Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lake of Stars (Cape Maclear, Malawi) - Part Two

See Lake Malawi for part one of this story.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of this area is a day trip to one of several rocky islands off Cape Maclear. Guided by young locals, small fishing canoes ferry visitors to a nearby island. On the way, our small group stopped at an island with giant monitor lizards distinctly annoyed at having been disturbed from their basking slumber. With huge heads that look like they could bite your foot off in one chomp, the canoes soon made their way to a more peaceful sandy beach.

While snorkelling among the colourful sealife, the local lads (with biblical names of Moses and Isaac) fried some superbly fresh fish over an open fire, along with rice, a spicy tomato sauce and a sticky maize with a consistency more suited to filling cracks in walls. Laid out on the beach, it is simply a matter of scooping up some of the sticky maize and rice in your fingers with a chunk of fish and the zesty sauce and popping it into your mouth. It is difficult to imagine a better setting than a deserted beach on a sunny day eating fresh fish while surrounded by glistening waters. Scratching the putty-like maize from our fingers bought the mbuna rushing to the waters edge.

Moses showed a clever trick where he could take this putty, splash his hand in the water and catch one of the brightly coloured mbuna. Naturally enough, it was a well-developed skill and despite a fair effort, none of the visitors managed a single catch.

Heading back towards Point Otter and Cape Maclear, the canoe slowed. Isaac let out a piercing whistle and tossed a chunk of fish over the side. One of two African Fish Eagles (both with names) swept from a nearby tree and in one fluent motion, carefully plucked the fish from the lake’s surface as it just started to sink. This was repeated a few times as the group tried to snap photos precariously rocking the canoe.

Eager cormorants sat on anchored fishing boats, eyes peeled for any morsels missed by the fish eagles, but looking generally fearful of getting too close to the eagle's domain.

Lake Malawi is a beautiful and restful lake offering a chance to escape the efforts of African travel for a few days. Whether keen to canoe, kayak, dive, walk and snorkel or simply read a book on the palm-fringed beaches, the Lake of Stars is likely to leave an impression on you long after you have left its sandy shores.

Other African Posts
The Great Congo River Journey (Congo)
Real Africa? (Central African Republic)
Living on Stilts (Benin)
African Top Ten Travel Wonders


Mary and Sean said...

Glad to see this is still a popular travel destination! I visited in 1995 as a Peace Corps volunteer in a neighboring many fun memories there including wonderful freshly baked banana bread, befriending a little boy on the beach, and haggling for chief chairs!

Mark H said...

@mary and sean: Peace Corp work must bring some great memories, especially of a friendly genuine country like Malawi. My story is also from a fair few years old and I can only hope that Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear hasn't changed for the worse.

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