A beautiful day enjoying the Lake Malawi National Park

We wake up at 6 am when the sun is almost rising on Lake Malawi, ready to take a walk on the long beach of Chembe-CapeMaclear to see the fishermen returning from night fishing. The lake shore is already crowded.

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Chembe beach at dawn, Lake Malawi NP

The women of the village wash the pots or the laundry, some locals refresh themselves in the lake after the night, and the children chase each other and play cheerfully. Step by step, the fishing boats begin to return from the long night. Onboard, sitting on the bulky nets, there are at least a dozen fishermen. Once on the shore, many locals surround the boat looking for fish. A part of the catching will be shared with the families of the fishermen, and a part will be sent to the fish markets to make money and cover the expenses of the fishing. A local fisherman tells us that many fishers don’t have a fishing boat and they have to pay rent to the owner.

Locals waiting for the fishermen boats, Lake Malawi NP
Locals waiting for the fishermen’s boats, Lake Malawi NP

Lake Malawi is vital for the population living around it since it provides a significant food fish source, drinking water, irrigation, and hydroelectricity. He says the most common fish are Chambo, Kampango catfish and above all the lake Malawi sardine known as Kukwiya. Usually, the sardines are spread out to dry on long tables near the shore to be sold at the markets, but unfortunately, these days are not suitable for fishing because of the full moonlight.

Fishermen returning from nigh fishing, Lake Malawi NP
Fishermen returning from nigh fishing, Lake Malawi NP

At 9 am we meet our friends Maxwell and Peter, two accreditated tour guides of Lake Malawi National Park to start our boat trip on the lake and get the most out of its wonders. The water is smooth and still, and we head to the west side of Thumbi Island while enjoying the warm sun. They switch off the engine at some point, and after a quick sight around, they start whistling and throw a fish into the lake. Suddenly, from a high tree on the slope, a big African fish eagle jumps out from its nest coming up to us. The African fish eagle is a magnificent bird, with black/brown on its wings and belly and a distinctive white head, chest and tail. With an acute sight, great speed and agility, it could weigh up to 2.5 kg with a wingspan of about 2 metres. Step by step, we admire this majestic bird flies close to us above the water spreading its broad wings and suddenly diving and catching the fish on the surface of the lake with its powerful claws.

a majestic African fish eagle, Lake Malawi NP
a majestic African fish eagle, Lake Malawi NP

After feeding some fish eagles, we head to the south side of Thumbi Island. Here, close to the rocky shore, we can finally see the cichlids that make so famous Lake Malawi (known as Mbuna which means “rockfish,” in the local language). When we were kids, we used to pay a visit to our grandfather in the hall, right in front of the main door, which had a big aquarium with plenty of colourful tropical fish with wild patterns and intense colours.

We have always wished to find a place in the world where to dive surrounded by these marvellous creatures, and finally, after a long time, the lake Malawi is the right place. The Malawi cichlids are popular because you can notice them to tropical freshwater aquariums everywhere. We immediately dive into the water, and in a while, we are swimming among the colourful cichlids. Zebra-striped, pale pink, iridescent purple, flaming orange, shimmering blue and bright yellow; it’s a dream-like sensation, and we feel likes floating in a huge freshwater aquarium.

Even though we would have stayed there all day, it’s time to move to Thumbi beach and take a bit of relaxation. While we are enjoying the small beach go and back from the water, Maxwell and Peter start cooking lunch. We couldn’t ask better: fresh fish, rice and a delicious mix of stewed vegetables. After an hour of soaking up the warm sun, we jump into the boat heading to Otter Point, a small and wild rocky peninsula on the west of side Chembe. This area is quite far from the village, and its long white sand beach is lovely, and the water is incredibly cristal clear. Once at Otter Point, we climb up the big rock leaping into the water like kids. It’s another chance to have fun and to enjoy the surprising lake Malawi. It’s almost 2 p.m., and our trip is ending up.

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Back at the lodge, we thanks Maxwell and Peter for this fantastic tour with the wish to come back again a day. Our exploration is not done yet. After drinking a cold beer at the bar facing the shores, we decide to walk along the dusty street of Chembe. All the activities are still closed, but, a few minutes on foot from the lodge, it’s located an “afterschool” for the children by the name Tipezananso. It’s a project created and funded in 2005 by a dutchman and run by locals. It offers the children of Chembe the opportunity to play among themselves and the teaching of how to look after their things and maintain their environment.

We spend a couple of hours playing with the many kids and talking with a teacher explaining how the project works. At 5 pm we take place on the beach in front of the lodge sipping a beer and waiting for the sunset, said to be the most stunning of the whole Malawi. The sun lies low on the horizon with the silhouette of Thumbi island on its right, the last red-orange rays of sunlight turn Cape Maclear into a beautiful painting, a painting that will never forget. See you soon Lake Malawi!

Cape Maclear sunset, Lake Malawi NP
Cape Maclear sunset, Lake Malawi NP

Need to Know about Cape Maclear

Click here to find out all the information you need about Lake Malawi National Park.

Boat trips and other activities are organised through the Cape Maclear Tour Guide Association. We suggest contacting Maxwell and Peter, both accreditated guides, for arranging your activities in Cape Maclear (WhatsApp +265 999015092).

Maxwell and Peter
Maxwell and Peter

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