- 10 Fun Water Sports and Activities to Try in Lake Malawi
- Places for Water Sports and Water Activities in Malawi
10 Fun Water Sports and Activities to Try in Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi, with its golden sandy beaches and sparkling clear blue waters, was described in David Livingstone’s diary as ‘the Lake of Stars’.
Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, with a maximum depth of 700m in the northern part of the Lake, making it the third deepest lake in the world.
Lake Malawi National Park which is the world’s first freshwater national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to abundant and colourful cichlids.
The Lake is thought to have nearly 1,000 species of cichlids, making it the single largest lake in the world with the largest variety of fish species.
This exceeds the number of freshwater fish species in Europe and North America combined.
Not only is Lake Malawi a scenic wonder with rich variety of fish, it is also one of the best freshwater lakes in the world, offering a wide range of water sports.
Swimming, water skiing, sailing, kayaking, parasailing and boating are just a few of the water sports on offer all year round, and they are a magnet for visitors.
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Malawi are also ideal for scuba diving and snorkelling.
The water is remarkably clear during the dry season (especially from June to December), and visibility can even reach up to 30 metres.
With a snorkelling mask on, you can easily spot the vibrant fish that live in the Lake and feed from the rocks on the shore.
Rather than hiding, the fish will swim around you, approaching you and greeting you.
From the MV Ilala, which is also the Lake’s ferry, to sailing on an ocean-going yacht or exploring by kayak, Lake Malawi is the perfect location for water sports enthusiasts.
Cruises to the upper reaches of the mighty Shire River are also available.
1. Scuba Diving
With dramatic rock formations, caves and cliffs creating an attractive terrain for underwater diving, Lake Malawi is known as one of the world’s premier freshwater diving destinations.
It has more species of freshwater fish than any other lake on earth (over 1,000) and more freshwater fish than Europe and North America combined.
You can dive all year round, but the best time to dive is during the dry season from August to December, when the lake is at its calmest, the clarity is 20-30m, there is little wind and the water temperature is as high as 30°C.
This is the breeding season for cichlids and their mouth-breeding phenomenon is one of the most fascinating phenomena seen on Lake Malawi dives.
Mothers protect their eggs in their mouths until they are large enough to fend for themselves.
Also, night diving in Lake Malawi is considered one of the most unique diving experiences on earth, as schools of dolphinfish use torchlight to catch cichlids, their prey.
You can also see catfish as large as two metres in length coming up from their burrows in search of food.
Catfish are very curious and will approach divers who enter their territory, especially during the breeding season.
Malawi is said to be one of the most reasonably priced countries in Africa for PADI (Professional Association for Diving Instructors) certification.
Dive schools in Nkhata Bay and Cape Maclear offer basic courses including a half-day course for beginners and a four-day ‘PADI Open Water Course’, as well as for those already qualified, refresher courses, advanced courses and specialty diving are offered.
Lake Malawi perfectly combines all the elements required for snorkelling, opening up a kaleidoscope of underwater worlds for an amazing experience.
Swimming with thousands of dazzlingly coloured fish, within arm’s reach, is one of the most popular activities in Lake Malawi and will become an unforgettable memory of your life.
Snorkelling involves adding a breathing pipe, called a snorkel, to your mouth, wearing goggles and fins and swimming in relatively shallow water.
Whether you’re not a good swimmer or a child, you can wear a life jacket and see many colourful fish just floating in the water.
Unlike scuba diving, snorkelling does not require a license.
Snorkelling can be enjoyed on any lakeshore and most lodges and hotels have equipment available for guests to use at affordable prices.
Lake Malawi has very little vegetation and organic matter, so the sandy and rocky tops of the lake bottom are exceptionally clear.
Snorkelling is possible all year round, but the best season is from August to December when the lake is particularly clear and the water temperature rises to nearly 30°C, making the lake very calm and perfect for snorkelling.
Float your body above the water, get lost in this crystal clear paradise and let all your worries go.
