Monday, July 4, 2011

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the Great Rift Valley system of East Africa. This lake, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is the second deepest lake in Africa, although its placid northern shore gives no hint of its depth. The lake's tropical waters are reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than those of any other body of freshwater on Earth, including more than 1000 species of cichlids.



Lake Malawi lies between 560 and 580 kilometres long, and about 75 kilometres wide at its widest point. The total surface area of this lake is about 29,600 square Mwaya Beach, Malawi.jpgkilometres (11,429 square miles). The lake has shorelines on western Mozambique, eastern Malawi, and southern Tanzania. The largest river flowing into this lake is the Ruhuhu River. This large freshwater lake has an outlet, which is the Shire River a tributary that flows into the very large Zambezi River. The lake is sometimes referred to as the Calendar lake because it spans approximately 365 miles from north to south and about 52 miles from east to west.

Lake Malawi lies in the Great Rift Valley that was formed by the opening of the East African Rift, where the African tectonic plate is being split into two pieces. This is called a divergent plate tectonics boundary. Lake Malawi is variously estimated at about 40,000 years old. or about one to two million years.

In addition, Lake Malawi  is located about 350 kilometres southeast of Lake Tanganyika, another of the huge lake of the Great Rift Valley.


European discovery and colonization

The Portuguese trader Candido José da Costa Cardosa was the first European to visit the lake in 1846. David Livingstone reached the lake in 1859, and naming it "Lake Nyasa". Much of the African region surrounding this lake was soon claimed by the British Empire and formed into the colony of Nyasaland. Although the Portuguese took control of the eastern shore of this lake, the island of Likoma was used as a mission station by the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, and as a result, Likoma and the nearby islet of Chizumulu were incorporated into Nyasaland rather than to Mozambique. Today, these islets form lacustrine exclaves: Malawian land surrounded by Mozambican waters.

On August 16, 1914, Lake Malawi was the scene of a brief naval battle when the British gunboat Guendolen, commanded by a Captain Rhoades, heard that World War I had broken out, and he received orders from the British Empire's high command to "sink, burn, or destroy" the German Empire's only gunboat on the lake, the Hermann von Wissmann, commanded by a Captain Berndt. Rhoades's crew located the Hermann von Wissmann in a bay near "Sphinxhaven", in German East African territorial waters. Guendolen disabled the German boat with a single cannon shot from a range of about 2,000 yards (1,800 m). This very brief gunboat conflict was hailed by The Times in England as the British Empire's first naval victory of World War I. Up until that time, the lakeshore that is now in Tanzania had been a part of German East Africa.


The borders of the Lake

The largest portion of the area of Lake is in Malawi. However, about a quarter of the areaA view of the lake from Likoma Island belongs to Mozambique. This area includes the waters surrounding the Malawian islets of Likoma and Chizumulu, which are this lake's only two inhabited islets. The islet of Likoma is dominated by a large stone and brick Anglican cathedral that was built by missionaries in the early 20th century. A notable feature of both islets is their significant number of baobab trees. The islets support a population of several thousand people, who in addition to being fishermen, grow plants such as cassavas, bananas, and mangoes for food.

Lake of Stars

'The Lake of Stars' is the nickname for Lake Malawi coined by David Livingstone. This name came about due to lights from the lanterns of the fisherman in Malawi on their boats, that resemble, from a distance, stars in the sky. The lake is also known as the Lake of Storms, for the unpredictable and extremely violent gales that sweep through the area.

The lake is a heaven for leisure as it offers all the beauty that one needs on earth. While at the lake, you will be treated to unfading beauty of Lake Malawi in places like:

Northern Malawi:

Karonga beaches, Nkhata-Bay beaches, Likoma Island and its immense historic archive of Anglican Missionaries, Chizumulu Islands. The beauty of Lake Malawi can further be complimented by hiking on the magnificent Nyika Plateau.

Central Malawi:

Places like Nkhotakota A beach at Chipoka, Malawi. Photo: ExpressGiantwith its vast Game reserve is a plus to any visitor who wants to sizzle out what happens when the game meets the lake. An impeccable wonder  of nature still rests calmly within the game reserve ready to be explored by an inquisitive mind.

Salima offers a broader view of the Lake and many holiday resorts or hotels are always available to offer the best services one would want along the lake. It is a gateway to Lilongwe and the Kamuzu International Airport.

Southern Malawi:

Mangochi is easily accessible from Lilongwe, Blantyre or Chileka International Airport. Several magnificent lodges lie along its beaches ready to accommodate  the visitor. A visit to Mangochi is never complete without Cape Maclear. Cape Maclear is renowned for its treat to snorkeling, diving and backpackers. It also exhibits Malawi’s many species of fish.

Liwonde Township is an ever blossoming force to reckon with as far as visiting isFishing in Shire River, Malawi. Photo: ExpressGiant concerned. Good lodges have been lined up and offer competitive services. Hippos, Crocs, Birds, Elephants and many more animals are easily spotted during the dry season from Liwonde National Park, a few kilometres from the lodges. All one needs to do to admire the beauty of Malawi’s game in Liwonde National Park is to hire a cruise in Malawi’s Shire river.

Have you ever been to Malawi? Yes. Ok, let me ask you again: Have you ever been to the Lake Malawi? No. Sorry, you have never been to Malawi yet.

All photos (except the last two) and some content used in this article have been sourced or adapted from

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