Lake Malawi National Park was designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1984, in recognition of its more than 500 endemic fish species.
Located at the southern end of the great expanse of Lake Malawi, the property is of global importance for biodiversity conservation due, particularly, to its fish diversity. Lying within the Western Rift Valley, Lake Malawi is one of the deepest lakes in the world. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty with the rugged landscapes around it contrasting with the remarkably clear waters of the lake. The property is home to many hundreds of rock-dwelling cichlid fish known locally as "mbuna", nearly all of which are endemic to Lake Malawi. The mbuna fishes display a significant example of biological evolution. Due to the isolation of Lake Malawi from other water bodies, its fish have developed impressive adaptive radiation and speciation, and are an outstanding example of the ecological processes. Lake Malawi's cichlids are considered of equal value to science as the finches of the Galapagos Islands remarked on by Charles Darwin or the honeycreepers of Hawaii.
Habitat types vary from rocky shorelines to sandy beaches and from wooded hillsides to swamps and lagoons. Granitic hills rise steeply from lakeshore and there are a number of sandy bays.
The property is an outstanding example of biological evolution. Adaptive radiation and speciation are particularly noteworthy in the small brightly coloured rocky-shore tilapiine cichlids (rockfish), known locally as mbuna. Lake Malawi's cichlids are considered of equal value to science as the finches of the Galapagos Islands remarked on by Charles Darwin or the honeycreepers of Hawaii.
Lake Malawi is globally important for biodiversity conservation due to its outstanding diversity of its fresh water fishes. The property is considered to be a separate bio-geographical province with estimates of up to 1000 species of fish, half occurring within the property: estimated as the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. Endemism is very high: all except five of over 350 species of mbuna alone are endemic to Lake Malawi and are represented in the park. The property is also rich in other fauna including mammals, birds and reptiles.