Life on Lake Malawi, Africa's fourth largest lake, revolves around transport provided by the lake"s largest
passenger vessel, MV Ilala 2. For many people on the lake, the Ilala and another smaller steamer are their only contact with the outside world.
The Ilala leaves weekly from Monkey Bay to the south and heads north to Chilumba via Likoma Island. Fisherman, farmers, and craftsmen load their
wares aboard and thereby take their goods to market. This is the only way for them to get a cash income. Thus, the lake vessels are literally
a lifeline for the people of the lake.
Ilala passengers board the ship with relative ease at Monkey Bay, one of only two ports large enough for the ship to dock directly. At these points, large goods such as heavy machinery and vehicles are loaded, although the majority of cargo is goods being transported by local people. Note bundles of belongings on peoples' heads and the traditional dress of the women. The wrap-round skirt is called a chitenge.
As the ship prepares to depart, the level of activity increases. By the time the ship pulls away from the dock, people are throwing packages and bundles aboard up until the very last minute.