Lake Malawi National Park
Lake Malawi National Park
Natural Malawi Africa Central And Southern Regions

The park, which covers some 94 km2 , is composed of the Cape Maclear peninsula, three other disjunct mainland areas, 12 islands and lake waters that lie within 100 m of the park's terrestrial components. Total water area is estimated as 7 km2 . Habitat types vary from rocky shorelines to sandy beaches and from wooded hillsides to swamps and lagoons. Granitic hills rise steeply from the lakeshore and there are a number of sandy bays including a fine beach in the Chembe-Otter Point area. Lake surface elevation is near 475 m, while the highest point on the peninsula is 1,140 m.

The lake water is remarkably clear. The level fluctuates according to season with a long-term cycle of fluctuation. Recent years have seen increases to the highest levels since recording began (probably due to increased rainfall and clearing of forests on the high plateau). Lake Malawi itself is the third deepest in the world and occupies an elongated crack of the Rift Valley.

The land areas excluding the smallest islands are (or were once) heavily wooded. Originally this was a characteristic community containing baobab and several species of Ticus , Sterculia , Khaya and Albizzia with a groundcover of grasses and wild flowers. Due to clearing of the forest, some woodland areas have been altered to Brachystegia and shrubby vegetation. Soils are stony and of poor nutrient status.

Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. There are between 500 and 1,000 fish species, with perhaps half occurring in the park area. Endemism is high (thought to exceed 90%) and particularly noteworthy are the Cichlidae , of which all but five of an estimated 350 species are endemic to Malawi. The lake contains 30% of all known cichlid species. Of particular interest are the mbuna rock fish. Other fish species include 28 endemic to the lake. The flora of the lake have not been studied in detail.

Mammals include hippo (particularly in the Monkey Bay area) duiker, baboon, vervet monkey, bush pig, warthog and occasional elephant (reported as coming down to the lake between Mwenya and Nkhudzi hills). Leopard, kudu, bushbuck and impala have been reduced or extirpated from the area. The park is rich in birdlife including fish eagle along the shoreline. The islands, especially Mumbo and Boadzulu, are important nesting areas for white-throated cormorant which number several thousand. Reptiles include crocodiles and abundant monitor lizards on Boadzulu Island.

Archaeological evidence points to a long period of human occupation with sites dating back to the Iron Age in the 4th century. The Cape Maclear area was one focal point in the ivory and slave trade era. In more recent times a Livingstone Mission was established there and the area was a stopover on the Cape to London flying boat service.