Lake Malawi, Malawi
With three weeks in Malawi I had the time to undertake the globally recognised PADI open water course which is the first level of scuba diving. I researched the various providers of the training who operated on Lake Malawi and found there were at least two. There may be more. In the end I chose to travel up to Nkhata Bay and spent six days there four of which were focused on securing the training.
Fortunately I had pre-paid before I left the UK which meant I didn't have to worry about all of that cash to carry around. The course fees were US$375 inclusive of all dives, equipment, training and certification.
My training was excellent and I was very pleased with my instructor who seemed to have endless amounts of patience with me when I still couldn't fit the inflator hose onto the BCD correctly or when I got muddled with the dive tables.
I felt the training package was pretty thorough and is most certainly not for anyone who is not committed towards succeeding. Most of the practical exercises, whilst not particularly physically demanding ( although you have to prove you can swim 200m and treadwater for 10 minutes), are still very challenging. You have to be able to remove your mask completely, return and clear the mask all whilst underwater. This, for some people, is especially challenging and you need to keep a clear head and focus on the breathing through the regulator otherwise you could easily become panic stricken. There are many other exercises but I think the mask removal and clearing is probably the one that most novices struggle with at first.
I had four open water dives following the practice sessions. These were all in a wetsuit and the deepest I swam to was 18m. I was never underwater for longer that 30 minutes. These dives were all logged in my dive log book.
There are a fantastic array of coloured fish in Lake Malawi. It's said to have the greatest diversity of fishes in any freshwater lake in the world. Most of these are from the family of fish called the Cichlidae and so you would need to be quite an expert to identify most of the species. I was very pleased to see a mouth-breeding cichlid. All her babies were swimming around but when she saw danger approaching - i.e. the divers - she must have signalled to her offspring because they all then swam into her mouth for protection. I also saw the blue upside -down fish which swam inverted in order to feed from the underside of overhanging rocks. Sadly we saw very few invertebrate animals amongst the rocks.
At the end of the four days I had to complete a test and the questions I got wrong were then discussed with me. I didn't have to re-sit the test. I finally received my completion of the training and I understand I will be sent a card to prove I have completed the training. I will be able to show this to any future diving operation. It all opens up countless opportunities for travelling to warm and sunny places to explore the underwater world. I can't wait!
This was and still is the most amazing surise I ever saw.
I was on Chitimba Beach on Lake Malawi, which is located on the north of the lake.
We had crossed the border from Tanzania the night before I never realised that the clocks had changed!
I was up and about early and went to sit at the beach and saw the sunrise.
The clouds over the lake with the sun as it gradually went up into the sky was such a wonderful sight.
Lake Malawi would be one of Malawis major attractions, and having been there I can see why.
I never imagined that a lake could be this big - you couldnt see anything on the otherside, it was just like an ocean to me! Even when we were back in Uganda and visited Lake Victoria - well I guess it didnt feel like a lake either - but this I know its a lake!
People will and do swim in here - seriously how can you resist its so beautiful - we swam in the lake a few times, and there are plenty of watersports, boat trips and diving courses to be had along the lake. It does have a risk of Bilharzia though, just be careful where you go in.
Swim from Kande Beach out to the Island. Should take about 40 minutes if the lake's calm. Once out there, hunt for some Monitors (massive lizards), jump off the rocks (3 different levels, from easy to damn scary), look at the multicoloured fishies swimming around the crystal clear rocks, go fishing and chill in the shade. Hitch a lift back with fishermen, if they're up for it, or even better, help them pull in their nets (which you'll fail at, miserably)
The lakeside town of Kande Beach (see my Kande Island pages) has everything. Camping, Dorms, Chateaus on the beach lake, horseriding followed by a bareback ride, snorkelling, swimming, boating, even the opportunity to dive or learn to dive on a padi course.
Not only that, but the nearby village has some of the warmest friendliest people in Africa, you get to see just how an African town that operates on under a chief is run (organise a walking tour visiting the hospitals and the schools) and also there are great market stalls.
Malawi is the warm heart of Africa and Kande Beach and its people epitomise that. Never have I met more generous and friendly people, and the scenery and relaxation is simply supurb.
See my Kande Island Page for more photos.
Much of the country is covered with freshwater, inhabbited with more than 600 different aquarium fish. It looks like the ocean. Looks can be deceiving. When we were there there were big waves too! I havn't had the opportunity myself to go diving or snorkeling in this magnificent lake yet but when I go on my Africa tour (about in the year 2007) I will not miss out on it.
It's wonderful to be on the water of Lake Malawi. The views at the peninsula and the island are really beautiful.
Dug-out canoes with local people pass by.
Sometimes some local canoes come to visiti our boat, because the people have some goods for sale, like selfmade jewellery. The vendors in Malawi behave very friendly.
On the lake we saw some fish-eagles. The crew of our boat tried to lure them with small fishes.
The area of Cape Maclear and the Lake Malawi National Park is very scenic.
The beaches are ringed by forested hills and faced by several islands. The sunsets are spectacular.
The underwater world offers the opportunity to see a diversity of colourful fishes. There is a underwater snorkelling trail, with a waterproof map provided.
Going to one of the small island can give you the real Robinson Crusoe feeling.
You can sit on the beach, walk a trail, do all kind of watersports, but the nicest thing to do is making a boattrip organised by the local people to one of the islands in the Lake Malawi National Park.
These trips include a fish barbecue. Every resthouse offers these trips, but it can be useful to shop around an ask other travellers for recommendations.
We made an halfday trip from 1 pm till dusk for a few dollars per person.
Lake Malawi is one of the main attractions of the country. At the southern end of the lake is the Nankumba Peninsula and Cape Maclear is the tip.
From Monkey Bay, the boatferries- and bus- terminal, you can easily reach Cape Maclear penisula.
Cape Maclear is a very popular spot with travellers, been described as backpackers Mecca and the African answer to Katmandhu and Marrakech.
We stayed in lovely roundavels at the beach with sun, sand, water and breathtaking sunsets in front, like paradise. What more could we wish?
Boating in the National Park near Mangochi. The River is full of crocodiles and hippos and they can be seen close up. I have seen a herd of elephants there by the side of the River decide to swim across and that was a fine sight with their trunks acting as snorkels !
I have never seen so many crocdiles and hippos before. The bird life is also prolific with numerous types of Kingfishers diving for their supper.
The clear and warm waters of Lake Malawi provide the traveller with a chance to relax and reflect during their trans-Africa travels. An abundance of colourful fish gives good snokerlling opportunities.
Lake Malawi is the country´s main attraction. Scuba diving, beach life and the magnificent sunsets attract many tourists!
Drive the lenght of the country along the lake. See Cape Maclear, Salima bay, Zomba plateau, Dedza mountain.
Wonderful scenic landscapes and many friendly encounter.