It is also known as the Malawi Sea â€“ not surprisingly. When you stand on the shore for the first time, you can scarcely believe that itâ€™s a lake. From Red Zebra Lodge we traveled by boat to Cape MacLear National Park. The team spent two full days there learning more about the habits of the fish. Day trips were made to an island in the lake where you can snorkel and dive.
The water was not as clear as you might imagine. Visibility was between 6 and 15 meters. You would also expect the temperature of the water to be higher in tropical Africa. It was only 24° C at the surface, sinking to only 21° C at a depth of 40m!
The initial dives were spent just observing. At first all the aquarium keepers were so fascinated to see â€œtheirâ€ cichlids swimming around freely, that they couldnâ€™t even think of research. Tests could only be started after a few dives.
Water analyses were carried out to document the parameters of the lake. The most astonishing discovery for some team members was that the water hardness was so low. With a TH of only 5° GTH and a CH of 7° GCH, this water hardness is exceeded by almost any tap water!
The higher CH is due to the soda sources in the north feeding sodium bicarbonate â€“rich water into the lake. Since sodium does not raise the TH, whilst bicarbonate increases the CH, the result is that the CH is higher than the TH. These water properties can be recreated using the JBL product AquaDur Malawi/Tanganyika.
On land the terrarium experts investigated light measurements. Interesting results were produced using UV-meters and luxmeters. Just one leaf reduced the UV radiation practically to zero!
A luxmeter was also used underwater. Protected in a watertight casing for a video camera, one diver held the equipment next to his depth meter to show the second diver the depth. The second diver noted down the depth and lux level on a waterproof writing pad, which was later evaluated on board the boat.
Feeding trials underwater were a special experience. Different sorts of food were tested for acceptance. The team members watched in fascination as the Mbunas (periphyton-eating cichlids) snapped greedily at the JBL Granulate. Aufwuchs or periphyton refers to the algae grass which covers all rocks to a depth of a few meters. Aufwuchs consists not only of algae and blue-green algae, but also of microorganisms living in the aufwuchs. An investigation of the aufwuchs showed that it seldom consisted of green algae, but more frequently of blue-green algae (Cyanophycea)!
Tests with green feed granulate showed very different behavior: the fish tried it, but did not eat it as greedily as food containing fish protein. The explanation for this was revealed to the team on another dive. One diver observed a whole shoal of Mbunas attacking a fish carcass. So the fish like the taste of fish protein very much, but normally donâ€™t get any. Over the course of evolution, Mbunas have adapted to eating periphyton (mouth shape, teeth) and exploited a habitat which does not offer any nutrition to the predators in the lake. But if the rare opportunity of fish protein presents itself, they donâ€™t say no!
All photos have been taken with analogue Canon mirror reflex cameras (EOS 1V und EOS 3) in carbon underwater casings from BS-Kinetics. Films: Kodak Extra Color 100 ASA. As flash equipment Subtronic Mega was used. Lens: Canon EF 100 mm Makro USM, Canon EF 20-35 mm USM, Canon EF 28 mm 1:1,8 USM, Sigma 50 mm 1:2,8 Makro and Sigma 14 mm 1:3,5. For differing focal lengths the corresponding front-ports for the underwater casings were used.
Travel organizer South Africa: Boleng
Adventures, Wolf Snykers, www.boleng.co.za
Travel organizer Lake Malawi: Safaris Afrika, Walter H. Peters, Tel.: +49-30-3137744
Travel period : September2006
Tour price:€3600 from Frankfurt and back. Partially self-catering.
Heiko Blessin, Dipl.-Biologist,
Expedition Leader JBL, Germany
Dr. Ludwig Neurohr, doctor from Rhens, Germany
Cees Dijkers, pet shop retailer from Zaandam, Holland
Jürgen Weisbrod, pet shop retailer from Wiesloch, Germany
Thomas Oehrl, pet shop retailer from Untermerzbach, Germany
Janet de Sousa, sera importer from Johannesburg, South Africa
Falk Lehmann, pet shop retailer and diving instructor from Eggenfelden, Germany
Hartmuth Koschorke, terraristics specialist and wholesaler from Karlsruhe, Germany
Monika Tintelott, specialist retail purchaser, Germany
Klaus Tintelott, aquarium fish breeder and aquarium constructor from Schauenburg, Germany
Michel & Sophie Comte, JBL importer from Martigny, Switzerland
Johannes Mecke, pet shop retailer from Berlin, Germany
Rainer Nagel, terraristics specialist from Kiel, Germany
Thomas John, pet shop retail distribution manager from Berlin, Germany
Norbert Nicolaus, pet shop retailer from Güsten, Germany
Aliwal Shoal :Cutty Sark Hotel,
Scottburgh, at the cost south of Durban.
Diving center at the hotel: Quo Vadis Dive Charters, www.raggiecave.com
Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Reserve: Mpila-Camp within the Reserve.
Hermanus: Windsor Hotel, directly at the sea.
Cape Region: Simonstown, Quayside Hotel on the yacht harbor.
Cape Town: City Lodge on the Waterfront.
Lake Malawi: Red Zebra Lodge, Stuart Grant Fishfarm, www.lakemalawi.com
White shark trips in Kleinbaai, Brian
Mc Farlane, www.sharkcagediving.net/
Whale watching trips from Gansbaai, www.whalewatchingsa.co.za
Shark school with Andy Cobb at Durban: www.SharkProject.com
Shark school with Dr. Erich Ritter: www.sharkschool.com