Lake Malawi – North
Africa’s third largest lake, Lake Malawi (previously Lake Nyasa) is also referred to as the calendar lake as it measures 365 miles long and 52 miles wide (days of the year by weeks of the year) and takes up approximately a fifth of the countries surface area.
The Lake drains an area larger than Malawi itself yet, only one river, the Shire flows from it. Eventually, the water spills into the Indian Ocean via the Zambezi River. The surface of the Lake is 1550ft (470m) above sea level with spectacular mountains dropping into the lake in the north while the south is less dramatic and enjoys long stretches of golden beaches and crystal clear water.
Lake Malawi is one of the cleanest fresh water lakes in the world and is safe for watersports and swimming. While sports fishing is limited on the lake there are in excess of 500 endemic cyclid fish which can be easily viewed around almost any rocks along the lakeshore. In the past lake Malawi, like many bodies of fresh water in Africa, has received negative publicity for bilharzia – while it has been recorded in areas of the lake, these are restricted to marshy areas and areas where rivers flow into the lake. The bulk of tourist resorts and lodges on the lakeshore regularly check their water and have found the areas safe for swimming. The lake is a special and spectacular area which should form a vital part of any itinerary to the area.
The part of Lake Malawi’s shore that lies in North Malawi is its most varied – everything from high cliffs dropping sheer into the lake, to secluded coves accessible only by boat.
The Chintheche area has some of the best beaches on the lake, with long stretches of white sand. This is also an area of cultural interest with the Bandawe Mission site nearby.
Nkata Bay is better described as a large village than a town. It is at the most northerly point on the Lake reached by David Livingstone. Its small sheltered harbour is a focus for the Lake’s fishing industry and a major stopping point for the lake ferry, the Ilala.
Furthest north is Karonga with a fascinating museum telling of the history of the area back to pre-historic times.
Off the eastern shore of the Lake is Likoma Island: a little piece of Malawian territory in Mozambican waters. Likoma’s claim to fame is its cathedral (the size of Winchester’s) on which work began in 1903. The island also boasts some stunning beaches. Access to Likoma is by boat or aircraft.
Where to stay:
Manda Nkwichi Lodge is situated on one of the most beautiful beaches on the Mozambican shores of Lake Niassa on the Mozambican shore of Lake Malawi, a short boat trip from Likoma Island. More…
Sangilo Sanctury Lodge. Nestled around a secluded cove on the Sangilo peninsula, the Sanctuary provides an idyllic escape on the lake in Northern Malawi. More…
Makuzi Beach Lodge is situated on the northern shores of Lake Malawi, in a secluded, tropical bay which is home to an abundance of birdlife. More…
How to get there:
Lake Malawi is easily accessible from Lilongwe, the Malawi capital, and its tranquil shores and relaxing leisure activities form a perfect counter balance to a safari in nearby Zambia or with a safari in the Liwonde National Park.
Using charter flights it is also possible to combine Lake Malawi with the Quirimbas Archipelago on the northern coastline of Mozambique, as well as the Niassa Wildlife Reserve. The cost of these flights at the present time is very expensive, however as more and more people visit these areas the prices are likely to come down.