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Lake Malawi and Likoma Island

Lake Malawi and Likoma Island

Lake Malawi is the country’s number one attraction.  It has warm crystal clear waters teeming with colourful marine life, sandy coves and age-old fishing villages.  

Interesting granite islands are dotted across the lake and the surrounding shores have fertile soils and lush woodland where baboons, vervet monkeys, rock hyrax and hippos are frequently seen.  Bird species including the African fish eagle can be observed at the water’s edge.
Lake Malawi National Park is a World Heritage Site, found at the southern part of the lake at Cape Maclear.  It is an amazing marine reserve and is considered to have some of the best freshwater snorkelling and diving on the planet!   Stay at Mumbo Island or Danforth Yachting to experience these exhilarating pursuits.

Likoma Island, set within the lake, has an interesting history of 19th century missionaries.  Fishermen continue to make their living here. Nowadays, it’s a perfect location for a relaxing beach getaway.  The island is dotted with mango and ancient baobab trees, surrounded by sandy beaches and rocky coves. Stay at Kaya Mawa an eco friendly luxury lodge and explore the island on foot, bike or quad bike.

 

at a glance

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Introduction

Regarded as one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Malawi is the 3rd largest lake in Africa covering 1/5th of the country. Four busy ports and hundreds of fishing villages line the shores while the waters are dotted with local fishing vessels. Renowned for its rich diversity of fish and recently declared a world heritage site, situated on the southern lakeshore is the remote forested headland of Cape McClear, jutting out into the crystal clear waters. Lodges here offer scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking and yachting for adventurous souls, or for the more relaxed visitor, an opportunity to spend the evenings lying in a hammock watching the spectacular sunsets.

The national park is a sanctuary for the biologically unique, brightly coloured cichlids and more than 2000 freshwater species which exceeds Europe’s and the USA’s species total put together! Snorkelling is an ideal way to get up close to the exotic fish and feel like swimming in an aquarium. The occasional hippo or crocodile make appearances, but the lakeside is better known for its exceptional array of reptile life. Large monitor lizards are frequently spotted while shiny skinks warm themselves on rocks and at night, opaque ghekos feature. For bird lovers, the mainland hosts a wide range of territorial fish eagles, along with smaller kingfishers, cormorants and herons. The lucky few will spot the elusive grey duiker, grysbok and leopard, while baboons, antelope and hyrax are more frequently seen.

The highly praised Likoma Island is the ideal romantic getaway for those seeking an idyllic paradise. Located on the eastern side of Lake Malawi very close to the Mozambique coastline, visitors are transported back in time as the small 17km² island has only one dirt road. Lined by beautiful sandy beaches and rocky coves, the crystal clear waters offer some of the country’s best diving and snorkelling opportunities. Visitors can explore the rich colonial history by visiting the third largest cathedral in central Africa. Built by missionaries in 1903 and inspired by David Livingstone, the carved soapstone and stained glass windows of St Peters Cathedral are stunning and a must see. For a cultural experience, interact with the resident communities, join in with local dancing or take a visit to the witch doctor clinic. The island is a perfect location to unwind after safari.

When To Visit

Lake Malawi and Likoma Island are best visited during the winter months of May to October which is warm, dry and cooler at night. Storms can occur during the wetter summer months of November to April which is considered off peak time to visit.

January to April – January is the peak of the rainy season as temperatures reach 29°C and humidity high. Nights are warm at 21°C and rainfall averages 257mm. Unpredictable storms are common during these months, making the waters of Lake Malawi rough and reducing visibility for divers and snorkelers. Around Likoma Island, rains occur during the night, temperatures during the day reach about 30°C with medium humidity and evenings are cool. Towards the end of May, the winds abate and the waters are calmer with clear skies and no haze over the lake as temperatures and humidity also begin to lessen.

May to September – Regarded as the best time to visit Lake Malawi, these winter months have less wind so waters are calmer; better for water sports and diving activities. The month of May has lovely clear blue skies, starry nights and little rainfall. During this time around Likoma Island, lake temperatures are around 20°C which is ideal for divers. The coolest season prevails from June to September, with daytime averages of 26°C and night-time lows of 16°C. The mornings tend to be calm however by mid-day the wind picks up and occasionally produces a swell.

October to December – October is considered as one of the best months to visit as the lake is calm, the air is hot and there is no haze. The clear waters magnify the multitude of azure and silverfish that reside in the lake, making this the best time for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. However, October and November are the hottest months, reaching a maximum of 33°C which can be unbearable coupled with high humidity. Evenings are warm, averaging 23°C. Mid-November and December mark the onset of the rains along with a rise in temperature and humidity. These months offer fantastic birding opportunities.

