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Freshwater diving – Lake Malawi

26 March 2012

As part of our Africa Overlander with Acacia, we had a few days working down Lake Malawi.  This involved a three night stop, including hog roast and fancy dress party, at Kande beach.

Lake Malawi apparently provides a phenomenal proportion of the fresh water fish for the world’s aquarium’s and Jay, our guide, was taking the chance to learn to dive.  However, Lake Malawi is also home of a snail which lays Bilharzia worms which apparently will swim up the urinary tract and lay eggs that can lead to internal bleeding and brain lesions through Schistosomiasis (I’m not medically trained but the two paramedics on our trip made this sound like a pretty bad thing to happen…).  Apparently this happens most commonly when urinating in the water but can just happen from exposure in the water and so, travelling with a couple of paramedics who seemed to know a lot about these things, I was a bit nervous of spending an hour underwater in their company.

However, after a few hours in the Sun, most of us had had a swim in the water and I had taken a long trip out to Kande island in the world’s first semi-submersible kayak (I don’t think it had the appropriate buoyancy for my bulk and there were a surprising amount of waves for a lake, even such a large lake, which had led to me wasting much time attempting to bail with my hands).  Having had such a long exposure to the risk of Schistosomiasis in the kayak I figured I might as well bite the bullet and try the diving.

Jay was learning at the resident Aquanuts Divers, owned and run by a friendly American called Justin, who is really keen on conservation and can’t be too keen on making money.  Jay was his only pupil that week and, when I booked on for the dive, I was his only guest.  We set out for Kande Island on the rib, Jay with an assistant dive instructor to do some openwater skills, and me to experience freshwater diving with Justin as my guide.

Kande Beach sunset

A major difference between freshwater and saltwater diving is the buoyancy.  Not just a matter of fewer weights on your belt, but if you drop your fins they go straight to the bottom.  Not keen to do my recovery diver course yet, I tried to make sure this didn’t happen.

The topography in the lake is fascinating, large boulders creating ravines to swim through.  The visibility was great, although my goggles kept fogging and Justin lead me to the sunken jeep that had been deposited in the lake by a drunken local and we spotted several large catfish and a number of smaller colourful fish enroute.

It was not quite as aquarium-like a dive as I had imagined but definitely a good experience and a fairly unique stamp in my dive book I think.  The addition of the jeep and the large boulders really made the dive for me and it was great having a one-to-one dive guide, I’d definitely recommend a dip in the Lake with Aquanuts if you’re passing through the area!


From → Diving, Travel

  1. Beautiful place!

  2. Freshwater diving is often where you get to make your own fun! Looks like a nice dive site, how was the water temperature?

    • Mid-twenties I think, but it was the middle of Africa! I fancy doing some more in the UK but think I’ll have to get into drysuit diving to really enjoy that! Cheers

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