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Lake Malawi

The lake of life

Lake Malawi is Africa’s third-largest body of water, covering an area roughly equivalent in size to Albania. Measuring 580 km in length and about 75 km in breadth at its widest point, the lake plays an important role in the everyday life of the nation as a source of food, a means of transport and a major attraction for international visitors.

The shoreline of Lake Malawi is shared by Mozambique and Tanzania. The largest portion of the lake belongs to Malawi, but about 25 per cent of the surface area is part of Mozambique. The lake has two inhabited islands – Likoma, with its incongruous cathedral, and Chizumulu – both of which are in the Mozambican part of the lake but in fact belong to Malawi. Both have backpacker-style accommodation and are served by the lake’s regular ferry service (see separate story).


Most of the lake’s tourism activities are concentrated in Monkey Bay, 206 km from Lilongwe, with its broad sandy beaches and world-class diving, and the adjacent Cape Maclear Nature Reserve. There is a wide choice of hotels, lodges, backpacker hostels and camps in and around Monkey Bay as well as along the shoreline at, for example, Nkopola. In addition, there are properties such as Mumbo Island Camp, accessible from the shore by boat, and one or two fine places on Likoma Island. 

Another key tourism spot is Nkhata Bay, a popular place for backpackers and diving enthusiasts.