One Summer Break at Lake Malawi National Park

Lately, sweet memories from the past have been engulfing my mind. Vivid moments spent in the wild are making a strong recall. Whatever may be happening to me, I’m enjoying the recollections with silent pleasure.

The year is 1992 or maybe 1993. I’m inclined to think it is the former. A young supple mind is at its zenith absorbing everything wildlife. There’s so much to learn; there’s even much more to do. Whales, sharks, bears, lions, elephants, antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, cheetahs, tigers, crocodiles, birds, snakes, fish, worms, beetles, ants and much, much more.

The Wildlife Club at our school – Mulunguzi Secondary School in Zomba district – has been invited to join other clubs from across the country for a holiday trip at the world famous Lake Malawi National Park. It’s one of the few places in the world where a conservation site is established over a fresh water body.

Lake Malawi National Park is one of the five national parks in Malawi, after Nyika in the North, Kasungu in the Central Region, Liwonde and Lengwe in the South. It is home to mbuna, cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. These colorful guys are one of the most gorgeous ornamental fish from a fresh water body. They come in red, yellow, blue brown and other fantastic colours. The shapes are equally incredible.

Our young minds were swept away by carefully choreographed presentations that were fun, informative and interactive. I wanted to catch all the poachers and destroyers of nature and cast them into the Lake of Fire. Every story of extinction or critical threat on a species left me teary. Nothing has changed much since then.

In fact, I’m only able to handle the story of extinction with dignity, though very painful, simply because I believe in the afterlife. The knowledge that the world will one day be restored to its former glory is a balm to the heart. So I’m comforted that one glorious day in the future I will see the dodo, the mammoth and other ancient animals that disappeared on the face of the earth long time ago.

Then came snorkeling sessions. We spent hours in the water staring down into the magical world of the mbuna. The fish were friendly and were not scared of our presence. We were told that they are territorial and will spend their entire life around an underground rock or reef. No visiting cousins, no time to play an aquatic tourist.

We had a boat ride and went to Bird Island off the coast of Monkey Bay. This is where the waters are crystal clear, and the stars sparkle on the gentle lake. The calming effect was beyond what words could describe.

It was during this trip that I made a life long friendship with Tikhala Njolomole. She’s like a big sister to me. I can remember a few more names though I have not met any of them since that time. I doubt very much if they could even remember our meeting. Today Tikhala is a Bwana (boss) at one of the energy companies in Malawi. I last saw her last year and next time we meet I’ll ask her if she remembers of this summer trip.

Lake Malawi National Park offers aquatic beauty unparalleled anywhere else in Malawi, and it is world famous for its cichlids and crystal clear waters. Pay it a visit one day and you will fall in love with it, just like I did.

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