Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in Greystoke

Two very happy families shared Christmas with us here in Greystoke this year. Luckily our guests had all behaved during the year and Santa managed to navigate his sleigh to our remote shores. He seemed to enjoy his glass of Amarula left out and reindeer stocked up on carrots for the onward flight.
Our families had a wonderful time with excellent chimping, relaxing lake cruises and leisurely swims in the deep open water.
 Even Big Bird enjoyed the festivities and was thankful our turkey arrived on time. Christmas in Mahale was truly magical!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monkey hunting

Guests have been enjoying fairly relaxed forest walks on the lower slopes nearby to encounter our hairy cousins lately but as mango stocks in the camp trees are depleted, alternative food sources are being exploited.
With a lack of ripe mangos the red colobus monkeys have become very nervous as hunting parties of male chimps have been seen actively pursuing them. This is a very raucous and chaotic spectacle as the chimps use noise, decoys and general confusion to single out the young colobus they prefer. Captors get to keep the preys head but the rest goes to Primus who then distributes the scraps amongst those others who he needs to keep on side with.
 Bonobos arm seems to be nearly fully healed and Darwin remains thoughtful and has some great new poses for the cameras.

                                                           Primus with a red colobus

                                                               Darwin posing again


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pack for a purpose

A Canadian guest recently arrived with a bag full of medicines for the local village clinic at Katumbi just outside Mahale to the north.
 Pack for a Purpose is an organisation whose mission is to assist travellers who would like to positively impact communities in the countries they are visiting.

 Katumbi clinic serves approx 3000 local residents and is assisted by the Nomad Trust.
Kerrie set off in a boat to deliver the much appreciated new supplies. Nurse Elizabeth was extremely grateful for the contribution. The impact these contributions makes, hit home strongly as a funeral was being held that day for a young lady and her child who both died while giving birth.
 Being extremely remote here in the west of Tanzania, these communities can be somewhat forgotten when it comes to receiving outside help.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lounging Luvlees

Mahales 3 resident warthogs made themselves quite comfortable in the dining area yesterday much to the guests delight! Big Bird was reasonably put out by the fuss made over them and quickly set off making sweeping and soaring flights along the beach demonstrating the best we had taught her so far. It wasn't enough really.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pelican brief

Often upstaging the chimps "Big Bird" continues to be loved by all who visit here. It's not everyday you get to pat a tame pelican! She is extremely tolerant, sweet and possibly a boy, nobody can really say just yet.
 "Flight training" commences before breakfast most mornings if wind conditions allow. Even Big Bird knows that taking off with a back wind is foolhardy.
 Flights over the water are common now and even a loop around the back of the mess was witnessed. Landings are at best shaky and we often have to look away as she underestimates ground speed and stopping distances. All too cute though.
Next she really needs to improve her fishing techniques.

Where mangos, chimps go

Trees laden with mangos prove irresistible to our hairy neighbours at this time of year and we are being visited regularly in camp by M-group members. Sometimes it's Orion who is sneaking around with Cynthia at the moment on some kind of extended date and avoiding the higher ranked males for fear of a beating having singled out one of their prime females. Other times Alofu and his loyal followers have strolled through the back of the camp to feast and swing through the mango tree briefly before Primus turns up throwing his weight and branches about and spoiling the peace much to our visitors delight. On days between camp visits guests are still required to hike well into the park at times for even more rewarding chimp encounters.

Mango snack

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New Blood

The start of this month has been really interesting with the guides getting back one morning to say that the Alpha male (Primus) had been beaten up really badly. Unfortunately they couldn't say if he was removed from his position. A few days later after he had recovered Primus had resumed his position.

The young bloods continued their challenges to the top ranking males and the guests then saw some amazing behavior going on while up in the mountains.

