Almost large enough to be an inland sea, this long thin lake covers a staggering 29,600 square kms (11,400 sq miles) and is up to 706m deep in places.

It's fed by the Ruhuhu River and water flows on in the Shire River. In between is a fantastic water world where up to 1000 species of colourful cichlids have evolved, fish eagles skim the surface, crocodiles bask on sunny logs and hippos grunt and snort in shallow bays.

Then there are the miles and miles of golden sand beaches. This lake, revered by some for its sacred connections, romanticised by others in song and verse, has become a holiday playground for many.

There are a number of excellent lodges and beach hotels in the areas around Cape Maclear, Senga Bay and on the Chintheche shore in the far north. Plenty of watersports are available as well as land-based activities and gameviewing.

The area around Cape Maclear has been gazetted as the Lake Malawi National Park, the world's first freshwater national park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where is it?
Lake Malawi is the most southerly of the great lakes in Africa's Great Rift Valley, forming the border between Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.

What is it?
It is the ninth largest lake in the world, the third largest and second deepest in Africa, at up to 580 km (360 miles) long and 75 km (40 miles) wide.

Best time to visit?
While the temperature remains relatively similar (warm-hot) year-round, the best time to visit is in the dry season, between December and March.

Must see?
Apart from the scenery, wildlife and birds, take your snorkel - the lake is home to more species of fish than any other body of freshwater in the world with over 1000 species of colourful cichlids, found in the wild nowhere else on the planet but very popular now in aquaria.

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Lake Malawi