Lake Malawi was born during the times of seismic upheaval when the earth’s crust was split in a long gash stretching from the Dead Sea right down the length of Africa as far as the Zambezi River. The floor of this Great Rift contains Africa’s spectacular, long, narrow lakes, with coastal plains rising into steep escarpments, such as the Nyika Plateau.
The southernmost lake in the chain is Lake Malawi, the waters of which feed into the Shire River and from there are carried via falls and rapids, through deep gorges and winding across plains, until the Shire spills its waters into the great Zambezi River. David Livingston once called this “The Lake of the Stars“.
Lake Malawi is set among rolling hills, some rising steeply from the water, and covered in tropical vegetation. A network of roads allows you to explore at leisure the various resorts along the neighbouring lakeshore or to venture further afield into the highlands and plateaux of the Central and northern Regions. Here are situated the largest of Malawi’s national parks and nature reserves, home of a large variety of wildlife.
Discover another time scale in the sometimes remote, but always unspoilt national parks of Malawi. Climatic variation and geographic conditions have blessed this corner of Africa with a rich diversity of wildlife, and a conservation conscious government has ensured its preservation for posterity.
Whichever of the parks you choose to visit will depend on the time available and there are a number of smaller conservation areas and games reserves, which are worth a visit. We have listed here the major ones.
Lake Malawi National Park
This is the first park in the world to provide protection to marine life of a tropical, deep water, rift valley lake and contains an amazing diversity of dazzling tropical freshwater fish. The Park lies at the southern part of the Lake, encompassing the Nankumba Peninsula – the promontory that splits this part of the Lake into two arms – and the offshore islands.
The scenery is a spectacular: sheer rocky outcrops rising from deep waters clad with tropical growth; mountains; sandy beaches and coves; densely wooded islands; sand dunes and reed marshes. The crystal clear waters challenge the aquatic minded to don masks and fins and to marvel at the underwater scenery. Tiny gems, spotted, striped, and translucent dart among the rocks. More than four hundred species have been identified, most of which are unique to these waters.
Attracted by the wealth of the underwater harvest, kingfishers and cormorants dive in pursuit whilst fish eagles wait to swoop down on the larger prey – perch, bream, and carp. Greenbacked herons, goliath and purple herons wait in endless vigil. Bateleur and black eagles can be spotted gliding high overhead.
Vervet monkeys swing and dive from branch to branch, and klipspringer and bushbuck inhabit the rocky outcrops of the mainland. In the reed marshes, hippo’s and crocodiles hold sway undisturbed, accompanied by jacanas, ibises and egrets.
A road runs north, through spectacular tropical scenery to Cape Maclear at the head of the Nankumba Peninsula. It’s an easy drive of some 30km from the resorts of Club Makokola and the Nkopola Lodge. Along this shoreline a luxuriant variety of plants and trees can be seen, including borasus palms, wild figs, baobabs, ten metre high euphorbias and spectacular aloes.