REVISED-Lake Malawi, Cape MaClear & Mumbo Island

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December 16th 2009
Published: December 16th 2009
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Malawi Cichlids

Hi Everyone!
Here's more of our continuing adventures in Malawi. Sorry but no pics this time. We just can't find an internet cafe with a fast enough connection to let us download pictures. We'll send them later.
After our Mulanje Mountain trek we went back to Blantyre for 2 nights for rest and laundry. Then back on another bus to Monkey Bay. This bus ride was okay, packed full, but not to long, 6 hours. The bus dropped us off at the turn off to Cape Maclear as there was a taxi waiting to take people to the lake. When I say taxi I mean another little Nissan pick-up with 15 people in the back, plus our backpacks and their bags of maize, cabbages, live chickens, etc. We were perched on the outside edge of the truck bed with our feet wedged down between baggage. Luckily it was only a 12 mile, bumpy dirt road ride! Ha-Ha. . . my behind

Snorkeling in Lake Malawi
was black and blue for a week. Cape Maclear is a working fishing village of about 10,000 on Lake Malawi. We stayed at a really laid back little place right on the lakeshore called Gaia House, pitched our tent about 20 ft. from the water. The lake is awesome. I actually feel like I'm on the ocean it is so big. Third largest lake in Africa, 70 miles across to Mozambique and 300 miles long. On our 3rd day there, a guide named Rafik picked us up in his dug-out canoe and took us over to Thumbi Island, about a 30 minute paddle. A dug-out canoe is made from one solid tree trunk that's been hollowed out. The opening in the top is just wide enough for you to put one leg in front of the other, scoot to your position to sit and then your behind sits on top. It felt a little sketchy at first, but Rafik assured us that if it rolled over, "just pull your legs out and grab on", they don't sink. After arriving at the island he gave us masks & snorkels and then he started working on a BBQ for us while we

Dugout Canoe-Lake Malawi
snorkelled. The cool thing about snorkelling in Lake Malawi is they have 800 different species of Cichlid fish. I would never have believed fish like this exist in fresh water if I had not seen them myself. I wish we had underwater pictures to show you. These fish are every color, every pattern imaginable. Bright neons, solids, stripes vertical & horizontal. My favorites were a solid black with neon turquoise stripes, a solid white with neon green stripes, and a neon blue with navy strips. There were purples and yellow and oranges, and just beautiful. They gather in big groups to eat algae off the rocks of all the islands, they were not afraid of us at all, they would even eat out of our hands. Rafik gave us each a handful of cooked rice and you hold it just below the surface of the water and open your hands just enough for a fish to get his head in and you are just swarmed with all these beautiful fish trying to eat from your hands. They ranged in size from 4 - 8 inches. This is where the Cichlids in the local pet stores originated from. It was such

Cape Maclear Beach
a great experience, and when we were done snorkelling Rafik had a catfish bbq waiting for us. After eating he took us to the other side of the island where the Fish Eagles live. They look like an American Bald Eagle, but not quite as large. Rafik had caught some little bait fish and he would whistle very shrill and throw one of these fish into the air. A Fish Eagle would swoop down and either catch it in the air, or right as it hit the water. There were 4 couples of Fish Eagles living on this island and 2 couples of Falcons. It was really something to see.
Aaron got his hair cut here in Cape Maclear at one of the local barbers. Basically a wood stall with a chair and a mirror. He had the guy shave his head. It was pretty funny, he had quite a crowd of boys as an audience.
We walked up the road a little way to Lake Malawi National Park. It was so nice there. The mountain actually meets the lake out at the point. Lots of Baboons here. We hiked out onto Otter Point and we actually did get to

Boa Game Board
see some Otters, I was surprised, very golden red in color. They're very shy and ran away immediately. Lake Malawi National Park was the first freshwater national park in the world. The park and the beach and the lake are absolutely stunning here, but there were only 2 other people besides us there. They have nice chalets for accomodation but their little museum and aquarium really are sad. They just don't have the money to run it like it should be run, but the people that work there are so happy to have tourists come. On one hand it's a shame more people don't go there because it is so lovely, but on the other hand, fewer visitors keep it pristine.
We spent the next couple of weeks just swimming in the lake, laying in the sun, and exploring the village. It was so much fun watching the little kids swim and play in the lake. The beach would be full of little naked butts jumping into the water. They were so cute. Then mama would show up with her washing. The kids would play while she washed clothes. Then it was their turn to be washed. It was funny

Beach Life
because if they were big enough to wash themselves, they made sure they did a good job. They would be so lathered up with soap that they looked like snowmen. Point being, they did a good job themselves because they didn't want mama to do it for them if they didn't pass inspection. It really was hilarious.
It was also interesting to watch the fishermen. They do their fishing from the dug-out canoes and it's usually done at night with nets. They will go out with really bright lanterns attached to the front of their canoes and have a net between two dug-outs. Lake Malawi is also called "Lake of Stars" because of all the lantern lights sparkling off the water at night as far out into the horizon as you can see.
Then for my birthday, (Aaron always plans something special for me) he arranged a trip to Mumbo Island. It was so nice. A tour company there in Cape Maclear called Kayak Africa took us out to Mumbo in a big, covered motor boat. It takes about an hour and a half to get from Cape Maclear to Mumbo. It is an eco-island, only 14 guests are allowed

Cape Maclear Beach
to be on the island at a time. All accomodation is in luxury safari tents that are connected to big decks that hang out over the rocks and water. You can't see anybody else's tent from your front deck so you really get the feel of having the island all to yourself. Huge bathroom with a really neat shower that lets you look out onto the lake while you're showering. Other than having a set time to be in the dining room for meals, you can do whatever you want. We snorkelled and kayaked alot. We hiked across the island one morning and came across a 3 1/2 ft. long Monitor Lizard, Aaron almost stepped on him. He didn't move a muscle, I think he was convinced we couldn't see him. He was very pretty and fat. It was a light gray almost white with pink, green, and black markings. Really cool. We had heard something big moving through the leaves and then Aaron spotted his backend going behind some big rocks, so we hiked back up the hill to look for him and he was literally right in Aaron's path. It's a good thing Aaron didn't step on him

Mumbo Island Safari Tent
because they can be quite ferocious if they feel cornered. We had some great meals on the island and the moon was almost full while we were there so it was really stunning at night. Besides the awesome snorkelling where we saw more of the colorful Cichlid fish, we also swam through schools of other fish that live in the lake like Chambo. We even saw some Wide Mouth Bass and big, spiny freshwater crabs, the Fish Eagles wouldn't even fly away when we'd kayak by, it really did seem like we had a tropical paradise all to ourselves. After 3 days here, back to Cape Maclear for one night, then back to Blantyre to have our visa's renewed. I can't believe our first 30 days here are almost up. They went really fast!

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13



Luxury Camping

Mumbo Island

Mumbo Island Beach

Weaver Bird

Monitor Lizard

15th April 2010

A section of the lake at Cape Maclear in the south, has been declared the world's first freshwater National Park and includes the peninsula of land and several islands.

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