3. Boat Trips
Cruise Lake Malawi, with its golden sandy beaches and sparkling clear blue waters, described by Scottish missionary David Livingstone as ‘the Lake of Stars’.
Lake Malawi offers a variety of options for boat trips, from a few hours’ boat trip on a traditional wooden boat or modern speedboat, to a multi-day cruise on a large cruise ship sailing around Lake Malawi.
Take a few hours’ boat trip and visit several snorkelling spots, explore uninhabited islands, enjoy fishing, watch the African Fish Eagle stalk its underwater prey, test your mettle at cliff jumping, or sip wine while watching the sun set over Lake Malawi.
The purpose of the trip is varied.
For those wishing to sail around Lake Malawi by ship, the MV Ilala Ferry is a popular choice.
This ship has been used by locals as a cargo-passenger ship since 1951 and is the only cruise ship that sails on Lake Malawi.
It is 50 metres long, weighs 400 tonnes and travels between Monkey Bay in the south and Chilumba in the north, taking around three days to travel from one end of the lake to the other.
It has a capacity of about 400 passengers and offers passage and rooms for tourists, as well as a bar and restaurant.
Boat safaris are also offered in Liwonde National Park and on the Shire River, which flows through the Majete Wildlife Reserve.
These boat safaris are a beloved activity that allows visitors to view a variety of wildlife from the water, including hippos and crocodiles while elephants and giraffes take a leisurely stroll and birds rest at the water’s edge.
The clear turquoise waters of Lake Malawi are ideal for kayaking, as the tides are slower than those of the sea.
Most lodges and hotels on Lake Malawi rent kayaks to their guests.
Watch the colourful cichlids and majestic Fish Eagle as you glide through the calm waters of Lake Malawi, or go on an adventurous island hopping trip.
Kayaking is becoming increasingly popular, especially in Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The two uninhabited islands in the park, Mumbo and Domwe, are stunningly unique and have never been inhabited and remain unspoiled.
Paddling your own kayak through the 8km separating these two islands can be an exciting experience.
Soak up the sun and embark on a great adventure on the water.
Go on a sailing safari on the magnificent Lake Malawi.
Sailing is a water sport that uses the wind, rather than an engine, to propel the boat forward.
It is popular both recreationally and competitively and has even been adopted as a summer Olympic sport.
Since the waters of Lake Malawi have no currents, this makes them suitable for sailing.
Although the wind is not very strong, there is always a breeze for sailboats.
Many lakeside lodges offer sailboats for hire, so you can experience the freedom of sailing with the wind in your face.
A sailing highlight in Malawi is the Lake Malawi Sailing Marathon (LMSM), held annually in July/August.
The event has been running since 1984 and started as an idea by some sailors to sail north on Lake Malawi with deckchairs on the hull for casual sailing.
This international event consists of a series of day stages, covering a distance of 560 km northwards over 8 days.
The LMSM is not just a race on the lake, but also a challenge, an adventure, an opportunity to experience the beautiful country of Malawi and to enjoy the fellowship that is shared on this sailing safari.
The large number of sailors who visit the shores of Lake Malawi each year to take part in this competition confirm its appeal.
6. Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP)
Stand-up paddle boarding, also known as SUP, is a water sport that originated in Hawaii where the rider stands on a board and uses a paddle to navigate through the water.
With the help of a specially designed, highly floatable stable board and a trusty paddle, balance is achieved and you don’t need to be a pro to make easy progress.
Many people take up this sport for the exercise benefits, since it also helps to develop core strength and balance.
Aside from cruising with a paddle, you can also enjoy yoga, fitness and fishing on the board, you can even take your pets along for the ride, or simply lie down for a nap on the calm surface of the lake.
Feel the cool breeze blowing over the sparkling blue waters of Lake Malawi, paddle along the horizon and enjoy the dazzling views of the golden beaches from above the water.
Windsurfing is a water sport that uses a sail attached to a sailboard to catch the wind and glide on the surface of the water.
