Not so warm heart of Africa

This looks as exotically tropical as you can get, but it was strangely British.

Mumbo Island in the middle of the vast Lake Malawi is a tiny remote resort without electricity. The multi-coloured cichlids that swim around the massive boulders and the monitor lizards that crawl over the rocky shore are a novelty but when the southern wind whipped up a two day storm it felt more like Cornwall.

It was wonderful to swim with a pair of pied kingfishers spearing silvery fish and large otters cavorted directly under our bamboo hut. I guess you don’t get that in Highgate Ponds.

But most deliciously surprising was that this vast sea of water (because of its depth it’s an enormous volume) is, of course, fresh. Out in the middle off Mumbo Island it is completely clean. Like swimming in mineral water.

Despite the squalls it does feel like a paradise isle but Lake Malawi is threatened. There is a legal dispute with Tanzania driven by discoveries of oil. Population growth and poverty means overfishing and marginal pollution is increasing. The Chinese are planning to build a large new airport nearby which suggests the shoreline will become even more crowded with hotels. The potentially-fatal bilharzia has increased because the fish that prey on the disease-carrying snail have been over-exploited (though Mumbo Island was clear).

Still, a place of wonders.


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