It is the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system.
Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest lake in Africa.
Lake Malawi is between 560 kilometers (350 miles) and 580 kilometers (360 miles) long, and about 75 kilometers (47 miles) wide at its widest point.
The total surface area of the lake is about 29,600 square kilometers (11,400 square miles).
The surface of the lake is 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level.
Lake Malawi’s mean depth is 264 meters (866 feet), and its maximum depth of 706 meters makes it the sixth deepest lake in the world and the second deepest lake in Africa.
By volume Lake Malawi is the fifth largest lake in the world with 8,400 cubic kilometers (2,000 cubic miles).
Lake Malawi is a meromictic lake (water layers do not mix). The lake has three layers, with different densities due to variations in temperature at each depth.
It has about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of shoreline.
Lake Malawi has two inhabited islands: Likoma Island [photo below] and Chizumulu Island. The larger being the Likoma island, and together make up the Likoma District.
The largest river flowing into it is the Ruhuhu River, and there is an outlet at its southern end, the Shire River, a tributary that flows into the very large Zambezi River in Mozambique.
Lake Malawi National Park is a national park located in Malawi at the southern end of Lake Malawi. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Lake Malawi is very beautiful, and is appealing to tourists because of its islands and beaches. Some of the most important activities offered by the local resorts include snorkeling, boat riding, kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, camping, water skiing, trips to the islands, beach football, and many other water activities.
Lake Malawi and its islands are home to some of Africa’s most stunning beachside lodges.
Some of the most important wildlife found in and around Lake Malawi include hippopotamus, Nile crocodiles, monkeys, and fish eagles. Important bird species include herons, kingfishers, and cormorants. Other animals from around the lake include baboons, antelopes, and hyrax.
Lake Malawi is home to more species of fish than any other lake, including about 1000 species of cichlids. Many cichlid species from Lake Malawi are very popular among aquarium owners, because of their bright colors.
Age estimates for Lake Malawi vary greatly, from 40,000 years old to 1-2 million years old.
The first European to visit the lake was Candido José da Costa Cardoso, a Portuguese traded who arrived here in 1846. David Livingstone reached the lake in 1859, and he named it “Lake Nyasa”.
The name “Lake of Stars” was given to the lake also by David Livingstone, and generated from the lanterns of the fisherman on the boats of Lake Malawi. From a distance, the lights resemble the 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 extremely important for the population living around it. There are countless fishing villages on the shores of the lake, which boasts rich harvests. The lake is also an important provider of drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectricity.
The mean annual temperature around Lake Malawi is 22.7°C (72ºF), with the average annual rainfall amounting to 766 millimeters (30 inches). This climate sustains the woodland and scrubby vegetation that is seen dotting the national park’s hills and flatter expanses around the lake.
Steamboats, motorships, and air transport are the most common means of transportation between the villages on the shores of Lake Malawi.
Lake Malawi was the scene of a naval battle on August 16th, 1914. The British gunboat SS Gwendolen disabled the German Empire’s only gunboat on the lake, the Hermann von Wissmann, with a single cannon shot from about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles). It was hailed as the British Empire’s first naval victory in World War I.
Overfishing, water pollution from runoff like sewage, sediment loading, receding water levels due to climate change, increased nutrient inputs, and changes in phytoplankton composition are among the threats researchers cite as most greatly affecting Lake Malawi’s fragile ecosystems.
In January 2015, contaminated tailings from the Kayelekera uranium mine near Boma, were accidentally released into the lake. Official statements say that only 50 liters (13 US gallons) leaked, but other pieces of evidence suggest that the environment may have been affected as far as 35 kilometers (22 miles) away.