“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Journal – African Safari 11

Greystoke Mahale Camp

The final destination on our safari was Mahale Mountains National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania . The park is named after the Mahale Mountains Range within its borders and has several unusual characteristics. It is one of only two protected areas for chimpanzees in the country. Also, it is one of the very few in Africa that must be experienced by foot. There are no roads or other infrastructure within the park boundaries, so the only way in and out of the park is via boat on the lake .

The flight from Tarangire to the Mahale airstrip in a 12 passenger plane takes about 5 hours. Then we traveled about an hour and a half on a dhow to get to the camp, which was right on the beach and was beautiful!

Our home here is a banda just steps away from Lake Tanganyika. These bandas are A-frame structures open at the front, affording great views. The common area was just as wonderful as at the other camps, but there the second-floor bar is practically up in the treetops with a deck overlooking the lake for sipping “sundowners” each evening. You can see some terrific photos at the website here: http://www.greystoke-mahale.com/camp/accommodation.html

The slopes of the Mahale Mountains, rising behind our camp, are home to the world’s largest known population of chimpanzees, including a group of 60 in hiking distance of the camp. The day after we arrived, we go on a chimp trek. The staff goes out about 7 a.m. to locate the chimps and radio the location back to camp. Then the guides can lead a party to that spot and locate the chimps.

That morning, they locate a family of three chimps about a mile or so from camp. Of course, that’s a mile or so straight uphill! Tough for this Florida gal! But we don our surgical masks and start out. Surgical masks are required for chimp trekking to reduce the chance of a disease outbreak like the one ten years ago that wiped out a large number of chimps. We walk very quickly in our masks, trying to get there before the chimps move further into the jungle. After a long tough uphill hike, there they are!

We follow them for about an hour and watch while they play, eat, and just basically live their lives in the jungle. It is just magnificent to see them in their native habitat. At one point, I look up in the tree and the baby chimp is playing with his toes just like a human infant does. Awesome!

On other days we cruise the lake at sunset in native dhows, try our hand at fishing (but don’t catch anything), lay at the beach and just totally relax. After being in the bush pretty much from sunup to sundown for a week and a half, it was nice to just kick back and take life easy for a while.