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My Malawi Diary
by Peter Hofman (trigger)

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Sunday, November 5th

In the morning we arrived at Chisimulu Island. Nick's place is empty, so we can use the huts instead of the tents we brought along. The question was whether that was the better option. Nick's place consists mainly of a collection of reed huts. The cook that accompanies use made a very good breakfast for us and the boat crew is going to make sure our diving equipment will be on the beach around 11 o'clock. The first dive will be an easy one from the beach. So we can check out our weights and see how the inexperienced divers do. The site is called Mbamba Bay. It was like the first tropical experience all over. You don't know where to look or what to take pictures off! Just as we descend, we see our first Malawi crab and a spiny eel. The crabs are something we would see a lot of. The eel was the first and last. After an hour of diving we agreed to go back to the surface, have lunch and prepare for the second dive. This time we dove from the boat on the other side of the island in what can be considered a canal. Here there was a sandy bottom with obvious sand sifters. Tomorrow the plan has Taiwanee Reef written all over it.

Water Azure Underwater Plant Cloud

Monday, November 6th

We did sleep alright after all in the reed hut. Only that rooster should be made into soup very quickly! After breakfast the divers went by boat to Taiwanee Reef. Ricky and Alex went along for some fishing. Taiwanee Reef is a very beautiful place with gigantic boulders stacked on top of each other. Again lots of fish here. Stuart's fish catchers caught a ton of Pseudotropeus Saulosi here. For unknown reason, Bob ran out of air on his safety stop. He surfaced with Mike on his octopus. Mike missed a decompression stop because of this, so I sent him down again to at least finish that stop. Back at Nick's place for lunch and packing. The sanitary situation was too upsetting for some safari members, so we decided to go to the next place one day sooner. At that time I asked Stuart's head diver, Barnabus, where to get the best Cynotilaia afra Red-top. According to him they were at a reef near Likoma Island, our next stop. We would stop at the reef to get some fish there. So, on our way to Likoma Island, we stopped at Makulawe Rocks to catch my afras I was able to take some nice pictures of the capture. I could even point out which fish I wanted to have. The bottom is mainly made up of rocks here. Not much sand or sediment. Now resting on Likoma Island. If the trip is going like it is, we may even gain another day to spend in the nature reserve.

Water Fluid Organism Underwater Fish

Tuesday, November 7th

Slept reasonably tonight in our concrete bunker. At least they had no rooster around. This morning we could see the lake ferry, the Ilala, was being off-loaded and loaded up again. After breakfast we were on our way to Mbembe point. We had another great dive here. This is a typical rocky mbuna environment. Lots of rocks with sandy patches here and there. This is for instance the home of Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos maingano. We have seen a lot of them. Also many beautiful Cynotilapia afras. Until about 15 meters deep the rocks rule. After that you hit the sandy bottom. After the actual dive we invited Ricky in to go on my octopus and he made a small dive with us. We went to about three meters and he stayed down for about ten minutes. Beats snorkeling anytime. After lunch we went diving near Mbuzi Island. The "island" is a heap of rocks in my opinion. I volunteered to get a water sample from 30 meters deep. I only saw some large catfish and something that looked like a sponge, but due to a camera problem, I could not take any good pictures. When putting together the underwater housing, I forgot to open the on-board flash of my Coolpix. With that closed the external flash won't fire either. Back with Bart and Mike, I sort of had it, made an extra safety stop and came out of the water. Stuart's fish catchers were still busy. They even caught a large catfish by hand! In the meantime we had to change the plan again... The weather report was bad for a nightly crossing to Minos Reef. So we'll do that first thing tomorrow.

Water Underwater Organism Art Fun

Wednesday, November 8

At 8 o'clock we left for Minos Reef. The bad weather continued, so the expected arrival at noon was postponed to late afternoon. So much for the new plan, let's make another. We arrived at Minos Reef around 5 o'clock in the afternoon. The crew expected some trouble with the Mozambique immigration. We are at the Mozambique coastline here. And neither of us had visas for Mozambique. Although we are not setting foot on Mozambique soil, the crew expected some sort of trouble when diving the reef. So we put together a commando like action. We hit the water at the same time as the anchor. We had two people with binoculars on the lookout for immigration service boats. If they would spot one, they would hit the anchor chain once. If he was half way they would hit the chain twice, so we knew to get out of the water. Minos Reef obviously is the home of the red zebra! Everywhere you looked, you saw them. The whole reef is submerged. Immigration went home early apparently, because we could do the complete dive without having to rush out of the water. Again we had to wait for Mike. Now on to Chiofu bay. Due to the weather we skipped Chioelo. Expected arrival time at Chiofu was midnight. Chiofu is just in Malawi again and Stuart has a camp there. If all goes well, I'll be back with Monique and Colin tomorrow night.

Water Sky Cloud Mountain Lake

Thursday, Novemer 9

About half past one in the morning, we arrived at Chiofu. While the rest went to sleep on the boat, Mike, Bart and I decided to make a night dive. Usually a night dive is after diner around 6 or 7 o'clock, but this was a real one. The bay stayed shallow a long time, about two meters. This time we spotted some Synodontis nyassae and other kinds of catfish. At some places the bottom dropped from underneath us in a real wall-style reef. Went down a bit, but not too far. After the dive we tried to get some sleep, but that did not work out anymore. I decided to skip the early morning dive to get some rest. In the afternoon another dive in the bay. Here the environment is different from all the other places we dove. Especially the wall is very different. Here the rocks look more layered as if they are from volcanic activity. Next to the ever present cichlids, we saw some catfish. In the sandy bottom of the bay were the sand sifting fish again. It's always a nice sight to see them digging in the sand and chewing the sand away out of their gills. We touched 30 meters and finished the dive in the shallow part of the bay. Then we were on our way to Kambiri Point. When I got back at Kambiri Point, I learned that Monique and Colin had a great time in the pool of the Livingstonia beach hotel, which they could use. Also they visited the Mackenzie project, a local school managed by Esther Grant in the poor Mackenzie village near Senga Bay.

Shirt School uniform T-shirt Adaptation Lamp

Friday, November 10

"Rest day". We took advantage of the rest day to make another dive at the island just before the coast of Kambiri Point, Namalenje. Supposedly this is the home of Protomelas taeniolatus Red Empress. That is, if you can see anything. Due to the strong current and the loose sediment, this was one big mud-hole. Took some pictures of sand, clams, shells and sponges. The rocks here went all the way to the surface and you could swim around them. Tomorrow we leave for Cape MaClear.

Marine invertebrates Underwater Water Marine biology Plant

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