One of the most popular features of Malawi tours is Lake Malawi. One of the interesting things about Lake Malawi is that it’s actually in three countries: Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. This means, among other things, that the name is something of a sore point. According to Wikipedia, Lake Malawi is called Lake Nyasa (Lake Nyassa, Lake Niassa or Lago Liasso) in most other African countries. It’s only really called Lake Malawi by foreign tourists and Malawi itself.
Mozambique owns at least a quarter of the lake and, just earlier this year, the Mozambican government declared the lake a reserve. Mozambique’s share of the lake includes the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu – the only two inhabited islands in the lake.
Tanzania has also battled for its share of lake ownership. Tanzania would like Malawi to honour the international border as determined by the Germans and the British before 1914. This divided the lake into two equal halves. Malawi is reluctant to see this point of view – understandably as the division was ruled by colonialists with no regard for traditional borders.
Despite all the controversy, Malawi has turned the lake into quite the tourist attraction. It’s also known as the Lake of Stars, as it was poetically called by David Livingstone, and the Lake of Storms. It contains the highest density of cichlids in the world, is rich in catfish and is home to crocodiles, hippos, monkeys, fish eagles and the endangered painted hunting dog, which was thought to be extinct.
Attractions around Lake Malawi include:
· Chintheche, which is popular because it contains some of the best lakeside beaches. There are many different accommodation options, primarily luxury lodges. In addition to all the water sports, those with a cultural mien can see the Bandawe Mission, which is of great historical importance.
· Lake Malawi National Park, which is a World Heritage Site and includes several islands in the lake as well as a significant area of land around the lake.
· Nkhata Bay, which is one of the biggest villages on the lake. Its primary reason for existence is fishing and it has a sheltered harbour for this purpose, but it also contains many camping sites, lodges and self-catering cottages for tourists.
· Nkhotakota, which is another one of the biggest villages around the lake. It used to be a prime spot for slave trading and is now famous for its pottery.
· Dwangwa, north of Nkhotakota, contains a massive sugar estate and is driven in large part by the local fishing industry. Its primary attraction is Ngala Beach Lodge.
· Karonga, which is another old slavery town that has since become a cultural haven with a museum dedicated to everything from the turbulent history to archaeology.
· On the Mozambican side of the lake you’ll find beautiful little Likoma Island and the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.