Fish in extraordinary numbers and variety populate million-year-old Lake Malawi—400 cichlid species alone, from an inch to two feet long, many in dazzling hues.

Deep, clear, sparkling Lake Malawi—called by explorer David Livingstone “lake of stars,” Africa’s third largest, 357 miles north–south and 53 miles across (575 × 85 km)—has an estimated 500 to 1,000 fish species, more than any other lake in the world, about 90 percent of them found nowhere else. Notable are cichlids or “mbuna,” small spiny tropical fish whose population here represents about a third of all the world’s cichlid species. Their importance in the study of evolution has been compared to that of finches on the Galapagos Islands.

Mammals roaming five national parks and four wildlife reserves include rhinoceros, hippos, and large herds of elephants and buffalo, along with nyalas and other antelopes and smaller jackals, warthogs, honey badgers,monkeys, and baboons. Among 650 bird species are such spectacular specialties as wattled cranes, collared palm-thrushes, racquet-tailed rollers, Bohm’s bee-eaters, and blue swallows.

Almost nine percent of Malawi’s 45,733 square miles (118,480 km2) of lakes, mountains, high plateau, and wildlife-rich brachystegia (or miomba) woodlands has been given over to national parks and protected areas and they are among the best-run on the continent, with trails, campgrounds, and lodges. Forest reserves cover another 6.9 percent, with an additional 88 reserves proposed.



Nyika National Park

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Kasungu National Park

Lengwe National Park

Liwonde National Park

Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary

Elephant Marsh

More about the Reserves in Malawi

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