Sitting on the conde (South African for porch or balcony) of our reed hut, you look out over the lake and feel like you could be anywhere. The crystal clear waters and islands dotting the horizon suggest the Amalfi coast or an exotic beach in Thailand. The interesting thing about Cape Maclear is that it is really a working fishing village called Chembe. It was in existence long before Livingston named Cape Maclear after a Scottish friend of his and continues to operate much like it always has. Women wash their pots, pans, and clothes, in the lake water. Men fish from heavy dugout canoes. Children play with discarded bike tires and wrestle in the waves.
Amongst the thatched roofed huts are small resorts that range in luxury and price. This trip, we stayed at a beautiful spot called Tuckaways where you get your own reed chalet right on the water. Easter is the only four-day weekend all year, so most people from Blantyre ended up at the lake, enjoying the end of the rainy season and the warm temperatures.
The lakeshore is full of activities – you can go kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, or just lay out and relax. The lake is famous for its cichlids – which I kept calling chicklits…beautiful little brightly colored fish. Sunday we rented kayaks and paddled out to the little island facing the beach with masks and snorkels. The water is so clear you can see right through to the bottom and can easily see the hundreds of little chicklits. We paddled back right at sunset, which made for one of those magical moments when you have to pinch yourself to know you’re not dreaming.
The rest of the weekend was wonderful. We kayaked another time with a friend who wanted to swim to the island. We had some great meals, especially the full English breakfast each morning. One night we all went to dinner together but had to wait three hours for our entrées – some of which were inedible – but we got our meal for free as compensation. Each night there was dancing at one of the lodges that has a bar and restaurant jutting out over the water – I really need to learn the Thriller dance to fit in around here… Can’t wait to go back!