Lake Malawi National Park
Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest lake and ninth largest in the world. The park is located at the southern end of the lake and was designated as a National Park in 1980 to protect special cichlid fishes are locally known as mbuna. The park has a total area of 94 km² and includes a land area (87km²) around the bay of Cape Maclear as well as the Lake (7km²) and 13 islands up to 100 metres (33ft) offshore. It is the world’s first freshwater national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
The park is a veritable aquarium of tropical fish providing a colourful kaleidoscopic display. The more than 1000 fish species are more abundant and varied here than anywhere else in the world.
The park has cultural and historical sites like the first Livingstonia Mission site by Scottish Missionaries and their grave site. Mwala wa Mphini (the Rock with natural tattoos) is a huge rock outcrop. The Rock face has a lot of natural crisscrossing marks which look like man-made marks. Otter point and the Ilala shipyard at Monkey Bay, where Malawi’s oldest sailing ship starts its journeys up north and back. The islands of Mumbo, Domwe, Boadzulu and Maleri make this park’s experience magical and memorable.
There is a plenty of activities, include kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, bicycle rides through the village or up the hilly road, swimming, traditional fishing and many others. Hiking on the park’s many hills will also be an experience you would not forget.
The Lake is believed to have 1000 species of fish but about 500 species have been described. The Lake has one of the greatest fish endemism in the world with 90% of its fish species endemic to it.
The park has a wide range of animal species apart from fish. The most common animals include yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, otter and hyraxes and more than 200 bird species including fish eagles, cormorants and hamerkops, but also more elusive creatures such as greater kudu, bushbuck, zebra, hippo, klipspringer, impala, grysbok, grey duiker, leopard, serval and bush pig, and even the occasional stray elephant from the Mangochi area.
Getting there and away
From Lilongwe take the M1 road till Zalewa Turn off. Then take the M3 Road up to Mangochi Turn-Off. From Blantyre take the M3 Road till you get to Mangochi Turn-Off. From Mangochi Turn-off, take the Mangochi Road and drive past Mangochi Boma just before Monkey Bay, turn left.
The turn-off to Cape Maclear is next to the Energem filling station on the west side of the 10km feeder road to Monkey Bay, about 5km north of Chirombo junction on the M10. An array of signs to the various lodges renders it difficult to miss.
By public transport, you must first get to Monkey Bay. There is no public transport along the 18km road between Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear, so you will either have to hitch or else wait for a matola ride. Matolas leave for Monkey Bay from around 5am, on a fill-up-and-go basis, and take about an hour. From there you can get onward transport. Most of the lodges in Cape Maclear can also arrange transport.
Coming from Lilongwe or Salima/Senga Bay, it may also be possible to arrange a private motorboat transfer, which takes about 3 hours in decent weather. As the road network has improved this option has become less popular.