Known as the ‘calendar lake’ because it is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide, Lake Malawi is a wonderful place to come messing about by the water in the middle of Africa. It’s so huge that you feel like you’re next to an ocean! Whether you’re coming here simply for a break by the lake, or perhaps using it as a place to chill out after a safari in Malawi or Zambia, Lake Malawi offers the chance for excellent activities in crystal clear waters.
Diving in Lake Malawi
At its best, diving in Lake Malawi is like diving in a tropical fish tank with about 600+ species of colourful endemic cichlids. You will see mouth brooders sucking in and releasing their young, the ‘play dead fish’ attacking his prey, and the ‘around the corner fish’ and the ‘upside down fish’.
For much of the year, it’s clear, with visibility from about 15-25 metres, and it’s warm, with water temperatures ranging from about 23°-33°c. There are no tides, no big currents to contend with, and no salt as it’s a freshwater lake. This is a seriously good diving spot with varied sites from beginners to advanced divers, and you can do night dives here too. In the Cape Maclear area alone there are over 20 dive sites to choose from. You can dive all year, though the very best time is from about September to December.
Snorkelling in the Lake
You don’t have to be a diver to enjoy the amazing sights in the waters of Lake Malawi. You’ll find yourself swimming alongside a myriad of vividly-coloured, small tropical freshwater fish. Many of these are endemic cichlids, and their variety of colour and shape and behaviour is fascinating to watch, and as the waters are most often very clear, you get great sightings. You’ll also find that the water temperature is perfect for snorkelling, with an average of 25°c. And then of course there is the scenery all around you. This is a beautiful spot, and you’ll be sharing it with relatively few visitors, but quite a few fish eagles and other birds.
Other watersports on Lake Malawi
Waterbabies really do have a long list of activities to enjoy here on Lake Malawi. As well as the diving and snorkelling there is also:
- Hobie cat sailing
- Yacht sailing
- Dingy sailing
- Tube rides
The best places to stay for watersports at Lake Malawi
Some of the places we highly recommend to stay at for watersports at Lake Malawi include:
Mumbo Island, Cape Maclear
Pumulani, southern lakeshore
Blue Zebra Island Lodge, Maleri Island
Norman Carr Cottage, southern lakeshore
where to go
Lake Malawi is mostly in Malawi, but also shared by Mozambique, and borders Tanzania too. It is roughly a 3-4 hour drive from Lilongwe airport to places on the western and southern shores of the lake, such as Cape Maclear.
Likoma Island within the lake has an airstrip, so you can fly here from Lilongwe to reach the lodge at Kaya Mawa. Also from Likoma you can catch a boat transfer to get to Nkwichi Lodge on the Mozambique side of the lake (Mozambique immigration formalities are done at a stop on the way).
Read more about Malawi here.
when to go
You can come to Lake Malawi all year round and have a wonderful time. For general visits, the dry season (May to October) tends to be favourite, but for watersports more particularly we recommend:
Diving and snorkelling is good all year, but at its very best from September to December. It’s not great from about mid-January to mid-March as this is the rainiest time and the waters are murkier.
Sailing is perhaps best in the windier months of June and July, though this depends on how fast you want to go!
Also see our When to Visit Malawi page.
how to do it
We tailor make holiday itineraries to suit you, so we can build in any of these activities into your trip. You might want a Malawi-only holiday, or we can add on a stay at Lake Malawi for you after a safari in Zambia perhaps.