Lake Malawi is a Great Rift Valley lake of impressive proportions and amazing variety. It covers almost one fifth of Malawi, and its fishing industry supports a great number of people.
For tourists it can be like heaven on earth, with desirable sandy beaches, incredible snorkelling and scuba diving in a vast aquarium of shining fish, or walking through rugged rocky territory on uninhabited offshore islands - if you can be bothered!
For the ultimate deserted island experience, you can laze in a hammock until it feels like time to have a swim or go snorkelling, then feast on fresh fish and salads, before an afternoon snooze, followed by some gentle canoeing, this is what sums up Lake Malawi.
Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa - just over 584km (365 miles) long - and has all the qualities of a sea - except there is no salt water! Storms can produce sizeable waves while at the opposite extreme the still water can look like molten silver joining seamlessly with the sky.
One of the best months to visit Lake Malawi is October, when the amazingly clear water magnifies the multitude of azure and silver fish that live in the lake. Above the water, kingfishers, cormorants and fish eagles patrol at different heights and dart into the water for a meal.
The Fish Eagle is Malawi's national bird, and there are many of them around the lake, each emitting their inimitable sorrowful cry, so that you are rarely out of sight or hearing of one. Slinky iridescent lizards sunbathe on rocks and opaque geckos come out in the warm evenings to eat up any insects.
The world's first freshwater lake National Park which incorporates several offshore islands and a peninsula of land was declared at Cape Maclear in 1980. The Lake Malawi National Park is of such international importance that it has been designated a UNECSO World Heritage Site.
Lake Malawi harbours biologically unique little fish called Cichlids, and more than 500 species have been recorded here. Some say there could be as many as 1,000 different species in the lake. This is more diversity of freshwater fish than in all of Europe and USA put together.
Chichlids come in all colours and are prized by freshwater aquarium enthusiasts. Divers collect them and they are jetted off to Europe and America in a sedated haze in highly oxygenated bags.
Four busy ports and hundreds of fishing villages are dotted all along Lake Malawi's shore and this 'lake of life' provides food for masses of people. Nevertheless, fishermen complain that their catch of Tilapia (Breem), Mpasa (Lake Salmon) and Vundu (Catfish) is not as abundant as it used to be.
The top part of the lake has Malawi on its western shores and Tanzania on its eastern. Half way down the lake an imaginary border runs through the middle of the water, giving Mozambique the eastern portion of the lake.