East AfricaMalawi

Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Story Highlights

  • About Lake Malawi
  • Activities On Lake Malawi
  • UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Lake Malawi is an African Great Kake and a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, located between Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.


Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

It is the ninth largest lake in the world and third largest and second deepest lake in Malawi. Lake Malawi is a lake of tectonic origin a typical rift or graben lake. The formation of the lake basin dates back 8.6 million years and is connected to divergent movement of African and Somali tectonic plates in the East African Rift System (EARS).


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Lake Malawi is between 560 and 580 kilometers long and about 75 kilometers wide at its widest point and 12 rivers flow into it, thus it was nicknamed the calendar lake. The lake has a total surface area of about 29,600 square kilometers. The lake is 706 m at its deepest point.

The primary inflow of Lake Malawi is Ruhuhu River located in the northern part of Malawi / southern part of Tanzania. The outlet of Lake Malawi is Shire River, which is also the largest river in Malawi located in the southern region of the country. Shire River drains into Zambezi River and further on into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

The lake is home to more species of fish than any other lake including at least 700 species of cichlids. The lake`s water is alkaline (pH 7.7 – 8.6) and warm with atypical surface temperature between 24 and 29 °C (75 – 84 °F). Besides being a home to fish, Lake Malawi is also a habitat for wildlife like such as crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys and fish eagles.

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Activities On Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Lake Malawi is a wonderland that offers all types of water sports and activities expected of any tropical beach destination. There are boats and boards of all types available to have fun with and to explore the waters, islands and beaches of the lake.

When it comes to small boats, the Lake is best known for its kayaking & sailing options with kayaks & canoes available at most beach lodges and even the option to take on longer expeditions along the lakeshore. A few lodges have small sailing boats for personal use or larger ones for a leisurely cruise.

The crystal clear water of Lake Malawi make it an ideal location for snorkelling, and donning a mask will give immediate access to the colourful kaleidoscope of tropical fish that live in the Lake and feed from the rocks along the shore.

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For those who wish to go that little bit deeper, there are a number of PADI registered dive schools along the lakeshore who offer great value scuba diving, including full courses to learn how to dive. One or two lodges even offer water skiing and sailboards and paddle boards are to be found at others.

For the less energetic, boat trips range from the famous mv Ilala lake ferry to sailing in an ocean-going yacht. Cruises into the upper reaches of the great Shire river are also possible.

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UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Lake Malawi the ‘Lake of Stars’, A UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Lake Malawi is the jewel in the crown of the country’s tourist attractions. This is the ‘inland sea’ of the otherwise land-locked Malawi.

This vast body of crystal clear freshwater fringed by beaches of golden sand is not only a scenic wonderland but it provides water sport opportunities for those looking for something beyond sun, sand and swimming. As one of the first Europeans to set eyes on the Lake Malawi over 150 years ago, the missionary-explorer Dr David Livingstone christened it the ‘Lake of Stars’.

Because of its rich fish harvest, the Lake plays an important part in the economy. Fishing villages are scattered along the shore and the traditional industry and practices are an attraction to visitors.

Access to the Lake is possible along much of its length but it is often necessary to take a short detour off the main roads in order to reach the beaches. Despite the villages, there are still very long stretches of totally uninhabited golden sand lakeshore, lapped by crystal clear waters.

Lake Malawi National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, being of “global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity.”


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