The main attraction of windsurfing is that it does not use any artificial power, but only the force of the wind, which allows you to feel the majestic nature of Lake Malawi directly.
As a recreational sport, it can be enjoyed by a wide range of people, from beginners to children and elderly people.
Windsurfing has been an official Olympic sport since 1984.
Although windsurfing is a fairly new water sport in Malawi, it is becoming increasingly popular.
Why not head out to Lake Malawi and try windsurfing on the magnificent lake?
8. Water Skiing
Feel the exhilarating breeze as you ski gracefully across the water on the sparkling Lake Malawi.
Water skiing is a water sport in which the skier holds a rope handle attached to the back of a boat and skis on the water.
Water skiing requires a strong sense of balance, so with the guidance of a trained instructor, you’ll be dashing across the water and using your legs and knees with ease in no time.
Water skiing is available on Lake Malawi at several lodges and hotels.
Apart from skiing, there are also a variety of rides available where guests can stand or sit while being pulled behind a boat.
You will be drawn to this fun water sport activity once you have experienced the speed.
Rafting is a recreational outdoor activity involving the use of a boat or inflatable raft to travel down river rapids.
It can be done alone, but is a great experience to enjoy with friends and family.
One of the best places to experience rafting in Malawi is on the Bua River in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Enjoy the tranquility and natural beauty of the Bua River while looking out for diverse bird activity, riverside waterfalls and thirsty wildlife.
With your adrenaline flowing, a rafting adventure will make your trip to Malawi even more thrilling.
Angling is a type or technique of fishing using ‘angles’ (fish hooks) for sport or leisure.
Malawi has an amazing variety of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, as well as Lake Malawi which is the third largest lake in Africa and is known to have the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world, making the country a rewarding angling destination.
Fishing rods and some equipment can be hired from lakeside hotels and lodges, and boats can be arranged in advance.
It is also possible to obtain locally made flies, but it is advisable to bring your own equipment.
Angling is possible all year round, but is most suitable from November to April during the rainy season, when there is an increase in fish species in the various waters.
The lake is home to many species of game fish.
The central and northern areas are rich in ferocious tigerfish and lake salmon which offer the most exciting sport.
River fishing is best along banks with thick reeds and weeds; the Bua River through the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and the Shire River through the Majete Wildlife Reserve are excellent angling spots.
Trout fishing is also a popular sport in the streams and dams of the Zomba Plateau, Nyika Plateau and Mulanje Massif, where only fly fishing is permitted.
To protect Malawi’s beautiful ecosystem, please ‘catch and let go’ when you catch a fish and return it to the water.
Places for Water Sports and Water Activities in Malawi
|Opposite Nkhata Bay Ilala Ferry Port, Nkhata Bay
|+265 (0) 999 921 418
|+265 (0) 995 279 683 for Diving Enquiries
|Butterfly Space, Nkhata Bay
|+265 (0) 999 437 247
|Mayoka Village, Nkhata Bay
|+265 (0) 999 268 595
|Nkwazi Village, Likoma
|+260 (0) 979 312 766
Tongole Wilderness Lodge
|Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
|+265 (0) 998 724 466
Blue Zebra Island Lodge
|Nankoma Island, Senga Bay
|+265 (0) 992 244 244
Sigelege Beach Resort
|Senga Bay, Salima
|+265 (0) 888 818 088
Cape Maclear Scuba
|Cape Maclear, Mangochi
|+265 (0) 999 952 488
|Cape Maclear, Mangochi
|+265 (0) 999 140 905
|Lake Malawi National Park, Mangochi
|+27 (0) 827 854 294
|+265 (0) 993 504 600, +260 (0) 765 023 939
The Makokola Retreat
|+265 (0) 888 796 424
|+265 (0) 1 580 444
Sun ‘n’ Sand Holiday Resort
|Monkey Bay road, Mangochi, Malawi
|+265 (0) 996 492 399, +265 (0) 999 220 786