As a kid I often dreamed of going on safari, seeing the ‘big five’, and experiencing a land so drastically different from my own. For a very long time, Africa has been high atop my long (and growing) list of places I’d like to visit; however, it always seemed like a longshot that I’d ever make it. That’s why, when a friend, Tom Pickering, told me he would be serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi for two years I jumped at the chance to visit. So Constance and I are here now, to see some of the landscapes, people, and wildlife of southern Africa. Since internet access is so spotty, the blog posts will be added several at a time, but I will try to limit individual posts to the events of a single day, to make it easier to follow. I hope that you will enjoy following us on our first African adventure! --- Quand j’étais petit, je rêvais de faire un safari, de voir les grands mammifères terrestres et de découvrir un monde drastiquement différent du mien. L’Afrique a longtemps occupée une des premières positions de ma longue (et toujours grandissante) liste de région du monde que je voudrais visiter, sans vraiment croire que j’aurais véritablement l’occasion d’y aller un jour. C’est pourquoi quand un de mes amis, Tom Pickering, m’a appris qu’il partait pour deux ans au Malawi pour faire du bénévolat pour le Peace Corps, j’ai sauté sur l’occasion. C’est ici, au Malawi, que Constance et moi nous trouvons présentement afin de découvrir les paysages, les gens et la faune du sud de l’Afrique. Étantdonné que j’ai accèsà internet de manière très sporadique, plusieurs entrées de blogs seront ajoutées en même temps. Je vais tout de même faire un effort pour raconter les anecdotes dans un ordre chronologique pour faciliter la lecture. J’espère que vous aimerez suivre les péripéties de notre première aventure africaine!

Lake Malawi, day 2

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Today Constance and I went for a swim in the lake, just in front of our room at the hotel. We brought masks and snorkels, in hopes of glimpsing some of the many cichlid fishes that make this lake so famous (to biology geeks like us, anyway). Not only did we see cichlids, but we saw tons of them! There were bright blue ones, yellow ones, pink ones – all easily visible in the beautifully clear lake water. These cichlids, which are found in abundant variety in the great African rift lakes (Lakes Malawi, Tanganika, and Victoria are the largest), are fascinating to biologists for many reasons. First off, they are almost entirely endemic to their respective lakes. For example, the majority of cichlid fishes one finds in Lake Malawi may be found only in Lake Malawi, with other lakes having their own assemblages of species. In addition, these cichlid species are all descended from a smaller number of common ancestors, and have speciated in a spectacular and rather textbook example of adaptive radiation, to fill a huge variety of niches in the lakes’ numerous microhabitats. There are fishes that feed on any type of available food imaginable from insects to other fishes (and even just the scales of other fishes) to algae. For us, this is a thrilling opportunity to witness, first hand, one of the world’s most fascinating natural phenomena, which also happen to be vibrantly colorful and absolutely beautiful.

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