“The lake of stars”, he called it, as a myriad winking galaxies glittered from the crystal facets of the water.
It’s a wonderful description, as exact today as it was almost a century and a half ago. Sit on a perfect beach, and let your eyes take in the wide wonder of turquoise water, blue sky and a milky distant shoreline of mountains. Rocky islands float on the water like fragments of fantasy, crowned with jungle. The whisper of waves softens the yelping call of fish eagles, and if you’re lucky, you may glimpse the glossy head of an otter as it heads for a home among the rocks.
In Livingstone’s time, the lake was dotted with dhow sails, sinister as sharks’ fins, ferrying slaves and ivory across to the eastern shore for the long march to the coast. Today, peaceful dugout canoes range the length and breath of the lake, no longer fearful of Arab traders, intent only on harvesting the silver bounty of fish.
A meal of the country’s favourite, chambo, served with golden chipped potatoes, is a must for visitors.
Lake Malawi covers almost 20% of the country, and provides much of the country’s protein. The third largest lake in Africa, and one of the deepest in the world, its water is particularly pure. Fish prefer the shallower, southern end, so it’s no surprise that the human population is denser in the south. Here too, the brightly coloured cichlid fishes, mbuna, abound, making rocky island shores an open-air aquarium for snorkellers and scuba divers.