Trip Start Jul 02, 2008
60Trip End Jun 19, 2009
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Luckily when I was getting ready to leave the guesthouse in Mzuzu I met someone that was driving back to Nkhata Bay and ofered me a ride if I could just wait a few hours while he ran a few errands. And it just so happened that he's one of the owners of the dive shop in Nkhata Bay so I got some great info about the diving there.
Nkhata Bay is about an hour east of Mzuzu on Lake Malawi. It's a popular spot for backpackers for its relaxing atmosphere nd beautiful bay location on the rocky shores. I stayed at Butterfly Space, run by two British girls, on the edge of the peninsula that has huts and a dorm right on the shoreline and they are involved in a lot of community projects in the area.
I generally spent the mornings walking around town and the afternoons and evenings back at Butterfly reading or hanging out with the other travelers there. I did one day of diving in Nkhata Bay, one morning dive and one night dive. It's freshwater diving here which I've ever done before. The biggest differences between saltwater and freshwater diving is the aquatic life and the topography. In freshwater there are no corrals, instead there are incredible rock formations. The fish I saw were mostly cichlids of which there are hundreds of varieties in Lake Malawi each having evolved differently due to their surroundings. There are also these fish, I don't remember their name, that create these craters in the sand that can be up to 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep where they lay their egs and keep their young. I also saw a mouthbreeder, where the female keeps her eggs in her mouth and the male fertilizes them in her mouth. The fish spend most of their infancy in their mother's mouth, only let out when it's feeding time. If a predator swims by the mother will gobble up her young back into her mouth. On my dive I saw one with her babies, each about an inch long and there were probably 20 of them. As I approached she opened her mouth and quickly got her babies safe inside.
The night dive was probably the best night dive I ave ever done. As soon as you reach the bottom you're surrounded by about 20 dolphin fish which are about 3 feet long, they come out at night to feed, and follow you throughout the dive. I also saw 3 catfish, which I've never seen diving before. Two were large, about 2-3 feet long, and one was a juvenile catfish. And as if the dive wasn't spectacular enough, as we surfaced we were surrounded by a blanket of stars above and it was such a clear night that you could see the Milky Way.
There's a ferry that runs the length of Lake Malawi, taking one week for the round trip, and stopping in a few cities along the lakeshore and the islands of Likoma and Chizimulu, which are located in Mozambican territory but are a part of Malawi. On the southbound trip it stops in Nkhata Bay on Monday departing at 8:00PM and arriving in Chizimulu around midnight. These islands are very small, traditional villages, without any cars (however I saw a couple of cars on Likoma Island). Due to the ferry schedule, if you stop in the islands, you must wait one week for the ferry to take you back to the mainland.
I started in Chizimulu, the smaller of the two islands. There's only one place to stay on Chizimulu and luckily it's a backpackers place and I met the owner, Nick, in Nkhata Bay who was also on the ferry as well. I went on two dives with Nick and saw lots of crabs, a few mouthbreeders, a couple of catfish, and the first dive had some incredible swimthroughs within the rock formations. The other days I spent reading on the beach, going for swims, and walking around the island.
There's supposed to be a dhow (local sailboat) that brings passengers to and from Chizimulu and Likoma Islands everyday. Depending on winds, it's scheduled to leave Chizimulu at 10:00 AM. I arrived at 9:30 but didn't see anyone around the boat or any passengers waiting. I asked a few people and they said that because there was no wind they didn't know when the boat will leave, but maybe around 2:00. I decided to sit and wait for awhile to see if anything would happen.
While waiting some young boys, mostly naked, were playing in the water and climbing onto the dhow and jumping into the lake. I slowly reached for my camera to try and sneak a few pictures of them but they caught me. What resulted was numerous photos of the boys posing for the camera, mostly in kung fu positions, then running up to me so they can see what they look like. So there I am the only mzungu (white person) around with a swarm of dripping wet naked boys surrounding me, running back to pose for another picture and running back to me to see the picture. This went on for about 10 minutes until they started touching the camera and getting it wet. I said "No more" and put my camera away. They looked very upset, but within a minute they just ran back to the boat and continued their playing.
After only 15 minutes of waiting some people started loading up a motorboat so I went over to ask if they were going to Likoma, which they were, so I asked if I could get a ride. It just so happened that the Chizimulu football (soccer in America) team hired this boat to take them to Likoma for a match with the Likoma team. It ended up being a very exciting boat ride. The team sang and chanted the entire time to get psyched for the match. I have no idea what they were saying but I enjoyed the entertainment.
I spent 3 nights on Likoma Island, The Isle of Baobab, doing pretty much the same thing as I did on Chizimulu. I did two more dives here which were very similar, but somewhat sad since these were the final dives of this trip. One day I walked into the main village which is about 45 minutes from where I was staying and checked out the tiny market and St. Peter's Cathedral, which is the largest cathedral in central Africa. It just so happened to be Sunday and the service was in session when I arrived. Unfortunately I got there during the sermon so I didn' get to hear any singing. But I was shocked to see that the men and women sit separately.
I took the ferry early Tuesday morning back to the mainland to Nkotakota, a 12 hour journey, where I spent one night. The next morning I took a variety of minibuses and a pick-up truck to Cape Maclear where I've spent the last couple of days. Today is my birthday so I was hoping there's be some lively people here to help me celebrate the big 35. There were two Dutch girls here but they left this afternoon. As long as there's no tequila involved, which I'm sure they don't have here, it should be a fairly sober evening.
Yesterday I met a few rasta guys and they made me a barbeque dinner on the beach (I did give them a few dollars for the food). They had fish themselves but they made me a vegetable stew with rice. They had a drum with them and later in the evening they started drumming and singing. Of course I didn't know any of the songs until they started in on the Bob Marley portion of their playlist. Yesterday the two Dutch girls and I found a boatman to take us out today a few hundred meters to an island for some snorkeling this morning before they left.
To all of the teachers out there - good luck with the rest of your school year. And to the graduating seniors that are reading this - congratulations!! Please email me and let me know what your plans are for next year.
Happy Birthday to me and to Cortesi!!
Where I stayed