At approximately 600 km from north south and in places up to 80km wide, Lake Malawi, the third largest water body in Africa, constitutes roughly 20% of Malawi’s surface area. It dominates the eastern side of the country and harbors a wide range of underwater habitats including sandy, weedy, rock-sand interface and reed beds. There are also a number of dotted islands across the lake, separated from the mainland by sandy flats and deep water.
On the shores miombo woodlands and baobabs occur, and mammals such as baboon, vervet monkey, dassies and hippo are commonly sighted. Over 100 bird species are found, particularly water birds such as African fish-eagle and large colonies of white breasted cormorant.
Lake Malawi is famed for the abundance and diversity of its fish life and holds a greater array of freshwater fish species than any other lake on earth and more than all of Europe and North America combined. The majority of these are colorful fish called cichlids (their local name is mbuna ) of which the lake contains more than 400 types, 30% of all known species. Other fish species such as chambo form the primary protein source of the nearly 20,000 people that live on the lake shore and beyond. Much of this astounding underwater diversity is protected with in the lake Malawi national park at cape Maclear in the south, the in the world set aside for the protection of fresh fish and a world heritage site.