After our stay at Chada Camp, it was time for my next adventure. Following a 45 min flight to Greystoke Mahale, we were welcomed at the airstrip by Mwgia
who lead us to our dhow for our trip across the magnificent Lake Tanganyika. The second deepest lake in the world. It's over 670km in length, over
60km wide and over 1500 meters deep, and borders 4 countries - Tanzania, Congo, Zambia & Malawi. The water is crystal clear and hosts around 400
species of cichlids fish and is home to hippos and crocodiles - the Nile crocodile & the slender snouted Crocodile which is endemic to the lake.
As we made our way around the bay, Greystoke Camp showed its self with the beautiful sun shining down on it like a little piece of paradise in the
middle of nowhere. The staff all came to welcome us as we jumped off the dhow & we were shown to our beach bungalows, where we would call home
for the next few days. After we had settled in we were all asked to meet in the main area to discuss the options for the rest of the afternoon and
since it was a little windy we decided to sip on gin & tonics and all got to know each other a little more. Since we were such a small group that
was easy. April & Rachel are mom and daughter from San Francisco and Fabio & Brenda are a German couple who travelled to Africa for the first
time on their honeymoon couple and haven't looked back since.
Later that evening we all met at the sundowner bar for our Chimpanzee briefing. Where we sat down with Mwgia and the other trackers who would head out first thing in the morning to try find the chimps for us. Mwiga shared past stories that had us in stitches, of a previous guest who decided to wear a leopard print top for her hike, and validated their rule of wearing natural colours. Apparently when her group reached the chimps on the hike, one of the male chimps saw her as a threat and started alarm calling. The only way to stop the chimps from attacking was to take her top off & to throw it away from her. As soon as she did, the chimp attacked her top because he thought it was a threat to his family. I am sure quiet scary at the time, but a great story to tell afterwards, and we all enjoyed a little giggle. Mwiga has been at Greystoke & with Nomad for over 22 years and you could see the passion in his eyes as he told us stories.
The next morning we were all ready to go, dressed in our hiking gear. Sadly the trackers did not manage to find the Chimps that day so we opted for a later afternoon boat cruise and a surprisingly warm dip in the turquoise waters of Lake Tanganyika. Even though we didn't get to see the chimps on our first day our spirits were still high.
Day 2 arrived & again we were all dressed and ready to go. Just before lunch time Mwiga got the call and we were off with a ranger from the National Parks to ensure that we followed the rules. Mwiga had mentioned that the chimps were a good 3 hour hike away, but we were ready. We hadn’t even got that far up the mountain, when Mwiga said we should stop at the bench until he heard from the trackers again. We must have only been hiking for 45 mins by then. The next minute, we heard an alarm call. Mwiga set off to see if he could find the chimps, while we stayed behind with the ranger. The call seemed close and lucky for us, they were! We headed into the thicket of the forest, following the ranger as he pushed branches and leaves out the way so we could get a clear path to the chimps. When we finally got there, we were couldn’t believe our eyes! We were watching Nkombo (the oldest chimp – she was born in 1970) and Ua and her two young ones, Upepo (born 2011) & Uai (born 2017). Ua & her young were shy so we didn’t get to spend too much time with them, but Nkombo was very relaxed. We watched as she grew tired while feeding and then suddenly started making a nest for a quick nap. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this beautiful creature just lying there- it was as though she was looking right at me. When we go back to camp we couldn’t wait to share our stories with Fabio, Brenda and the rest of the staff back at camp. What a truly magical experience! Later that evening we all met at the sunset bar for a lovely evening of snacks and great chats before sitting down to yet another delicious meal.
Day 3 was our final chance to see the chimps one last time before we made our way home the next day. Given that the trackers had only seen the chimps in the afternoon the previous day, we all decided to take the risk and head out on the boat for one last cruise and a dip in the lake that morning. We were right to take this risk, as when we had got back to camp there was still no sight of the chimps. I then went back to my room to freshen up before lunch. When I had got back to the main area, Mwiga had said that they found the chimps! YAY! So we had a quick bite to eat before we headed out. This time he said that this would be a difficult hike, but I didn’t mind as I was prepared. As the hike became more and more difficult, we ended up splitting the group as others were not able to continue. Rachel & I then continued on with Mwiga, determined that were going to see the chimps one last time and we did. After what seemed like hours we finally caught up to Ako (born in 1981), and her daughters, Asahi (born in 2011) and her youngest daughter only 2 months old who they have not yet named (as they only name chimps past the age of 11, because the chances of a chimp reaching the age of 3 is roughly 50/50 – did you know that?). The first thing we noticed was how relaxed Ako was around us. We got to sit with them in complete silence while they went about their own business, feeding on figs. It was incredible to watch as they would only pick the ripe fruit from the tree and when they were done picking all the ripe fruit from that tree, they would move to the next tree.
There was a moment when Asahi had climbed onto a much thinner tree which could not hold her weight, so she hung tight as the tree bent towards the ground. It was so funny to watch, as chimps don’t jump from tree to tree like monkeys do. I had to pinch myself to make sure this incredible experience with an animal I have never seen before this trip, was real. After our hour was up, we slowly made our way back down the mountain. To be honest the way down seemed to take us longer than the way up. We made it back to camp around 6pm and again couldn’t wait to share our experiences with the rest of the team. That evening we all sat around the fire, sipping wine and reminiscing about our magical time at Greystoke Mahale.