Standing on the palm-fringed, sandy beach of Lake Malawi with its sapphire waters stretching as far as the eye can see, I could feel my veins opening in the most spectacular fashion and blood excitedly rushing through them as if to confirm the exhilaration that had stalwartly gripped me.
The unexplainable beauty of Lake Malawi took me back to my earlier days when I was mesmerised and effectively swept off my teenage feet by the hazardous gorgeousness of a high school class mate.
My silly mind would build castles in the sky of how our future would be like, particularly our wedding day which I envisaged as a pan African event that would be graced by some of Africa’s finest wordsmiths.
This would included the late great Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic Chinua Achebe (may his soul rest in peace), one of the foremost living African novelists, playwright and essayist Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ghanaian novelist and poet, Ayi Kwei Armah, renowned for his visionary symbolism, poetic energy, and extremely high moral integrity of his political vision and Nigerian Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Babatunde Soyinka, one of contemporary Africa’s greatest writers and the continent’s most imaginative advocates of native culture and of the humane social order it embodies.
Those images flashed across my mind as I stood bewildered by the exquisite Lake Malawi also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique. I had to pinch myself a number of times to confirm that I was not day dreaming.
The resultant pain from my left arm all but confirmed that I had indeed arrived at the great lake, that southernmost lake in the East African Rift system, located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
This vast body of freshwater fringed by beaches of golden sand is not only a scenic wonderland but it provides water sport opportunities for those looking for something beyond sun, sand and swimming.
Aptly dubbed the jewel in the crown of the country’s tourist attractions there is no wonder why Scottish Christian Congregationalist, pioneer and medical missionary David Livingstone called it the “lake of stars” after having “discovered” it about 150 years ago.
My adventurous nature was immediately awakened upon noticing long stretches of totally uninhabited golden sand lakeshore, lapped by crystal clear waters. In those waters, fellow visitors were enmeshed in fun with some descending into the accommodative water body in a cacophony of excited chatter to partake in Kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, water skiing and scuba diving in the world’s top destination for freshwater scuba diving.
Pregnant with the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world, snorkelling is also fantastic.
Having spent considerable time on the beach, it was time to move over to a whole new memorably exceptional experience. A visit to Lake Malawi national park, situated at the southern end of the great expanse of Lake Malawi, with its deep, clear waters and mountain backdrop, the national park is home to many hundreds of fish species, nearly all endemic.
Upon arrival at Cape Maclear, the world’s first freshwater national park and a World Heritage Site, my whole being was left awe struck. The jaw dropping park comprises a land area around the cape and bay as well as the Lake and islands up to 100 metres off shore.
Present is a veritable aquarium of tropical fish providing a colourful kaleidoscopic display. The countless thousands of freshwater fish, the mbuna, are more plentiful and varied than anywhere else in the world.
We did not waste any time before hiring and jumping into the huge boats where we got an opportunity to see inhabitants of the park namely baboons, antelope’s hyrax as well as a magnificent variety of birdlife including fish eagles, cormorants and hamerkops.
Not to speak of the luxurious accommodation facilities punctuated by a wonderful line of awesome beaches between Mangochi and Monkey Bay will be doing a great disservice to the experience. Mangochi Lakeshore has the Lake’s greatest concentration of lodges and hotels which leave one spoilt for choice.
The adventure also taught us innumerable things one of which was to best visit the area between early May and late October when the climate is mild to warm with little chance of rain and the risk of malaria is at its lowest.
Coincidentally, we had timed our visit well and resultantly escaped the deadly jaws of the marauding malaria disease and got to enjoy a memorable experience.