Located in the African Rift Valley, along the borders of the countries Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania in Africa, Lake Malawi is the third largest lake on the continent, measuring 11,429 square miles (29,600 sq km). A focal point of regional life, the lake is a tourist destination for many visitors from neighboring countries and from much further abroad.
Lake Malawi is known for its substantial depth as well its extremely diverse and plentiful aquatic life, especially cichlids, beautiful tropical fish found in many aquariums around the world. Current estimates indicate that more than 1,000 species of tropical fish are present in the lake, including 350 fish that are unique to this ecosystem. This why the lake is so popular with snorkelers and SCUBA divers — nowhere else in the world offers this many species of radiantly colorful freshwater fish. The lake provides the opportunity to see and interact with them in their natural environment where they have lived for countless years.
The cichlids and the incredible biodiversity are the primary reason so many divers venture to the lake. The aquatic life on display here is unequaled anywhere else in the world, with new species continuing to be discovered in the vast underwater ecosystem of the lake. Many divers enjoy seeing species they recognize from aquariums and pet stores back home, swimming freely in the lake waters.
The lake includes 11 main dive sites from which to explore. Night dives are recommended in order to experience the nocturnal fish of the lake, including a species colloquially referred to as a dolphinfish, although they bear little similarity to the marine life sharing the same name.
Recognizing its value, portions of the lake belong to national parks or reserves in the surrounding countries, in addition to being named a UNESCO World Heritage site. This helps to limit overfishing and curtail the release of potential impurities into the water to ensure that the boundless variety of tropical fish present today remain there for future generations to enjoy when they visit this massive lake.
Check out this fascinating short documentary on the diverse aquatic life of Lake Malawi.
Images via ggallice, ryanphotographic.com