Mahale is an evolutionary triumph, where the clock seems to have stopped early, at the right time. For man – part fish, part forest animal – it couldn’t be more sublime.
There are few places left on earth that might rightfully be called Eden, and the Mahale Mountains, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, is one of them. On a far-flung beach along the eastern shores of the lake, below a huge story-book tropical forest is the tiny sanctuary of Greystoke Mahale. The water is as clear as crystal, the air scented, and the living very easy indeed.
The slopes of the Mahale Mountains rise behind camp, home to the world’s largest known population of chimpanzees, our closest relatives. Within hiking distance is one such group of 60. Every day you can venture out into the forest to observe them, as they groom, wrestle and forage across the leafy floor.
The forest itself is special, with eight other species of primate, more shy forest mammals, birds, butterflies, giant vines and waterfalls. And if a day’s ‘chimping’ isn’t enough, you can take a gentle forest hike, go fishing or kayak along the lake shore.
Mahale is a physical place, but strangely undemanding. Perhaps because it seems to have been created for Great Apes; figs, flowers, sun, shade, and water.
Your home at Greystoke Mahale is in wildly exotic wooden ‘bandas,’ looking out across the soft sandy beach, with interiors fashioned from old seasoned dhow timber and decorated with style and panache.
The six open-fronted ‘bandas’ are set just on the forest line, looking out over the lake, with dressing rooms behind and upstairs chill-out decks; they are designed with flair, generosity and passion for the most demanding of castaways.
The bathrooms are set just behind, and accessible via a short wooden boardwalk. They all have flush toilets and powerful showers, with hot and cold water available on demand.
Life at Mahale is easy in this barefoot paradise. If a morning’s ‘chimping’ sounds a bit too energetic, you can relax on your own chill-out deck, spend lazy hours staring out over the lake, and it’s just a short stroll to the mess for coffee or an early evening sundowner at the bar.
The spectacular two-storey mess stands proud on the beach, with its soaring prow-like wings that look out to every point of the compass, the perfect vantage points from which to sit and appreciate this incredible place.
Greystoke Mahale is a far flung paradise located at Lake Tanganyika, which lies on the western edge of Tanzania, and is about as remote as you can get. There are no roads within 100kms of camp, and access is only by light aircraft using our shared charter flights which operate on Mondays and Thursdays only from Arusha. Flights leave early in the morning, and return to Arusha early evening that same day.
The flight to Greystoke Mahale is around 3-4 hours, and upon arrival at the airstrip there is an approximately 90 minute dhow trip down the lake to reach the camp.
Hike in the stunning tropical forest that covers the slopes of the mountains. It is home to nine different species of primate, including the chimpanzee. The ‘M’ group lives in the mountains close to camp, and have become habituated to human presence over two decades.
Every morning, trackers go out early to find out the chimp’s whereabouts, then after breakfast you can head off along the forest paths until you’re surrounded by their calls. For an hour, sit quietly with them watching their daily life; grooming, wrestling, bickering, foraging, eating, and mothering.
The local tribe believes that chimpanzees were once people who retreated into the forest and just a few hours with these amazing apes shows why.
You can also observe leopard, bushbuck, bush-pig, other primates and a multitude of birds and butterflies which are found throughout the forested slopes of the mountains. The waters of the lake: the second deepest in the world after Russia’s Lake Baikal, sparkle with over 250 species of cyclid (tropical fish).
A natural opulence seeps into Greystoke Mahale; beneath the soaring mountains you can dine on lake-fresh sashimi, gaze at the stars over cocktails at the bar on the rocks, or lie on the soft sand beach before slipping into the cool clear lake in front of camp.
Facts in Brief
Location - Kangwena Beach on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, in the Mahale Mountains National Park, western Tanzania; it doesn’t get more remote than this.
Setting – 6 double-bandas set on the edge of the forest at the base of the mountains. All look out over a wide beach across the waters of the lake. As you make the approach to Greystoke Mahale, by dhow, the outline of the camp is visible against a backdrop of deep green forest and pale beach. The focal point is the bar and mess area rising up from the sand, and loosely modeled on traditional ‘Tongwe’ architecture.
Accommodation - Every banda has its own en-suite bathroom, set just behind the bedroom, with hot and cold running water, flush toilets and powerful showers. They also have an upstairs ‘chill-out’ deck, accessible from the side by a wooden canoe ‘ladder’.
Activities - Hikes into the -forest in search of the chimpanzees (see chimping guidelines for more info), slower forest walks where you can see other primates, bushbuck, bushpig, and amazing birds and butterflies. Fishing, kayaking out into the lake or along the shoreline, beach dinners under the stars, and sundowners on the dhow.
How to Get There - There are no roads within 60kms of camp, and access is only by aircraft using our shared charter flights which operate on Mondays and Thursdays only from Arusha, or by private charter. Greystoke Mahale is a 90 minute dhow trip from the airstrip.
Child Policy – They are delighted to accept children of 8 and over at Greystoke Mahale, but please note that only children of 12 and over can view the chimps.
Gratuities – Most people will leave around $10 per person per day, which then gets split amongst the general staff, with the guides being tipped separately. Obviously tipping is not taken for granted, but if you’ve had a fantastic safari and would like to leave something for the guys, then great. Can we please ask however, that any tips should be left in cash.
Payments – Greystoke Mahale does not have credit card facilities, and is unable to deal with any check payments. In Tanzania, any staff tip payments made through the bank accounts will likely be charged VAT and the staff will certainly be charged income tax.