers of water do not intermix), with more species of fish than any other lake in the world, making it one of the best places for freshwater snorkelling and scuba diving. Most of Lake Malawi’s astonishing underwater diversity is protected within the Lake Malawi National Park which is a World Heritage site and also one of the first in the world set aside for the protection of freshwater fish.
The flat lake surface and absence of tides and currents also makes it ideal for sailing, kayaking and other water sports. Back on the shore, the white sandy beaches are fringed by over-hanging palm trees and wild avocado groves that provide the perfect spot for an afternoon of relaxation.
Snorkelling and scuba diving
Imagine yourself swimming in an enormous aquarium and you’ll start to understand what it’s like to take a dip in Lake Malawi’s crystal-clear, warm waters. With visibility reaching up to 30 metres underwater, even the simplest snorkelling gear can provide fantastic results in the right places.
There are also some wonderful spots for scuba diving, and quite a few licensed operators that offer the PADI or NAUI certification to those wanting to dive for the first time.
The still waters of Lake Malawi provide the perfect playground for a variety of water sport activities. From kayaking, to stand-up paddle boarding, to waterskiing and more, there’s no end to the fun to be had in the water.
A traditional cruise in a wooden dhow boat is possibly the best way to enjoy the tranquility of Lake Malawi. Whether it be an early morning breakfast cruise, or a magical sundowner cruise to watch the sunset, a dhow cruise is an essential part of the Lake Malawi experience.
First Published by the African Geographic