The Best Activities Around Lake Malawi

Known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’, Malawi boasts the third largest lake on the continent. Lake Malawi, also called Lake Nyasa, is a shimmering jewel that offers an array of captivating activities for travellers seeking both adventure and relaxation. With its crystal-clear waters, diverse aquatic life, and picturesque landscapes, Lake Malawi beckons visitors to immerse themselves in its natural beauty. 

In this guide, we delve into the best activities around Lake Malawi, showing you what this enchanting destination has to offer. We also include insights into the best times to visit and where to stay to ensure you have a magical experience.

The Best Time to Visit Lake Malawi

The best time to visit Lake Malawi largely depends on your own preferences, as it can be visited any time of year. 

The dry season, from May to October, is ideal for wildlife viewing, as animals gather around the diminishing water sources. The weather in Lake Malawi during this period is generally cooler and less humid, making outdoor activities more comfortable. This season is ideal for hiking, bird watching, and exploring the lush landscapes around the lake.

However, for water-based activities like snorkelling, diving, and swimming, the warmer months from November to April offer more comfortable water temperatures. If you’d prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, when the weather is still pleasant, and crowds are thinner.

The Best Places to Stay in Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi boasts a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. From luxurious beachfront resorts to charming guesthouses and lodges, you’ll find a place that caters to your needs. 

Budget travellers should look into staying at Thumbi View Lodge in Cape Maclear. Lodgers can enjoy a private beach area as well as an onsite scuba diving school. With rates as low as £47 per night, it’s a brilliant accommodation with an even better price.

For a more lavish stay, Norman Carr Cottage in Monkey Bay is an excellent option. Each unit comes with its own garden patio and kitchenette and the onsite restaurant offers breakfast every morning, with options for all dietary needs. It’s a very romantic setting that is perfect for a couples holiday in Malawi.  

The Best Activities Around Lake Malawi

Go on a Sensational Safari

A major highlight of any trip to central and southern Africa is going on a safari. There is nothing quite like traversing the untouched wilderness and seeing majestic animals thriving in their natural habitat. A common goal for safari goers is to see the big five; Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopards, and Rhinos. 

The gorgeous landscape that surrounds Lake Malawi is home to all of these fabulous creatures, and there is really nothing greater than seeing the wondrous wildlife with your own eyes. Spending a day out in the wild plains and national parks is a great way to kick off your visit and will have you falling in love with this gorgeous landscape. 

Experience the Best Bird-Watching

Lake Malawi’s shores are a paradise for bird enthusiasts. The diverse landscapes surrounding the lake are home to over 600 species of birds, making it a hotspot for bird watchers. From colourful kingfishers to majestic fish eagles, the avian inhabitants of Lake Malawi provide ample opportunities for bird-watching and photography.

The lake region is known for its endemic bird species that can only be found in the area. One such bird is the Malawi cisticola, a small passerine bird with distinctive vocalisations. The lake’s islands also host several endemic species, making them unique and valuable for bird enthusiasts.

Take a Beach Break

The sandy beaches of Lake Malawi offer a haven for relaxation. Stretch out on the sand, soak up the sun’s warmth and let the gentle lapping of the waves lull you into a state of tranquillity. Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely swim or simply gazing out at the endless blue expanse, the beaches provide the perfect backdrop for unwinding.

There are loads of great places to visit in Malawi if you’re looking for secluded beaches. Kande Beach is a golden, palm-lined paradise that looks as though it has been lifted out of a postcard. A great way to explore the beach is by taking a tour on horseback and galloping by the crystalline water. 

You may be more taken by Nkhata Bay. This pretty village on the northern lakeshore has a distinctly Caribbean feel. Its lush tropical backdrop makes it incredibly scenic and a very easy spot to kick back by the lake and relax.

Try Kayaking or Canoeing 

A very popular tourist attraction at Lake Malawi is kayaking and canoeing. As you paddle along the coastline, you can explore hidden coves and marvel at the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you. Whether you’re on a leisurely paddle or an adventurous expedition, the experience of being close to the water is truly invigorating.

One of the best places in Lake Malawi for water adventures is the Nkhata Bay area. You can find experienced guides who will be able to show you some of the most beautiful natural scapes and can point out the local wildlife. It’s a great way to see the Lake Malawi crocodiles basking on the shores and spot hippos as they breach the surface of the water.  

For a real show-stopping experience, hit the lake just before sunset. The clear water perfectly reflects the changing hues of the blazing sky, filling the horizon with orange and pink streaks of light. It’s a true spectacle of nature and just one of the reasons why a Lake Malawi trip should be on your travel bucket list. 

Explore the Depths by Snorkelling and Scuba Diving

Lake Malawi is renowned for its remarkable underwater biodiversity, making it a paradise for snorkelling and scuba diving. The lake is home to a staggering variety of fish species, including the colourful cichlids that have evolved in unique ways to thrive in this freshwater haven. 

Snorkelers and divers can marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours beneath the surface, encountering these captivating fish up close. Dive centres around the lake offer opportunities for beginners and experienced divers to explore the aquatic wonders that lie beneath.

