November 10th 2016 |
Travel, Wildlife Safaris, Unique Experiences, Tanzania | by
You cannot get any further west in Tanzania than the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It’s that remote that a light aircraft heading here from the safari hub of Arusha needs to stop and refuel midway. The airstrip ends at the lake shore, so if you have a westerly wind and land in that direction you’re mightily relieved as you pull to a halt before the land ends and the water begins.
Remote private airstrip in Western Tanzania at the edge of Lake Tanganyika
Lunch on a dhow on the lake at Greystoke Mahale, Nomad Tanzania
The camp itself sits a boat trip away from the airstrip on a beach on the lake, with the forested mountains rising up behind the thatched and tented rooms.
Greystoke Mahale Lodge has beach front lake views, with the Mahale Mountains as a backdrop
This offers the chance for kayaking, swimming and dhow trips when you’re not involved in the main activity at the camp: chimp tracking.
Gentle morning forest walk to track chimps from your lodge
Chimps are tracked from Greystoke Mahale Camp in the mornings, similar to the gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. Unlike gorillas which are typically in one place for the hour of viewing, chimps can be much more active. Both my colleague Jo and I witnessed chimps descending from the trees to charge through our groups seemingly making sure people knew this was their home.
Trackers will take you to meet the lively chimp groups – no two encounters will be the same!
During my second track, I worked hard following a power struggle through the forest and down to the river as two males fought to dominate the group. Each set of followers clashed with the other group picking up and throwing rocks from the stream bed and making the forest reverberate with their noisy calls.
Seeing chimps hunting Jo felt she was in a David Attenborough documentary
Jo felt as if she was in a David Attenborough documentary as she found herself in the middle of a group hunting colobus monkeys in the canopy. She described what followed as “brutal and gripping in equal measure” and in complete contrast to another day where they were in a clearing, completely relaxed and grooming each other.
Most of the time chimps are calm and peacefully grooming each other
Luxurious beach front eco chic at Greystoke Mahale
For primate lovers Greystoke Mahale Camp and the surrounding forest is a wonderful place to visit. It combines well with (relatively) nearby Katavi National Park, where Chada Katavi is a superb base for a safari. Our safari experts have visited and stayed in both. Feel free to get in touch about how you might visit; send us an email or give us a call.
One of the founders of Aardvark Safaris, Richard comes from a background working in both Africa and travel. Shunning the exciting world of quantity surveying (with apologies to all exciting quantity surveyors out there)
One of the founders of Aardvark Safaris, Richard comes from a background working in both Africa and travel. Shunning the exciting world of quantity surveying (with apologies to all exciting quantity surveyors out there) Richard spent the first ten years after university flitting between summers on a river somewhere in the world as a raft guide, videographer or canoe instructor, and winters in the Alps as a ski guide, or the Operations Manager for a ski company.
His claim to fame (in his own mind) is that during his time working on the Zambezi River, based in Victoria Falls, he was one of the members of a group of kayakers who made the first moonlit descent of the rapids in the Zambezi Gorge. In addition he spent time in Botswana and Zimbabwe making promotional films for safari companies, and met the other Aardvark Safaris’ founder John Spence.
Richard is a keen sportsman but though he has tried many sports including football, volleyball, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, snowboarding, telemarking, bouldering, mountain biking and bmx-ing he’s not particularly accomplished in anything. With the ability to swim, ride a bike and run, he was gripped by a midlife crisis a few years ago and trained for enough hours to annoy both family and work colleagues and eventually became an Ironman triathlete, completing the 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26 mile run in something just over 14 hours. He also recently podium'ed as 3rd placed Grand Vet in a downhill mountain bike competition (and no there weren't only three in his category).
Having founded Aardvark Safaris with John in 1999, Richard travelled intensively throughout Africa for a number of years before his children grew old enough to start asking why they weren’t invited. Since then he’s travelled with his wife and kids to Mauritius, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa. With a wide breadth of geographical knowledge (in Africa at least) and having arranged safari holidays over the years for many of our clients, Richard is a good person to talk to about almost all of the countries we offer, no matter who you are or with whom you’re travelling.
Favourite African experience
I particularly enjoyed the look on my wife’s face when she realised the beautiful breakfast set up under an acacia tree in the middle of the African plains was for us – we were the VIPs that the chef (in full whites) and camp team were waiting for!
It changes. Right now it’s warthogs. I love the way they stick their tails in the air as if radio controlled. Annoyingly they seem to always run away from you though, meaning a good photo seems almost impossible to get.
Favourite three camps
I saw three different leopard on a single wildlife drive from Mombo Camp in the Okavango Delta and on our return to camp there was a porcupine displaying its quills under the boardwalk. The density and quality of wildlife, together with rooms where ‘you can almost see from one end to the other on a clear day’ makes Mombo one for the memory banks.
[caption id="attachment_22991" align="alignnone" width="600"] Family of leopards, Okavango Delta, Botswana, Mombo camp[/caption]
I love the quirkiness of the rooms at Kaya Mawa on Lake Malawi; they're all different to each other and blend in with the granite outcrops fabulously. More an inland sea than a lake, the waters are great for freshwater snorkelling and diving – not only do you get great fish viewing, but you’re not sticky with salt afterwards.
[caption id="attachment_26437" align="alignnone" width="600"] On the shores of Lake Malawi, Kaya Mawa[/caption]
Stopping at three camps doesn’t feel right; I could go on for pages. However if I have to finish I’d end with Greystoke Camp in the Mahale National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. You have a sandy beach in front of you, with forested mountains rising 600m behind you. In the forest are groups of habituated chimps whose interactions are as thrilling as the scenery is stunning.
Oh no, what about the pastel colours at Wolwedans in Namibia, the quirky rooms at Shipwreck Lodge, watching whales from Princesse Bora on Ile Ste Marie, or a sunset across the Luangwa from Nsefu Camp? Can’t we make it your ten favourite camps?
There can’t be many jobs where people want to buy what you sell. I can’t imagine people go into the service department of their local garage happy to plan their service and then part with their money. That’s what we get though; people who are excited about arranging a safari holiday and who just need us to use our knowledge to match them with the myriad of options for them in Africa.
It’s lovely to get so many people saying ‘thank you’ when the planning is complete and the decision made. It’s even better when they come back from Africa with the holiday having exceeded their expectations, thrilled by what they’ve seen and done and bubbling over with excitement. We share all the feedback we get around the offices and I know each of us gets a big thrill when the trips we’ve helped arrange work well and a bit of vicarious pleasure reading each other’s nice feedback too.
It’s a top job and there are few things I’d swap it for, and those I would I’m not skilled enough at (see the previous comments regarding my sporting prowess!)
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