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Diving in Malawi

With some of the best freshwater diving in the world, Malawi is the perfect country for fine-tuning your scuba skills. Expect to see fascinating endemic species and interesting rock formations.

Diving in Malawi

Quick facts

Malawi is reputedly home to some of the best freshwater diving in the world. The large Lake Malawi is perfect for all levels of diver and especially suited to those beginning their scuba adventure or learning new skills. It has very little current and no swells. In addition, it is home to interesting rock formations and is unexpectedly colorful, with hundreds of species of cichlids buzzing around its clear waters.

The diving in Lake Malawi can be split into two different regions. The first is Nkharta Bay which hosts 11 different sites on the middle west coast of the lake. The second is Lake Malawi National Park which is further to the south. Here divers can enjoy sites around Mumbo Island, Domwe Island, and Cape Maclear Nature Reserve. The lake does bottom out at 2300 feet (700 meters), but most diving is done above 65 feet (20 meters). However, there are a few advanced dives which include tunnel swim throughs as well as one penetrable wreck. With that said, most of the dives in the lake are completed around rock formations and sandy bottoms. You won’t find any coral reefs here, but you will probably be surprised by the number of colorful fish in this freshwater environment. Companies access the dive sites from shore as well as by boat.

Diving in Lake Malawi is possible year-round. The summer months (November to April) are warm and stormy while the winter months (May to September) are cool and dry. Water temperatures range from 73 to 86°F (23 to 30°C) and at most times, visibility is approximately 50-65 feet (15-20 meters). The most interesting time of year for diving in the lake is from September to December. At this time, the many endemic species of cichlid begin their complex mating rituals. Their mouth brooding is fascinating to watch. Whether its your first freshwater dive or one of many, you are sure to make unforgettable memories during your dives into Lake Malawi.

When to go

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Water temperature

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What to see

Over 500 species of fish are found in Lake Malawi, giving it more fish species than any other lake in the world. In addition, more than 90% of these species are thought to be endemic. Most of the fish are colorful cichlids which is why many visitors claim diving here is like diving in the middle of an aquarium. Over 1500 varieties of cichlids in Lake Malawi have been described. A few of the most sought after include the Cobalt Zebra and Mumbo Yellow. The rock dwelling Mbuna cichlids of Lake Malawi National Park also create a colorful sight. In addition to these rainbow creatures, a large population of catfish and dolphin fish can be found in the Lake Malawi.


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Malawi is a small country located in the southeast of the African continent. Bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, Malawi contains the third largest lake in Africa, namely Lake Malawi. Most of Malawi is a plateau with elevations reaching 3,000 feet (1,000 meters). Therefore temperatures are quite moderate with a slightly warmer climate found around the shores of Lake Malawi. Winters (May until June) tend to be cool and dry, while summers (October to March) are warm and wet.

As early as the 10th Century, Bantu-speaking tribes emigrated into the area from the north. Many of these tribes continued south, but some stayed in the Malawi highlands creating an empire that would unite the region and make key alliances with the Portuguese. From approximately 1700 until 1850, the area now known as Malawi was an important sourcing area for the Swahili-Arab slave trade. More than 20,000 people were enslaved and sold annually. By 1889, the British had slowly stolen the area from the Portuguese by making deals with the local leaders. In 1964, Malawi became an independent country under Hastings Kamuzu Banda who would lead the country until 1994 when the first multi-party elections were held. Today, Mrs. Joyce Banda is the president. She replaced President Bingu who was elected in 2004 and died in office in 2012.

Today the country depends on its agricultural industries. As one of the least developed countries in the world, disease and poverty are unfortunately frequent issues. Much of the aid received by the country is delayed or simply disappears due to corruption. However, Malawi has earned the nickname of the “Warm Heart of Africa” because of the friendliness of the local population. The culture of Malawi is vibrant, colorful and welcoming, making it the perfect African destination for your next diving holiday.

Other attractions

For a rather small, African country, Malawi has a wide range of activities to keep you busy. Besides scuba diving, kayaking, water skiing and snorkeling are popular activities around Lake Malawi. 8 national parks and wildlife reserves mean that your adventure can include wildlife safaris. Hiking is also a popular past-time among visitors. The cool weather and varied landscapes provide ideal conditions for trekking, horseback riding or mountain biking. In addition, homestays with local families can add a culture element to your Malawi visit. For visitors who love to learn new skills on holiday, Malawi offers yoga retreats, pottery classes and tea factory tours. If you visit in September or October, don’t miss the popular Lake of Stars international music festival held on Malawi’s beautiful beaches.

Getting there

Visitors can enter Malawi by flight into the capital city of Lilongwe or, less frequently, Blantyre. These airports host flights originating throughout Europe and the African continent. It is also possible to enter Malawi over road from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. Ferries cross Lake Malawi from Mozambique a few times each week.

Once in Malawi, it is possible to travel around the country by plane, boat, bus, taxi or rental car.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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