Another Big Tick

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Jun 16, 2012

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Where I stayed
Mayoka Village Nkhata Bay
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Dive in Lake Malawi

Flag of Malawi  ,
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Barely an hour north of Makuzi Beach is Nkhata Bay. This place was another tourist highlight, but the vibe was very different to Cape Maclear. Nkhata Bay had a really relaxed feel, and reggae seemed to be the only thing on the playlists. It was also fortunate enough to stay off the overlander trail, and catered more for individual travellers. We stayed at Mayoka Village, which had been recommended by pretty much everyone either of us had spoken to.

In another life, Mayoka Village could very easily have been a hippy commune. The thatched huts cling precariously to the side of a steep mountain and everyone seemed to know everyone else. The staff were extremely friendly and a litter of puppies was running wild biting every foot in sight. There was a notice board packed with activities, and free tea was offered at 4pm every afternoon. It was the perfect place to drop anchor for a few days.

Malawi has a reputation for being "Africa for Beginners" and I was starting to see why. The locals are amazing, you never feel unsafe, it's cheap, it's well catered for backpackers, and despite it's compact size, you could easily spend a month travelling around with no great urgency. Unfortunately I was already half way through my trip and still had to reach my northern-most point at Lake Victoria in Tanzania. Sooner or later I'd have to leave...but later was fine for now.

The owners had their niece and nephew visiting from JHB, and on Thursday they provided a complimentary boat trip up the coast. We stopped en route for an epic cliff jump, which saw us plunging about 15m into the clear, blue water. After this we spent some time snorkelling, which was followed up with a picnic lunch on the beach and some cold beers. It was going to be really hard to leave this lifestyle.

Being a documentary nerd, I had also heard amazing things about the diving in Lake Malawi. Infact the David Attenborough series, Planet Earth, devotes about 15% of it's Fresh Water episode to Lake Malawi alone. There are several reasons for this:
*Hundreds of species of unique and colourful cichlids, all of which descended from a single ancestor
*Swarms of Lake Flies so massive that they appear to be smoke on the water
*Fish that create and maintain nests
*Dolphin Fish that hunt by electrical impulses at night
*Fish that breed and protect their young in their mouths
*A 700m deep abyss in the middle

It turned out that all of the BBC footage was shot on dives run by Aqua Africa, which operates across the bay from Mayoka. And a scuba dive there only costs US$45! How could I miss this opportunity? Our dive master was a guy named Sam, who amazingly has only ever dived in Lake Malawi. He really had a passion for what he did, though. We were really lucky and on our dive managed to see everything except the abyss, although you could see the lake walls disappearing below you. We also saw upside down fish that spend their entire lives inverted, feeding off the underside of rocks. It was awesome!

It was really hard to leave Nkhata Bay, and it would have made a perfect final destination for my trip, but I now had an extra month at my disposal (due to the cancellation of my middle eastern tour) and I really needed to get going to Africa's largest lake: Victoria. Darren jumped in for another lift, and on Saturday we departed for Livingstonia.

[13,700km to date]

My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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