Learning to Dive off Likoma Island
When we came to Mango Drift I was vaguely aware that they had scuba diving but had not thought a lot about it. I did think that I might try it but had my mind more set on reading, writing and relaxing. While I have in fact done some of those, my main activity here has turned out to be of the underwater variety.
I have learned almost all I know about scuba diving here on Likoma Island, over the last few days. If everything goes to plan then I should qualify as an ‘Open Water’ diver via PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) today. This should qualify me to swim to depths of 18m.
According to a guide-book, I cannot remember which one, Lake Malawi is the most inexpensive place in the world to learn and qualify as a scuba diver. Someone else visiting the island here a week ago said that she had heard or read something similar. I put this point to one of the dive instructors and he said that this was no longer the case. He mentioned somewhere else that is cheaper. However, he said that there a lot of people are learning with each very newly qualified and inexperienced instructor.
The cost to me of these few days of training and qualification is just over $300 USD. That seems to me to be a good deal especially as it is combined with other factors to do with learning and being here which I thought that I would list.
1. I have had one on one tuition the whole time
2. There are very few others ‘tourists’ here on the island so he, Kevin from South Africa, has been able to give as much time as I have needed
3. Lake Malawi is freshwater which I now understand makes a large difference in the maintenance of equipment. All the extra time and hassle washing (in freshwater) the equipment if one has been diving in saltwater or swimming pool water sound like a real hassle.
4. Lake Malawi has more species of freshwater fish than Europe and North America combined.
5. Many of these species are particularly brightly coloured with all sorts of shapes and patterns.
6. There are many species unique to this island
7. There is very good underwater visibility.
8. It is safe to swim here
9. The accommodation is inexpensive
10. The setting is beautiful
11. The weather is warm and sunny without being too hot
12. The island is unspoilt
13. There are no ‘beach boys’ here persistently selling all sorts of crafts and paintings that you do not really want (this is a slight nuisance in many, but not all, other areas of the Lake). Apparently the local chiefs here do not want tourists here hassled in this way.
14. The food here is exceptionally good, and consistently so.
15. The diving instructors here are very professional
16. There must be one of the best instructors – students ratios in the world here.
I thought I would find ’10 reasons’ for this being, depending on your own subjective opinion, the best place in the world to scuba dive. I seem to have over-shot and found sixteeen reasons.
You might wonder why scuba diver instructors would work here given the low volume of customers (and therefore lower revenues). I wondered myself. Instructors here (there are two) can add more to their CV by being involved in a wide range of other activities to do with the management and running of the dive centre, restaurant, bar and chalets. It is a welcome break from some of the more commercial centres. There is greater satisfaction here in the proper training of new students and the staff here, the Malawians, are very nice people. Kevin last night said that he thought that Malawi is just about his favourite country in the world although he could not put his finger on exactly why.
I have got on quite well will this course. In my final exam I got 94% of the questions right. The underwater skills sounded quite difficult each time Kevin explained what I would have to do next. In the event I got through them all in a quite a straight-forward way. I am not used to sailing through courses like this so it has to be down to the good tuition and the particular circumstances of this place.
So, this is probably the best place in the world to learn to scuba dive.