Michio has been the main young blood that has been challenging Alufu with Orion and Christmas. Michio has been challenging Alufu a lot by charging around. Alufu, Alina, Bonobo (with the broken arm) Kulunde and Fanana all sat in a tight group observing Michio's going-ons. Eventually Fanana had enough and asked Alufu to sort out this naughty boy and so all 4 males suddenly got up and charged Michio and Alufu caught him and gave him a good hiding for 5 minutes after which Michio ran off.

Continuing on, the guides found Darwin who is number 3 in the ranking and a gentle male. He has been hanging out with Christmas who is not well at the moment and has flu like symptoms and a cough.

Now Darwin was seen after being beaten up badly but he has since healed and recovered well. When we first saw him he was really in a bad way with his finger, ear and face bitten and his foot bitten badly.  Unfortunately we aren't too sure who was responsible for this but I have a feeling that it was Michio after the way he has been acting as it looks like he is trying to rise to a higher rank than what he actually is.

So, stay tuned for more exciting stories of the M community.

This will be my last blog for this season.  We would like to welcome Kerrie and Jeff to the Greystoke team and they will continue the stories for all of you.


Monday, September 30, 2013

The Old and the New

Bonobo is doing okay and has been seen chilling with Kalunde. 

One morning while he was relaxing naughty Xmas came along the path way to disrupt the peace.
He started to charge back and forth and displayed around us. It was a very heart pounding experience and the guide Filbert was very good and asked us to stay still and not to move while we observed Xmas doing his display close by.

Then a few minutes later a female chimp in estrus came along the path and this set Xmas off again. It was interesting to see him displaying but this time Kalunde and Bonobo also got involved and so the display was incredible. They were all jumping up and down and climbing the vines, during this display all the females and their young headed to the highest point of the trees whilst the males were putting on a show for us.

After displaying they all gathered round and started to groom each other and relax. Xmas by this stage was tired and headed to a lovely vine and rested, whilst close by Darwin was resting as well, not interested in all the displaying.


We left the chimps after an hour and were all pumped with adrenalin from the displaying. Each day is filled with great excitement and so to witness this display so close was brilliant and all the guests were really happy and managed to get some fantastic photos and videos.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Old Boys

The chimps have been out on their border patrol high up the Mahale mountains the other day so was a bit of a walk up to view them.  While out we saw all the familiar faces and observed them charging about and making a lot of noise.
While up in the hills old Bonobo was seen in deep conversation with one of the other Males and the pictures captured this really well! His arm is healing but still not used much.  As they were chatting in chimp lingo they were also eating away. 

Photos by Donna Armstrong
Then our king maker Kalunde who is the oldest chimp in Mahale and about 54 years old  was being groomed and was just sitting and relaxing while letting the younger more vocal males display around their territory.
Photo by Donna Armstrong
They have finished their patrol and have come close to the beach again so not to far to walk after a few days of some good hiking in the hills.


Friday, September 6, 2013

The Newest Edition to M Group

The newest edition to M group. While out chimping this season we have noticed a new addition to the M group family. Of all who have visited Greystoke some have been fortunate to have seen the little baby who is believed to be around 3 months old now. What a little cutie.

Within the group dynamics poor Bonobo has a broken arm and is being hassled by the other males trying to display and threatening his ranking. All guests have been seeing some amazing behavior.

Christmas (Xmas) is still the naughtiest giving everyone good charges and guests have come back to camp saying how close he comes when displaying. Primus the Alpha male controls the group fairly but every now and again has to discipline some of the naughty males and rushes past the guests with a big log in tow and shakes the branches in his display and creating order in his Group.

Hope to keep you all posted on what happens with Bonobo and the rest of M group in the coming weeks


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Settling in: Life at Mahale

Life in Mahale National Park is easy to settle into for new camp managers.  Late breakfasts due to the late sunrises over the mountains.  Gorgeous sunsets over Lake Tanganyika and the Congo.  Guests go hiking in the mornings yet we have chimp sightings in camps multiple times a week lately.  What is not to love?

