Holly Morris is a TV host (Treks in a Wild World, Globe Trekker), and the author of Adventure Divas and founder of the multimedia company Adventure Divas. Post your travel questions here and they could get answered in the magazine.
A friend told me that the diving in Lake Malawi is incredible. Is it worth the flight around the world?
A. Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, barely gets a blip on the diving world’s radar—but it should. The 9,000-square-mile glittering gem of the Great Rift Valley that borders Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania is one of the planet’s first freshwater national park and home to a colorful spectacle of aquarium fish. When I dove there last year, zoologist Ken McKaye, a scientific advisor to WWF, explained why Lake Malawi is ideal for those with a passion for the Darwinian. “If you want to see evolution in action, you go diving in Lake Malawi,” he said. “Over a thousand fish species have been generated here, more than any other place in the world.” However, if you want to see barracudas or sharks—or anything much bigger than a silver dollar pancake, for that matter—or if you explore with Hemingway’s gusto rather than, say, a bird-watcher’s delight, Lake Malawi might not be for you.
Still, perhaps because of the sub-Saharan region’s struggles with poverty and a high AIDS rate, the way of life around what explorer David Livingstone called the “lake of the stars” nearly 150 years ago remains largely unchanged. Men paddle dugouts along boulder-strewn beaches and lush shores; village women carry laundry piled high on their heads; fishermen hawk the day’s catch. After exploring Malawi’s underwater world, we decompressed at a locally operated ecolodge, Kaya Mawa, which is tucked away on the blissfully remote, five-mile-long Likoma Island (kayamawa.com). Each of the ten rooms and chalets has its own luxe-rustic design, such as a private deck leading straight from a bed with zillion-thread-count sheets to a Lake Malawi morning dip. Getting there requires flying in by single-engine plane or taking the Ilala ferry, which offers a taste of the refugee experience but brings you to spots well worth the strenuous transit.
Illustration by Olaf Hajek