Things to see and do at lake Malawi

You can’t visit Malawi without spending some time at the lake – this vast, glittering mass of water dominates, taking up one fifth of the country’s landmass. At the southern end is Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site because of its endemic fish species called cichlids, which swarm beneath the lake’s calm surface.

Described by explorer Dr David Livingstone as "the lake of stars" when he stumbled across it in 1859, its mirror-like tranquillity makes it perfect for diving, snorkelling or kayaking, and its waters draw in a variety of bird species, as well as hippos, warthogs and occasional elephants.

Nights can be spent among the hidden coves, pristine sandy bays and dark, wooded hills that line the lakeshore, or on pristine boulder-lined islands in the lake itself, with options ranging from bare-bones thatched huts to posh tented camps.


Snorkelling and diving

Although Malawi is land-locked, it offers some pretty fantastic diving and snorkelling, with calm, warm, tideless waters with an abundant fish population. There are few plants under the waters because of its high alkalinity, so the water is fantastically clear, with up to 30 metres visibility at the calmest time of year (August to November). This means that even the most basic snorkelling gear gets you excellent results, with brilliantly coloured cichlids coming right up close to you, and clusters of massive underwater boulders to explore. You can snorkel pretty much all around the lake, and many lodges and hotels have equipment that you can borrow free of charge.
Lake Malawi is also one of the best freshwater diving locations in the world. Many lodges around the lake can arrange diving trips, as well as gear rental, and certified operators and instructors can be found all along its length, with many offering week-long PADI courses as well as shorter taster experiences.


Sea kayaking doesn't always have to take place along ocean coastlines. There’s excellent freshwater kayaking to be had on Lake Malawi, where paddle expeditions offer a passport to secluded beaches, deserted islands and exotic wildlife. Lake Malawi’s waters are calm, deep, and clear enough that you can spot clouds of colourful fish below without having to so much as put a toe in the water; and you’ll also be able to spot birds such as fish eagles soaring in the skies above.
Several of our operators include one or two days of kayaking in the protected waters of the National Park, where you’ll board stable one or two-person kayaks and stop at deserted coves before spending the night on an island in comfortable permanent tented camps.

Our top Malawi Vacation

Malawi self drive holiday

Malawi self drive vacation

Discover Malawi at your own pace on this self-drive trip

From £4275 10 days ex flights
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A visit to the lake is included on pretty much all Malawi itineraries, whether small group or tailor made. You might spend a night at a laid-back lakeside resort town, before continuing your adventure across the country, or come here at the end of a long safari for a few days chilling out at the beach. There will usually be a range of activities on offer so it can be as full-on or relaxed as you like; and lakeside accommodation ranges from campsites, to simple guesthouses to luxury lodges offering candlelit beach dinners and yacht excursions.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: BarryTuck] [Snorkelling & diving: SarahDepper] [Kayaking: Felix Dance] [Practicalities: SarahDepper]