Friday, May 18, 2012

News from the Beach by Campbell!

Hi guys,

My name is Campbell Louw, I am the dive instructor at Aquanuts dive school and researcher at the Maru research centre alongside Justin Kraus and just want to tell you a little about life at Kande.
Malawi is not at the coast and is bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, diving here is done in the warm, clear, fresh water of Lake Malawi. The lake has about 1650km of coastline, with a maximum depth of 800m. Inland, freshwater diving brings up images of a dull, cold dive with rocky/bushy surroundings, but guys this is not die Vaaldam! Malawi has a very chilled out Caribbean feel, with long white beaches, warm water (24 degrees in June up to a scorching 30 degrees in December) and tropical climate and vegetation. Visibility is usually around 10m.
The diving is very interesting with several dive resorts stretching from Nkhata Bay in the North to Cape Maclear in the South. I am working at Aquanuts dive school at Kande beach, located in the North of the lake. The dive centre is right on the beach looking out on Kande island 800m off shore (a nice swim there every night!). Most of the diving is done on the reef surrounding the island which consists mainly of rocky formations. The fish life found in the lake is the most diverse found in any freshwater lake in the world, with almost a 1000 species of fish living here, most of these are endemic living nowhere else. This is more than the total number of species to be found in all the lakes and rivers of Europe and North America combined. Most of these fish are different species of cichlids (belong to the family cichlidae) and the diverse array in size, coloration and mating behavior results in every dive feeling like a dive in a tropical aquarium.
The mating behavior of the cichlids is fascinating to watch, with these fish taking care of their young. Craters varying in size from the size of a soup bowl to 1m deep dongas can be seen everywhere, these are dug by the males and the females lay their eggs in these nests. If you come to close and the mother feels threatened she swims up to her brood of little fish, opening her mouth, and in two or three sweeps all the young form a tight clump and swim into their mothers beckoning mouth for protection.
The Maru research centre operates alongside Aquanuts dive school and was the reason why I decided to start my dive travels in Malawi. Through explosive speciation all the different species in the lake evolved from a common ancestor in a relatively short time and the lake is thus a thus a live evolution “experiment”. At the Maru we study the biodiversity in the north of the lake and look at the impact of environmental changes and human influences such as fishing.
Life on the lake is awesome! I live in a bungalow next to the dive centre opening right on the beach. Most of our clients come from the overland trucks staying in the campsite next door and the mix of travelers from all over the world result in quite a party on a regular basis! I paddle out to the island with a canoe most mornings for an early dive or sometimes to spear something for the pot. We do all our fun dives from canoes, launching 1 of our 2 rubber ducks to take clients on dives.
Being Africa the diet is something to get used to with nothing processed and I have not seen dairy since being here, I basically live on avo’s, bananas, tomatoes and eggs. The coffee produced nearby in Mzuzu is top notch! Not solving my caffeine addiction but it keeps me smiling.

Safe diving

Cheers Campbell