Written by: Simon OChen
“The male fish eagle is called Tony Blair,” said Captain Jack (real name is Gift). “The female is called Condoleeza Rice.” The tourists on the boat laughed as the captain threw out a bamboo skewer of fish to the water after waving it around in the air and whistling to grab the majestic bird’s attention. The fish had barely hit the water when the eagle spread its 6-foot wing span and took flight.
It cocked its head, locked on its target and banked sharply, diving to the water, talons out like loaded missiles. It snatched the skewer from the water just a meter from the boat as everyone on board ooh-ed and ah-ed at one of nature’s formidable predators in action.
“We will be cliff jumping, snorkelling, playing games on the beach and feeding the fish eagle,” Captain Jack announced as we chugged along in the single engine wooden boat from which his first mate kept bailing water.
After about 40 minutes we reached a small rocky cove with crystal blue waters. The first mate dropped the anchor (a very large quartz rock) about a hundred meters from the shoreline. With permission granted by the captain, I dove in and swam to the rocks, clambering up the face to be the first on top. I peered down to the clear waters from the five-meter point. The rock I was standing on had a vertical wall that went straight down. Blue flashes indicated the blue cichlid fish, indigenous to Lake Malawi.
The passengers on the boat were egging me on to jump. I figured my world famous swan dive would be the perfect opener. I sucked in a lungful of air, played it out in my head and replicated, leaping off the rock, spreading my arms out. I brought my hands together as I crashed through the glass-like water. The passengers cheered as they leapt off the boat to take part in the fun.
But it was the local kids that stole the show, leaping fearlessly, performing Olympic-styled backflips, twists and just fooling around as though they’ve been leaping from these rocks before they could even walk.
We swam to the beach, played with the kids and set up a volleyball court for an hour-long game. As the sun began its decline, we piled back into the boat to go feed Tony Blair and Condoleeza Rice, a perfect finish to a perfect day.
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