Lake Malawi is also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. It is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. It is home to more species of fish than any other lake including several species of cichlids.
The Mozambique portion of the lake was officially declared a reserve by the Government of Mozambique while in Malawi a portion of the lake is included in Lake Malawi National Park.Lake Malawi is a lake in which water layers do not mix.
The name of the lake itself is also disputed. Malawi claims the lake is named ‘Lake Malawi’ while international maps and other countries mostly Tanzania claim the name of the lake to be ‘Lake Nyasa’. The origins of the dispute in the name have their background in geopolitical disputes that began prior to Malawi’s independence in 1964, when it was previously known as Nyasaland.
Further complications emerged for different political reasons in the 1960s, when the then President Banda of Malawi became the only African leader to establish diplomatic relations with white South Africa. This was fiercely repudiated by other African leaders including the then President Nyerere of Tanzania. The contrasting attitudes and policies gave further impetus to disputes between the two governments on the name of the lake itself and the boundary between the two countries.
At present, the dispute between the two governments is largely dormant. Intergovernmental relations between Malawi and Tanzania are largely cordial.
Wildlife that is found in and around Lake Malawi or Nyasa include Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys and a significant population of African fish eagles that feed off fish from the lake.
Large-scale transport between settlements along the shores of the lake and between the Malawi shore and Likoma and Chizumulu islands is provided by steamers.
Boats travel about twice a week from Nkhata Bay on the mainland to Likoma and Chizumulu islands, taking about five hours to cross the lake. Neither island has a usable port and boats moor offshore before transferring passengers and produce to the shore in small dinghies.