We view a new group of guests as if we are turning the channel of a television; we have new entertainment of fascinating dinner conversations turn up in our camp every 3-4 days.  In our short time here, we've seen groups form quick bonds and stay in touch and have been lucky to be included in their vows of friendship that span a globe. 

Life in Mahale is grand. 
Come visit,
Matt and Parker

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Welcome to our new home!

Greystoke Mahale is proud to welcome our new camp managers: Matt Crowley-Miano and Parker Campbell.  The chimps, this time of year, are spreading out in small groups at times and making trips into our camp to raid our fig tree.  It's a beautiful time of year in Mahale.  The sashimi is fresh, and the sunsets are gorgeous.   

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Leopard cub(s?)!!!!

It is quite difficult to see the clear evidence in these photos and for that we apologise. There were very few of these prints remaining because their path crossed with the path of a supply boat being offloaded early this morning. It was then that we found the leopard tracks with accompanying tracks i.e. a cub!

The gestation period for leopards is 90-105 days. These prints are pretty small; cubs can walk from two weeks but don't usually come out of the den to learn to hunt until 2 months. We think ther den must be very close!

It was impossible to tell if the tracks were from more than 1 cub (a litter is usually 2 or 3), but we sincerely hope so as fewer than 50% of leopard cubs reach the age of 1 year, therfore it would better the odds significantly!

You can see the cub print on the left above the word 'left', and the mamma cub's print on the right of this photo.

We really hope to keep seeing this mamma leopard with accompanying tracks for some time to come, and of course, not just the tracks - we recently had one guest who had a motion-detecting camera in use overnight. We knew the leopards were around thanks to the askari's nightwatch. Sadly the camera didn't 'capture' any leopards, despite setting up the camera in the places where we thought it most likely to spot them. As soon as we have any evidence beyond prints, be sure you will hear about it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stinky Mushrooms

This is a Netted Stinkhorn, Dictyophora duplicata. Also known as the Skirted Stinkhorn or Veiled Stinkhorn, this mushroom takes its name from that lacy fringe that hangs down from the cap. In this case the fringe is particularly long.

As you can guess from this blog post's title, this mushroom really smells terrible.  When spotted on the jungle pathway between the managers' room and Banda 7, it was detectable from quite a few meters away. It’s way of propagating is by attracting insects who are drawn to the gooey cap which is covered in a sticky, sweet layer that the insects feed on, within which are the mushroom’s spores. 
Their spores can’t be carried on the wind, as with most mushrooms, so it relies entirely on insects, primarily flies and butterflies to procreate.

Unlike most fungi, which have a root-like network, stinkhorns begin life as an egg. The fruiting body begins at"egg" stage, from which the phallic body emerges over the course of just a few hours. The growth of a stinkhorn from egg to full length is incredibly fast- less than a day. It was spotted at 3pm and there was no evidence the next morning at first light, in our case. For a lifecycle video see this YouTube video: Netted Stinkhorn Mushroom

Some members of this group of mushroom are considered a delicacy; in China it’s considered an aphrodisiac, eaten at "egg" stage or after maturity once the cap has been removed. They are even cultivated and sold in shops, fresh or dry! For us the smell was too off-putting to consider trying to eat it, and don’t worry, that’s not where any of the mushrooms on the menu are sourced!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mahale All Stars

With one good month to go before the end of this season in Greystoke Mahale, we’d like to have a quick look back on some of the real stars that the M group produced this season. 

Primus Time
Undoubtedly the big breakthrough of this season; Primus (25 yrs) crowned himself Alpha male in September last year. Initially based on a fragile alliance without full support of the high ranking females, the past 6 months he has increasingly become a respected Alpha male. Mistake not! Primus’ daily task isn’t small as he’s leading a group of 60 individuals through their 37 sq km home range in search of food. 

Primus, just after he became Alpha in September 2012.

