Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our journey out of camp

Well, we are now out of camp and back in civilization. I thought you might be interested in our journey.

During the heavy rains of April and May the Mahale airstrip closes down for its annual maintenance. Therefore, the only way out of camp at the end of the season is to navigate our small dhow boat ‘Wolfie’ to Kigoma which is the closest town with an airstrip. Kigoma is around 200 km north along the remote eastern shore of the longest lake in the World.

At 7.45am after checking the camp one last time Wolfie departed. We won’t be back for 5 weeks so it was kind of sad watching Greystoke slip out of sight. The lake was nice and calm but we could see huge storm clouds gathering in the North and guess which way the wind was coming! After 1 hour plain sailing the storm was upon us. At this time of the year the weather on Lake Tanganyika can be very unpredictable; being such a large body of water it creates its own environment. Within 5 minutes the lake went from tranquil and relaxing to 3 foot white capped waves, strong winds and heavy rain. One minute we could see the Congo 50 km across the lake then we couldn’t see 20 meters in front of the boat. Luckily we were heading straight into the waves which helped ease the rocking but did mean the bow was thumping into each new wave and slowing our passage considerably. Our canvas roof was virtually useless as rain and spray blew vertically soaking everything and everyone.

Musa was driving with great skill accelerating where he could and easing the boat over the larger waves, his hand constantly adjusting the throttle. I could see the wooden hull flexing under the pressure of each wave. These dhows are built in the traditional way with cotton soaked in oil firmly chiseled between each plank to keep the boat ‘water tight’. The hull is extremely strong and had no problem dealing with the repeated punishment of the storm. While Kiri was tucked up on the seat, I was called into action with the bucket and started to bail out the rain water and spray which was falling into the boat. Like a kid in the back seat of long car journey, Kiri who was rapped in towel and blanket, due to the cold, would pop up her head every now and then to ask ‘are we there yet’.

Five hours later we finally came through! The stormed passed as suddenly as it had started and out came the sun, what a relief.

Instead of hugging the coast line we took a direct route up the middle. We could now see 70 or more kilometers and the view was breathtaking. Lake Tanganyika is 680km long but on average 50km wide and as we traveled up the lake we could see the massive escarpments on both sides as they disappeared into the distance, it seemed like the lake went on forever.

Unfortunately our progress had been so slow due to the storm that the normal 9 hour Mahale – Kigoma safari took us 12 hours.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

See you in May!

Maybe they will learn to swim!

Departing staff

Another exciting season has ended and its time for most staff to head back home for a well deserved break. Sorry Mabwena and Mjakalufu our watchmen and Mato the boat driver who will remain in camp, we will get you out as soon as we return in May. 

I wonder what the Chimpanzee's will get up to without their regular visits from Greystoke's guests? 
We may never know!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local kids visit the Chimpanzee's

The last guests of the 2010/11 season left Mahale after a Magic 3 days and there was only one more Chimpanzee trek left for Lazaro and the team to organize.
An important part of conservation in Africa is to educate the kids who live near National Parks about the benefits that these protected areas can bring to their communities. Almost all of Greystoke Mahale’s staff is employed from the local villages and the future of the Mahale National Park and Greystoke lies in the hands of these kids growing up around the park. That’s why it’s important to bring the kids from the local schools into the park to show them what we are all about.
12 kids all over the age of 11 were selected from the school and brought into the Park by our boat for an exciting adventure to see the Chimpanzee’s. During an early lunch Lazaro explained the rules of the Park and answered the kid’s questions. The children watched the Chimpanzees feeding, grooming and even displaying. When they got back to the lodge everyone wanted to stay the night but unfortunately we had already packed up the Banda’s and we didn’t want 12 anxious mums worrying at home.

I wish I could have trekked to see Chimpanzee’s when I was at school!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kalunde the King maker

The Mahale Chimpanzee community has more than one character in its midst. One Chimpanzee that every one loves to watch is the old timer, Kalunde, now 50 years old.

Famous for being the King maker, Kalunde is often the brains behind coalitions where he supports a younger Chimp in his quest to become the Alpha male.

In this photo which was also taken by Nick Manzoli, you can almost see his mind ticking away, plotting the next take over.

Watch out Pimu.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kiko on the beach

 The season is drawing to a close in Mahale and it's that time of the year to start thinking about what needs to be fixed when the camp is closed during April and May. Our big dhow boats have to come out of the water so that any damaged or old planks can be replaced and new cotton (soaked in palm oil) hammered between the wood to keep the boats sealed and water proof. Today it took 21 men and Kiri four hours to push Kiko up the beach using big poles. Very handy having the refreshing waters of Lake Tanganyika to cool off in.
Most of the guys were in their underwear and too shy for me to take their photo.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The faces of Michio

By now you might already know that I have a soft spot for Michio. Michio is still a teenager who's had a hard time battling a disease which left him very skinny and weak.
These pictures kindly donated by a recent guest, Nick Manzoli, are proof that Michio is definitely still on the road to recovery. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Strange sounds in the night

The Nature Conservancy booked Greystoke for 3 very entertaining days. The Chimpanzee’s performed and everyone in the group had a great sightings. Truth and lies around the fire at night was highly entertaining but it was late last night when every one had retired to bed that Molly received an extra surprise. Going to the toilet Molly could hear what sounded like a large dangerous animal underneath the floor boards. Her first thought was I’ve got no clothes on, how embarrassing to die in my birthday suit. Then the power went out!
Amazingly our resident family of Warthogs had decided to dig a burrow underneath Banda 7’s bathroom and in the process they cut the power to the room.