Lake Malawi is an incredibly gorgeous place unlike anywhere else on Earth. The stunning lake is home to hundreds of cichlid species, picturesque still waters and a community of friendly locals eager to warmly greet new visitors.
Explaining all that makes Lake Malawi unique and worth visiting on a Malawi safari tour could take a lifetime, so here is a smattering of the six most interesting facts about the lake to encourage to come visit and explore.
1. It’s One of the Biggest Lakes in the World
Lake Malawi is officially the ninth-biggest lake in the world and the third-biggest lake in Africa. At 11,400 square feet of surface, Lake Malawi is large enough to fit the state of Massachusetts within its shores!
The lake can also plunge surprisingly deep, with its deepest point reaching 2,316 feet, or nearly a half mile.
2. It Has the Highest Number of Fish Species of Any Lake in the World, Including Over 700 Cichlids
Lake Malawi’s biggest celebrities are the colorful cichlid fish that teem near its shores. Biologists estimate that there could be over 700 different cichlid species, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of recording and categorizing all of them.
There are also many other interesting species, including the spotted Mochokidae catfish and the neon-tinged African tetra.
3. It Was Formed Around 2 Million Years Ago From a Rift in the Earth
Lake Malawi sits on the bottom of a massive geological formation known as the East African Rift. This rift was formed when tectonic plate underneath the African continent shifted, changing the flow of rivers and causing many bodies of water to form, including Lake Victoria and the tributaries of the Nile.
4. Its Waters Stay in Stratified Layers That Never Mix
Most lakes have warm and cool waters that churn over the course of the seasons, mixing up oxygen and sediments while causing dynamic changes throughout the year. Instead, Lake Malawi forms layers of water that never change, making it what geologists call a “meromictic lake.”
These distinct and unchanging water layers make Lake Malawi incredibly clear and blue, and they may have also helped drive speciation within the diverse cichlid populations.
5. Explorer Dr. Livingstone Called It the “Lake of Stars”
Lake Malawi was first discovered by Europeans in 1846 when Portuguese traders stumbled upon it. The famous explorer David Livingstone later charted the Lake’s shores and gave it the nickname of “the Lake of Stars” because of the lanterns upon fishing canoes that twinkled like stars in the night.
The Lake of Stars is now the name of a popular music festival occurring on the shores of Lake Malawi.
6. It Was the Site of the First Naval “Battle” of World War I
Legend has it that a British gunboat patrolling Lake Malawi, the SS Gwendolen, scored the U.K.’s first naval victory of World War I when it captured the German vessel Hermann von Wissmann. In truth, the Gwendolen’s Captain Rhoades made no attempt to sink the Wissman and instead snuck up on the vessel and fired one warning shot.
The crews of both ships were drinking buddies who would frequently partake in parties involving copious amounts of Malawi’s famous local gin. Allegedly, the captain of the Wissmann responded to the warning shot by shouting: “God d***, Rhoades, are you drunk?”
While the Wissmann was never scuttled, scuba divers can still find many shipwrecks within the deep, clear waters of Lake Malawi where cichlids and other fish claim new homes.
Come Explore Lake Malawi on a Malawi Safari Tour!
Boating, canoeing, water-skiing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or just relaxing on the beach with a locally made gin and tonic can all be possible when you visit Lake Malawi as part of your African safari tour package. The lake is also home to African fish eagles, crocodiles, elephants, hippopotamus, monkeys and many other captivating species.
Come see everything the incredible lake and the national park on its southern shores can offer when you book your safari adventure today!
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui
image: Chintheche Inn