The Underwater World of Lake Malawi

While a large number of people immediately think desert, savannah and the Big Five when they imagine Africa – it’s also home to one of the most unusual and diverse marine ecosystems in the world: Lake Malawi. Also known as Lake Nyasa, this entirely landlocked, fresh-water lake is the ninth largest in the world, and is home to more species of fish than any other lake on earth.

David Livingstone was the first Westerner to come across Lake Malawi over 150 years ago, and it is one of the most unique places you could choose to visit. It plays an extremely important part in the economy of Malawi, not only as a source of income for traditional fishing villages – but also as a tourist attraction for those passionate about the diverse underwater world. Despite this, large stretches of the lake’s shoreline are completely uninhabited leaving the natural scenery largely untouched. The locals have made strong efforts to preserve their surroundings by not overfishing the lake and having as small an impact on the land as possible.

Snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving are understandably the most popular activities for tourists on the lake as it is the only place in the world that certain species of cichlids can be found. With over 1000 species inhabiting the lake, the vast majority of which are endemic, it’s estimated that only 5% of the species can be found elsewhere. So unique is this ecosystem that some marine enthusiasts try to recreate the environment of Lake Malawi in fish tanks – mainly due to the beautiful colours of the endemic fish. Apart from these unique species of cichlids, there are also many indigenous species of invertebrates such as snails (16 of the 28 species found here are unique to the lake) and molluscs.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site of Outstanding Universal Value, Lake Malawi is a great addition to safari holidays in Tanzania and Zambia, and as a beach destination on its own. Nkwichi sits on the banks of the lake, on the Mozambique side, and is the ideal place for relaxing in laid back luxury. Offering activities such as snorkelling safaris and dhow cruises, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the crystal clear turquoise waters of Lake Malawi by day, and by night it will become obvious why it’s also known as the Lake of Stars. Kaya Mawa gives a different perspective on the lake – it’s situated on Likoma Island, just off the Mozambican shore, and is one of the most romantic places to go on holiday – making it perfect for a honeymoon. All rooms at Kaya Mawa are individual houses built out of natural materials to blend into the plush landscape, and some of the features are built into the surrounding rocks. Enjoy the same activities on offer as Nkwichi, but benefit from the chance to become PADI certified by one of Kaya Mawa’s two diving instructors.

If an adventure on Lake Malawi sounds like your idea of a perfect holiday, contact one of our experts or call 020 7843 3500.

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