Experiencing Lake Malawi

March 3rd is a special holiday in Malawi. It is called Martyr’s Day and all public offices and schools are closed to honor those who lost their lives in the struggle against British Colonialism. So, this past Thursday, our university Registrar, Mary Wasiri, invited me to go along with her to visit the southern tip of Lake Malawi, about a 3 hour drive north from my town of Zomba. Mary has been extremely hospitable since my arrival and wants to assure that I experience many aspects of Malawian culture.

We set off early in the morning to first stop at Monkey Bay in the Mangochi District. The drive was surely interesting and I needed to be more vigilant for the presence of animals than of cars. I did not mind stopping to let these cows pass by.

Cows in front of car.jpg

When we got to Monkey Bay, I was impressed to learn that one of the  passenger ships docked there is named “Ufulu,”the Chichewa word for freedom.  This is me and Ufulu!

Me and Ufulu.jpg

The people of Malawi rely on the lake to provide an amply supply of fish. Here you can see men preparing to go fishing while their children and wives enjoyed the temperate water.

Mangochi Fishing Beach.jpg

Another passenger ship that was docked at the Monkey Bay was the Ilala (built in 1949). It can carry 450 passengers, and has sleeping cabins, a restaurant, and a bar. Mary and I had the opportunity to tour the ship. The boat was empty except for the crew who were getting ready for the next day’s journey along the full length of the lake.

Mary Me Ilala.jpg

Once on the ship, it was hard not to daydream about buying a ticket and taking an overnight trip to the northern part of Malawi. We stood outside the cabins and pretended that we were passengers!

Ilala by cabins.jpg

We also lounged on the top deck where only first class passengers are permitted.

Ilala on top deck.jpg

We then headed to Cape Maclear, which is about a 40 minute drive from Monkey Bay. Our destination was the University of Malawi Chancellor College Microbiology Lab and Biological Field station in Lake Malawi National Park. It is equipped with accommodations for student study trips, so it was a nice resting place where we could plan a boat ride and have lunch.

Me and National Park Sign

The facility is also popular with the local baboons who are always looking to snatch some food from some unsuspecting human. As you can see, my car became quite popular, too!

Baboon on car 1.jpg

Baboon on car 2.jpg

I must admit that these fascinating creatures were a high point of my day! This is the expression I received from this young man when he left my car.

Baboon in tree.jpg

His friend remained deep in thought about where he could get food. He had just been banished from the doorway to the kitchen.

Baboon sitting.jpg

This adorable sight of this mommy with her baby truly stole my heart!

Mommy & Baby Baboon.jpg

After I satisfied my curiosity with the baboons, we took a spectacular boat ride to a nearby island.

Honey Boat.jpg


on way to island.jpg

I took pictures of these fish from the boat and couldn’t believe how clear the water was. Lake Malawi has a variety of fish species, and most of these fish are found only in Lake Malawi. A large majority of the fish are Cichlids. These fish here are called Mbuna, a favorite fresh-water tropical aquarium fish because of their bright colors.

Mbuna 1.jpg

Fish 2.jpg

Right before we arrived at the shore again, I saw this magnificent eagle in a tree as we were going by. This is the closest I’ve ever come to an eagle!


Thank you, Mary, for a wonderful day of learning more about the natural wonders and people of Malawi.



4 thoughts on “Experiencing Lake Malawi

  1. This is great! It’s making me miss Malawi a lot. You have captured the details in an appealing way…that place is really a beauty.


  2. In following your blog, I am impressed with the beauty of country. It has been very interesting to follow your adventures. I wish students in America would be as engaged as the students of Malawi.


  3. Rich – Yes, the country is so very beautiful. Life is like that I guess. . . with contrasts between the very disturbing and the very lovely. But in terms of natural beauty, so few in the United States know about the natural wonders of this country. I know that I didn’t before I came here!


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