Lake Malawi, African Great Lakes

Also known as:  Lake Nyasa, Lake Nyassa, Lake Niassa, Lago Niassa

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Malawi — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Malawi cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Malawi

Located in the East African Rift Valley system between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, Lake Malawi — also known as Lake Nyasa, Lake Nyassa, Lake Niassa, and Lago Niassa — is the third-largest lake in Africa at over 7,314,319 acres. It also has the distinction of being the second deepest lake in Africa with a maximum depth of 2,316 feet; and with its tropical waters, it reportedly contains more fish species than any other lake in the world. Its largest tributary is the Ruhuhu and its outlet is the Shire River. Lake Malawi is approximately 218 miles southeast of Lake Tanganyika, the second largest lake in Africa.

Lake Malawi, which is believed to be 40,000 years old, was discovered by Europeans in the mid-19th century, including David Livingstone in 1859; he named it Lake Nyasa. The United Kingdom claimed much of the area surrounding the lake during colonization and formed the colony of Nyasaland. Other areas around the lake were colonized by Portugal and Scotland. Most of the lake is in Malawi, with about one fourth located in Mozambique, including the Malawian islands of Likoma and Chizumulu, which are the lake’s two inhabited islands. The islands, which are famous for their abundance of Baobab trees, support several thousand people each.

Part of the Great Lakes of Africa, Lake Malawi is third only behind Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Also called the African Rift Valley Lakes, the list also includes Lake Turkana, Lake Albert, Lake Kivu, and Lake Edward. The area is the source for the Nile and has been of great interest to Europeans for centuries.

Situated on the southern end of Lake Malawi, Lake Malawi National Park is the only national park in Malawi created to protect fish and aquatic habitat. It is home to crocodiles, hippopotamuses, baboons, an 800-year old baobab tree, and many endemic fish species, including cichlids, which are popular for aquariums. Expect to find chambo, large catfish, tilapiines, and haplochromines. The lake is also home to open-water and sand-dwelling species of fish such as the mbuna.

Activities at Lake Malawi include swimming, snorkeling, diving, sunbathing, fishing, sailing, horseback riding, water skiing, kayaking, and cruising. The water is very clear but take caution when going into waters far from home. The southern lake shore has good beaches in Senga Bay, Nkudzi Bay, Namaso Baym, and the Mangochi area. Vacation rentals are readily available in this area. The northern shore is less developed than the south and often cooler during the rainy season. Visit Livingstone and Karonga for some history and culture in the north. Diving in Lake Malawi is excellent, offering 70 feet of visibility in most of the lake’s clear water.

Likoma Island, which is home to a very large cathedral built in the early 1900’s, has several nice beaches and eco-friendly resorts. Take a boat from the mainland of Lake Malawi to the island and spend your days hiking on the island or kayaking around it. The mountain backdrop of the lake is breathtaking at sunset, offering beautiful African vistas.

One of Africa’s great treasures, Lake Malawi offers clear water, mountain views, and an African wildlife experience not often matched, To view unparalleled sunsets across one of the largest lakes in the world, head to Lake Malawi and rent a vacation home for an adventure your friends will be envious of.

Things to Do at Lake Malawi

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park

Fish Species Found at Lake Malawi

  • Catfish
  • Chambo
  • Haplochromine
  • Tilapiine

Find Places to Stay at Lake Malawi

If you’re considering a Lake Malawi lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Malawi Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Malawi lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Malawi Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 7,314,319 acres

Shoreline Length: 152 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,640 feet

Average Depth: 958 feet

Maximum Depth: 2,316 feet

Water Volume: 6,809,990,827 acre-feet

Drainage Area: 2,546 sq. miles

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Malawi Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Lake Malawi Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Lake Malawi Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake Malawi Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake Malawi article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!