Thursday, September 27, 2012

The real daily Jump

When Matt and Jennifer Hinsley came on their honeymoon to Greystoke Mahale, they brought along a little mission. On initiative of her sister Holly the two made jumps in always different places and photographed them. The reason being simple: to inject fun and athleticism into the everyday life.

And into the clear water of the lake...

With possibilities for jumping being endless, all of us at Greystoke really felt being part of the jump. And so we sailed out far onto the lake to make an awesome jump. With the sun going down slowly, we put away our cool drinks and prepared to 1, 2, 3… JUMP!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baby beauty

You can read a book or a magazine, watch a documentary or research the net. Any preparation for your trip into the Mahale Mountains is exciting and fun. But how close we really are to our nearest living relative we found hard to imagine from the comfort of a chair. Nothing in the world could have prepared us for the intensity of a real life chimpanzee encounter. 

Kalunde, Ako & her young daughter

Fortunate as we are to visit the M group regular, yesterday again was a mind blowing experience. As we hiked for an hour and half along the foothills of the mountains, we came across Ako, Kalunde and Ako’s 1 year old daughter. As we sat quietly on the forest floor with our group of 4, it was the daughter of Ako that stole our hearts completely. 

Ako's daughter climbing her mothers back

And we are sure she will steal yours too...

Ako's daughter

Although still unnamed – M group chimpanzees are only named when they reach three years due to common infant mortality – Ako’s daughter is so full of life and so full of character. 

Laying in her mother's lab

As the larger part of the M group had moved on, Kalunde and Ako were quietly sitting together exchanging little sensitivities. Where females with baby's are generally a little more shy, Kalunde and Ako where at total peace. 

Ako’s daughter carefully explored the surroundings and her mother’s back, leaving us to share with them some unique moments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The supersized lizard

Wide spread in sub saharan Africa, the Nile Monitor is the largest lizard on the planet. Growing up to 2.1 mts (or 7 ft) Nile Monitors have muscular bodies, sharp claws and powerful jaws but are harmless to humans. They thrive in an aquatic environment and therefore are commonly found in Mahale Mountains NP.

A big monitor lizard coming down one of Greystoke's pathways.

The forested edge of our beach seems to be preferred habitat for this stunning lizard. You would stand a chance to actually spot it from the comfort of your room. Often the big lizard crosses paths between the rooms on its way to prey for food.

Turning a 180 C as we spot each other...

Its diet mainly consists of crocodile eggs, fish, small mammals, insect and birds.
This particularly big monitor crossed our path yesterday when we walked to our room. As we surprised each other with our presence it took an immediate 180 C when encountered. But man, is it a stunning animal to spot up close!

Within a second the XL lizard is running off towards the forest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hippo heaven

Imagine a lake so huge you actually think it is a sea. Imagine the water being so clear it’s like crystal. Then imagine lush and green lakeshores to feed on. 

Photo courtesy of Jin & Paul Levy

That is exactly what hippos would tell you when asked how hippo paradise should look like. And the Mahale hippos are living the dream. 

Photo courtesy of Jin & Paul Levy

And how tremendously lucky our hippos are was again emphasized by Paul and Jin Levy. As they compared their hippo experiences here to that of Katavi – where the hippos fight over every square inch in the mud – they were struck by the peace and beauty that exists out here!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Primus Era

After a power vacuum that lasted nearly 11 months, following the murder of alpha male Pimu last year Oct, it seems that Primus has started his reign as the alpha male. However, his alpha position is still different than that of his predecessors.

Primus walks into Greystoke camp 7th Sept

As power often has shifted between Alofu and Primus during the past 11 months, it’s certainly safe to say that Alofu is not alpha male. Primus – who is physically the fittest – challenges other males and keeps coming out as the winner. But for all the respect he now enjoys in the male corners of M group society, Primus misses the vital support from the other corner; the females.

Wakusi (left) gets groomed by her son Alofu, who is the powerful the nr 2.

The females of M group - lead by strong individuals such as Wakusi, Gwekulo and Nkombo - seem not to accept Primus in the nr 1 position. Although physically Primus might be the alpha without question, this is a force in play that he will need to watch. It seems the main reason for the females to oppose his rule is because of Primus‘s aggressive behavior. That is towards other chimpanzees, both male and female.

Kalunde oversees the grooming party, close to the Greystoke's guestrooms.

So, the fact is that Primus rules a rather large social unit of approx 60 chimpanzees without outright female support. If he is up to the challenging task we’ll have to see. Some of his competitors have already successfully reigned as alpha male for many years; Kalunde, Alofu, Fanana. Therefore Primus can be sure that if he lets his guard down, someone will try step in. 

The new alpha male, Primus

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The red tail monkey

Can we introduce you to another of Mahale’s fine primates? Meet the red tail (or copper tail) monkey. A species of guenon, the red tail monkey is one of the more exotic looking primates in Mahale Mountains NP.

Densely furred from light yellow to dark brown, this monkey comes with a deep coppery red tail of up to 90 cms. With that, the size of its tail alone exceeds its average body length of 60 cm by a third! 

Furry in its appearance, it’s one of the more shy species of primate and can therefore be challenging to approach. Red tail monkeys live in groups of 7 to 35 individuals, usually existing of one male followed by numerous females. Interestingly, the females stay loyal to their territory for life – which can span up to 22 years – while the male gets to travel between other ranges.