Unsurprisingly for a Lake of its size, there is a good range of boat trips available on Lake Malawi. For a simple organised pleasure trip of up to a few hours there is a choice of destinations – places of interest along the shore, or small islands just offshore. Traditional wooden boats or modern fibreglass speed boats are available. Some trips will include snorkelling or fishing along the way.
If only one pleasure trip is to be taken, it should be out to the Lake Malawi National Park. Brightly coloured fish are easily visible through the crystal clear water, and are eager to swarm round, and feed from, any hand placed in the water holding a piece of bread or biscuit. As well as the shore and islands accessed from Cape Maclear/Chembe Village, it’s now also possible to explore the Marelli Island Archipelago (also part of the Park) off Senga Bay.
Leisurely cruises on larger boats can also be arranged from one or two of the main hotels – to last hours or days. As well as scheduled trips by motor launch, there are sailing cruises. Catamarans can be chartered, complete with skipper. Daytime cruising can be complemented by diving, snorkelling or swimming and overnight beach camping. Based at The Makokola Retreat, the mv Sunbird is a 22m cruiser which sails along Lake Malawi, past Mangochi, and through Lake Malombe before entering the River Shire in Liwonde National Park.
Perhaps the ultimate boat journey on the Lake is on the Ilala, a large motorised vessel offering a scheduled ferry service up and down the lake. This is a functional ship much used by local people, but also offers passage and cabin accommodation to tourists. Bookings can be made through the local Tour & Safari Companies
Places offering Boat Trips
Chintheche offers some of the best beaches on Lake Malawi, with a collection of luxury lodges right by the shore.
Elephant Marsh is part of the flood plain of the River Shire. Though now devoid of elephants it is still home to a fantastic array of birdlife.
Lake Chilwa is Malawi’s second biggest lake, home to unique fishing villages and a designated wetland of international importance because of the huge bird populations it supports.
Lake Malawi National Park is the world's first freshwater national park and world heritage site, situated at Cape Maclear.
Likoma Island sits on the far side of the Lake Malawi in Mozambican waters. The island is home to stunning beaches and lodges, with access by boat or aircraft.
The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.
The Mangochi Lakeshore is a strip of southern Lake Malawi where many popular hotels and resorts offer beachside accommodation.
The Marelli Islands group, consist of three uninhabited islands that are protected as part of the Lake Malawi National Park. They are 3 km from the Senga Bay shore.
Monkey Bay is considered to be one of Malawi's main lake ports, and is where the famous Ilala ferry docks and begins its weekly sojourn up and down the Lake
Salima is an important service and trading centre set back from Lake Malawi whilst Senga Bay has a stretch of sandy beach with a range of hotels, lodges and campsites.
When looking for the perfect destination to snorkel, Lake Malawi has it all. Discover the underwater world of Malawi's famous cichlid fish in clear and calm waters with visibility up to 30 m.
The clear, calm, warm, shark-free and tideless waters with an abundant fish population (around 1000 species), and fascinating rock formations make Lake Malawi an excellent place to dive.
The vast body of water that is Lake Malawi provides the perfect 'playground' for kayaking/canoeing and sailing. Excursions can range from an hour or so up to a number of days.