Hop Around the Lake Islands

Lake Malawi is adorned with numerous islands, each offering a unique experience. Two prominent islands, Likoma Island and Chizumulu Island, stand out as remarkable destinations within this idyllic lake setting.

Likoma Island, with its vibrant local culture, invites travellers to explore its shores. Located in the northern region of the lake, this hidden gem is accessible by boat and makes for a great Lake Malawi day trip. A notable attraction on Likoma Island is the stunning St. Peter’s Cathedral; a breathtaking architectural masterpiece that stands out against the island’s buildings.

Just next to Likoma, you can find Chizumulu Island. You’ll find this island more secluded and tranquil, perfect for those seeking solitude and relaxation. 

Chizumulu Island is home to a close-knit community with a rich cultural heritage. Engaging with the locals provides an authentic insight into their traditional way of life, making it a meaningful cultural exchange for travellers.

Both Likoma Island and Chizumulu Island showcase Lake Malawi’s charm and allure, making them integral parts of any island-hopping adventure on this remarkable African lake.

Visit the Local Villages

Visiting local villages around Lake Malawi is a captivating way to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and daily life of the people who call this region home. These villages offer a unique opportunity to experience the warmth, hospitality, and traditions of the local communities.

Participating in local customs, such as cooking traditional meals, learning traditional dances, or joining in with community events, will create lasting memories of your Lake Malawi trip. The genuine smiles and open-heartedness of the villagers will make you feel welcome and appreciated, leaving you with a newfound appreciation for the warm welcome of Malawi.

Discover Unrivalled Natural Walks

Beyond the shoreline, Lake Malawi is surrounded by lush jungles and rolling hills. Embarking on nature walks and hikes is one of the best ways to explore the beautiful region and takes you into a world unlike anything you’ve seen. From the calls of exotic birds to the rustling of leaves underfoot, every step immerses you in the beauty of nature.

There are many National Parks around Lake Malawi that are perfect for hiking and walking trips. At the southern end of the lake sits Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park covers about 94 square kilometres and includes both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. 

Guided nature walks are available, led by knowledgeable guides who share insights about the park’s flora, fauna, and ecosystems. Hiking to elevated points within the park rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Malawi. Whether you’re on the shoreline or climbing to viewpoints, you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of the clear blue waters and the distant shores.

Liwonde National Park is slightly further south, along the banks of the Shire River. Walking through the reserve offers a more intimate view of the landscape than when you experience it from a boat or game vehicle. Thanks to successful conservation efforts you may even get a glimpse of the black rhinos that have been reintroduced to the park. 

Explore Zomba Plateau

Zomba Plateau is a scenic highland region located in southern Malawi, known for its lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Rising to an elevation of around 1,800 metres, the plateau offers a refreshing escape from the heat of the lower altitudes and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

There are numerous hiking trails that lead through the forests, offering opportunities to explore the area’s unique plant life, encounter wildlife, and discover hidden waterfalls. You can book a private tour of the plateau for a more interactive experience with a knowledgeable guide. 

One of the highlights of the Zomba Plateau is Chingwe’s Hole, a natural crater that resembles a deep well. The hole is believed to have been formed through volcanic activity millions of years ago. Standing at the edge of Chingwe’s Hole provides breathtaking views of the plateau and its surroundings.


With a diverse range of activities around Lake Malawi, from thrilling water sports to peaceful relaxation, this destination has something for every traveller. Whether you’re seeking underwater adventures, serene beachside moments, or cultural interactions, Lake Malawi creates memories that will last a lifetime.

As you navigate the shimmering waters and explore its picturesque landscapes, Lake Malawi’s allure will capture your heart and leave you yearning to return to its shores. If this guide has given you the itch to see Africa, check out our other travel blogs to get some inspiration for your next trip. 

Lake Malawi FAQs

Is Lake Malawi Safe for Travellers?

Most travellers have minimal issues when travelling to Malawi. Petty crimes mainly occur in the urban hubs of Lilongwe and Blantyre. Lake Malawi is an off-the-beaten-path destination that is safe for all travellers and promises a trip that will stay with you forever.

Where is Lake Malawi Located in Africa?

Malawi is situated in southeast Africa and is bordered by Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Lake Malawi itself has shores in both Mozambique and Tanzania and is the 9th largest lake in the world.

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About the Author

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Tom Adams

I am an experienced writer with a diverse background, having lived in 7 countries by age 16. I have specialised in various topics throughout my career, such as archaeology, sports and travel writing. Having grown up abroad I feel a special connection with the countries I once called home, in particular China, Singapore and Thailand. With my archaeological background, I also have a plethora of historical knowledge about Italy, Greece and Egypt. My favourite thing to do while travelling is visiting museums and historic landmarks and learning more about the local culture. As a foodie, I also make a point of sampling as much local cuisine as possible whenever I visit a new country. My favourite place I’ve visited so far has to be New Zealand, but I also loved Hong Kong and Copenhagen.