Swimming With Crocodiles in Malawi

Fashion designer Saloni Lodha on diving in the Arabian Sea, lake-locked Likoma, and the magic of Ladakh.



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What was your most surreal travel experience?

Nineteen years ago, I went diving in the Lakshadweep, a group of islands in the Arabian Sea — about 300 kilometers off the southwest coast of India. Imagine the Maldives but with basic accommodation, a beach bar, and a dive boat. Basically — perfect. The dive sites featured slanting reefs, coral gardens, and caves, and we swam alongside turtles and manta rays. The bit I remember most vividly was swimming within what felt like a prehistoric river channel, with walls of coral on either side. The dive ended at a shipwreck that blew my mind. I can still remember everything so vividly, probably because it was my first dive, and I wasn’t exactly a very strong swimmer then.

What’s the hardest place to get to that you’ve ever visited — and was it worth it?

One morning, on a total whim, I booked flights to Malawi. We traveled to Kaya Mawa Lodge, which means “maybe tomorrow” — a truly hidden gem. We flew from London to Kenya, and from there, on to Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. From there, we took a prop plane and then a steamer boat. Our destination was Likoma, an island at the center of the huge Lake Malawi. We were told it had more fish species than the Mediterranean, of which the most notable is cichlid, with around 700 different species in this one lake. We dived in clear water teeming with crocodiles, which was both wonderful and extremely strange. I remember the village fiesta and watching the Malipenga dance that the Tonga people perform. It is said to have originated from imitations of British military drills. To sum it up, my husband and I loved it so much that we were on the verge of quitting our jobs and staying there indefinitely.

What was a place that defied all expectations?

A place that continues to defy all expectations both at a professional and a personal level is Ladakh, a region surrounded by endless jagged, arid mountains which form its unforgettable landscape. Being close to these Himalayan peaks teaches you so much. Helena Norberg-Hodge once wrote, “It may seem absurd to believe that a ‘primitive’ culture in the Himalaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned.” Every time I am there, I am able to completely reconnect with nature, guided by the hugely resourceful and self-sufficient Ladakhis, who are blocked off from the rest of the world for months on end till the snow melts on the high passes in early summer.



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Our Contributors

Saloni Lodha Writer

Saloni Lodha founded her eponymous label in 2011 with a vision of elegant femininity imbued with vibrant colour. The brand is much loved by a loyal coterie of global followers which has grown organically through word of mouth and serendipitous moments. SALONI means beautiful in Sanskrit, and true to its name, the brand empowers its customers of all ages to experience the unabashed joy of living life in different hues. The brand’s unique alchemy comes from Saloni’s own story, her love of textiles, and intuitive sense of everyday dressing. For Saloni, creating beautiful things is a meditative journey, inspired by her childhood in India and a nomadic life lived between Hong Kong, Seoul, London, and Italy.

Lisa Lok Writer

Lisa Lok is an art director at Departures. A Brooklyn-based creative, she enjoys collaborating with illustrators and photographers from around the world. Her work can be found in the pages of Airbnb Magazine, NYLON, and Asia Society Magazine, among others.


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