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Lilongwe

Lake Malawi & Likoma Island Highlights

Eco Retreats

Eco Retreats

Eco Retreats

Kayak to Mumbo Island and stay at Mumbo Island eco lodge - barefoot escapism with mozi nets and ...

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Eco Retreats

Eco Retreats

Kayak to Mumbo Island and stay at Mumbo Island eco lodge – barefoot escapism with mozi nets and bucket showers for the purists at heart.

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Lake of Stars

Lake of Stars

Lake of Stars

At Pumulani Lodge on the shores of the lake, star gazing is a favourite activity. It is said that ...

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Lake of Stars

Lake of Stars

At Pumulani Lodge on the shores of the lake, star gazing is a favourite activity. It is said that David Livingstone was captivated by the lanterns used by the fisherman. It was as though the lights reflected down from the heavens and inspired the name “Lake of Stars”.

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Luxury Lodges

Luxury Lodges

Luxury Lodges

A favourite of ours is Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island. It’s an idyllic island lodge with a very ...

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Luxury Lodges

Luxury Lodges

A favourite of ours is Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island. It’s an idyllic island lodge with a very special ambience and voted as one of the most romantic places to stay, families and couples are equally at home here.

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Marine Life

Marine Life

Marine Life

The lake is a real-life aquarium, home to up to 1000 species of brightly coloured tropical fish ...

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Marine Life

Marine Life

The lake is a real-life aquarium, home to up to 1000 species of brightly coloured tropical fish with many unique to Lake Malawi and therefore very attractive for travelers who are diving or snorkeling in Malawi.

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Sandy Beaches

Sandy Beaches

Sandy Beaches

The sunny beaches of Lake Malawi are golden and the crystal clear freshwaters are inviting with the ...

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Sandy Beaches

Sandy Beaches

The sunny beaches of Lake Malawi are golden and the crystal clear freshwaters are inviting with the greatest range of lodges scattered along the southern lakeshore.

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Golfing

Golfing

Golfing

Visitors will find a dozen nine-hole golf courses spread across Malawi, along with just one 18-hole ...

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Golfing

Golfing

Visitors will find a dozen nine-hole golf courses spread across Malawi, along with just one 18-hole golf course; but this should not detract golfers from travelling to Malawi with the aim of enjoying a satisfying round. For the Golf enthusiast, the Mlambe Golf Club tucked amongst the Baobab Trees and a Natural Stream poses great challenge to the golfer. Sometimes a visiting young Croc usually on hole number 9 makes the play even more exciting.

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Kayaking to Mumbo

Kayaking to Mumbo

Kayaking to Mumbo

Experience a Robinson Crusoe adventure on Mumbo Island. Kayak to the island and stay at Mumbo ...

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Kayaking to Mumbo

Kayaking to Mumbo

Experience a Robinson Crusoe adventure on Mumbo Island. Kayak to the island and stay at Mumbo Island eco lodge – barefoot luxury with mozi nets and bucket showers.

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Culture

Culture

Culture

Likoma Island is one of two inhabited islands on the lake. It’s claim to fame is its huge ...

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Culture

Culture

Likoma Island is one of two inhabited islands on the lake. It’s claim to fame is its huge cathedral, St Peters built in 1903 by missionaries. Well worth a visit.

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Water Sports

Water Sports

Water Sports

Lake Malawi’s warm freshwater and beautiful surrounding beaches make it a fantastic location to ...

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Water Sports

Water Sports

Lake Malawi’s warm freshwater and beautiful surrounding beaches make it a fantastic location to indulge in scuba diving, snorkeling, water-skiing, sailing, kayaking or simply pottering about in boats.

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camps & lodges

Danforth Yachting

Danforth Yachting

Danforth Yachting, situated at Cape Maclear bordering on the Lake Malawi National Park, offers superb Lake Malawi accommodation. Surrounded by ... Read More

Kaya Mawa

Kaya Mawa

Kaya Mawa is a luxury beach lodge based on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, set on a south facing crescent beach on Likoma Island  in Lake ... Read More

Latitude 13° Hotel

Latitude 13° Hotel

Latitude 13° is located in Lilongwe's ambassadorial area, a peaceful district in the capital of Malawi and only 30 minutes drive from Kamuzu ... Read More

Makokola Retreat

Makokola Retreat

Makokola Retreat is located just north of Mangochi, on the palm fringed southern shore of Lake Malawi and is the perfect place to relax. Magical ... Read More

Mumbo Island

Mumbo Island

Mumbo Island is an intimate camp situated on a pristine and otherwise deserted island in Lake Malawi near Cape Maclear. The island lies within an ... Read More

Ndomo House

Ndomo House

Ndomo House is a luxury beach lodge based on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. It is set on a south facing crescent beach and has been hand built by ... Read More