It’s true, Malawi really is home to Blue Zebras, not quite like the one in the (retouched) picture above.
You might have to look a little closer for these zebras, as they tend to be quite small. Nor do they have legs but gills instead, as they’re stunning little fish that live within the sparkling waters of Lake Malawi.
The Blue Zebra originated in deep rocky waters of Lake Malawi in Africa and is one of the cichlid species. It is also known as the Mbuna Cichlid. The word “Mbuna” means “rock fish”, which refers to its habitat. Blue Zebras can be as small as 2.5cm in length, with larger species approaching nearly 15cm in length.
Blue Zebra are endemic to Lake Malawi, where they are most commonly found living in the north and north- eastern areas of the lake, in rocky formations along the shoreline, and around rock caves and crevices. Many cichlids are primarily herbivores, (at least they have something in common with typical Zebras!), feeding on algae and plants.
More than a thousand species of African cichlid live in Lake Malawi, and of these, several hundred are endemic. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified 184 species of cichlid as vulnerable, 52 as endangered, and 106 as critically endangered. At present, six species are listed as entirely extinct, but it is acknowledged that many more possibly belong in these categories.
Lake Malawi is one of the largest in Africa, boasting a unique aquatic ecosystem that contributes to such a diverse palette of fish life.
Although a lake of crystal clear fresh water, Lake Malawi’s size and depth gives it a sea- like appearance, with one side barely visible from the other, and long stretches of totally uninhabited golden sandy lakeshore. The lake is a real life aquarium, and home to more species of fish than in all the lakes and Rivers of Europe and North America put together!
Lake Malawi provides the opportunity for almost any water sport you care to think of. The lakes size, its warm freshwater and its beautiful surrounding beaches make it a magnet for those seeking an all-year round location to swim, scuba dive, snorkel, water ski, sail, kayak parasail or simply potter about in boats.
For a traditional experience of the lake, take a trip on the famous mv Ilala, the local waterbus.