Lake Malawi is famed for the abundance and diversity of its fish life and holds a greater array of freshwater fish species (over 1 000) than any other lake on Earth and more than all of Europe and North America combined. The majority of these are colourful 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 people that live on the lakeshore and beyond.
Much of this outstanding underwater diversity is protected within the Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear in the southern part of the Lake, the first park in the world set aside for the protection of freshwater fish and a World Heritage Site.
At approximately 600km long and up to 80km wide, Lake Malawi constitutes roughly 20% of Malawi’s surface area. It dominates the eastern side of the country and harbours a wide range of underwater habitats. There are also a number of granitic islands dotted across the Lake while on its shores, fertile soils, lush woodland and baobabs occur amongst numerous fishing villages and mammals such as baboon, vervet monkey, rock hyrax, sun squirrel and hippo are frequently seen. Along the lakeshore, numerous bird species are found, particularly waterbirds. Nearby remnant patches of lowland forest harbour further exciting bird species including Grey-olive Greenbul and Narina Trogon. The central lakeshore is renowned for its golden beaches.
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