Lake Malawi National Park is located at the southern end of Lake Malawi, one of the deepest lakes in the world. With its clear waters and mountain backdrop, Lake Malawi National Park stretches an estimated 94 km² (58 miles²). This includes part of Cape Maclear Peninsula and twelve small islands roughly 100 m (300 ft) off shore. The park consists of a rocky shoreline, wooded hillsides, swamps, sandy beaches and lagoons. A large baobab tree believed to be 800 years old is a popular sight within the park. Lake Malawi is considered to be one of the largest tourist attractions in the country.
Lake Malawi National Park was designated the world’s first fresh water National Park in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1984, in order to protect the diversity of marine life, most of which is endemic. Lake Malawi contains between 500 and 1,000 fish species – the largest number of any lake in the world, making Lake Malawi a globally important area of biodiversity conservation – with about half of those contained in the park area. Most notable is the Cichlidae, as the lake contains 30% of all known cichlid species. Although the lake is an abundant fishing resource for populations dependent on fishing as a livelihood, native species such as the mbuna rock fish are threatened by extreme fishing activity from villages in Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Lake Malawi National Park also houses various mammals, birds and reptiles, such as baboons, blue monkeys, African pythons, hippos, crocodiles and black eagles.
There is a variety of activities available to visitors, such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and bird watching. Visitors can also boat or paddle, exploring the different islands in Rift Valley.
The best time to visit Lake Malawi is during the dry (winter) season, which runs from April/May through October/November. At that time, there is little to no chance of rain and temperatures during the day run in the 20s C (68 F). Game viewing is at its best, due to low vegetation and animals gathering at perennial water holes. However, for bird watching November through April is said to be the best. Malawi’s climate is regulated by altitude, and rainfall is extremely rare in the dry season. Even in the “wet season” the rains are usually short-lived and never inhibit travelers.