Both physically big and strong, our take is that Primus will remain in his position for some time to come. However, competition from other males is present and it won’t be an easy position to maintain as he will be challenged. As you might be so lucky to trek the Mahale Mts, Primus is easy to spot by both his physical size, brownish face and the white dot on his bottom lip. 

Primus last week as we met with him just out of camp.

Michio – Mr lips
Meet Michio (17 yrs) - one of our absolute favorites. Michio is a low ranking male chimpanzee that is not even close to the likes of the real biggies such as Primus, Alofu, Darwin and Orion. But Michio’s charm is in his calmness and in his inquisitive behavior. 

Michio checking out who that other chimpanzee really is...

Featuring in the camp’s most spectacular video of the year – the chimp and the mirror - Michio’s reaction to our camp mirror was one never to forget! 

Michio - charming as always - having trouble keeping his mouth closed.

But there is more. Michio feels at ease with humans. He sometimes comfortably moves within the 10 meter range and makes a many heart beat faster. Last November, when we observed the M group eating mangoes from our tree in Greystoke camp, Michio approached the group to wait for his turn to get to the fruits. Together with our guests were observing the scene from the steps of the toilet building when Michio walked up to us within a meter. He had decided to wait for his turn together with us. Quietly he sat down on the step next to us, feeling totally at ease. 

Michio sitting at Greystoke toilet entrance, after we moved away a little from Michio's cozyness...

Michio is also well known for his hanging bottom lip. Certainly looking forward to see more this man soon!

Orion – The short fused one
Nr 5 in the group, Orion (23 yrs), belongs to the crème de la crème of de M unit and he likes showing it. Although Primus undoubtedly is his superior, Orion too is impressive if it comes to physics. 

Orion, as he chews away on freshly picked mango fruit.

He is the chimpanzee that loves power displays - in particular showing them to humans. Wildly crushing through the trees and jumping from vines to branches, when this chimpanzee is on a rage towards you standing your ground suddenly becomes very exciting! 

Numerous hilarious moments we had with this short fused chimpanzee. But make no mistake – never does he touch – but lasting impressions for the mind he brings. For sure!

Ceasar & Teddy – Sweet as honey
Both young adults, Ceasar (14 yrs) and Teddy yrs (12 yrs) are the handsome guys of the group. Not close to being ranked as decisive individuals, their submission to Primus and the other higher ranking individuals is vital for their existence. 

Ceasar posing for the camera, with hands under his chin.

Growing slowly further into adult hood will show how much physics and importance they will gain.
But for now the two pink and cute faced ones have the looks that makes one wonder if they really aren’t human. 

Teddy - or Mr Pose - himself...

Not shy at all, it’s the positions that both males tend to take for pictures. Arms crossed, hand under the chin, slightly turned head - marvelous material!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jungle bells

Painted reed frogs come in many color variations and patterns and therefore it took us some time to identify this beauty of a frog. Though most species live in grasslands in sub saharan Africa there is also one group that is found in the forests of west and central Africa. 

And here it is...

A painted reed frog resting during the day.

Unlike most other frogs that prefer to hide during the day, the painted reed frog can be spotted in the open. Like this little fellow that we found sitting on a leaf behind one of the guest rooms.

Beautiful in its appearance, the frog has no neck that separates the head from its body. With an average size of approx 3 cm’s the frogs are small. Painted reed frogs mate during the rainy season and it’s during this time that males sing together in groups, calling from tall grasses, bushes or even trees. These frogs make for a beautiful African jungle sound, like the ringing of small bells – jungle bells. 

Painted reed frogs have no necks, as is easy to see here.

Small and attractive – it’s certainly noisy!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nanny ship

This morning’s trek was fabulous. And not only because of the large number of chimpanzees that we saw. It was the group activity that we found to be so amusing!

Today Fatuma’s 2,5 year old daughter spend some quality learning time with her nanny of choice; Gwekulo. The single most popular nanny in the group, Gwekulo is liked by both babies and mothers. Sadly she has never been able to conceive children herself.

Gwekulo with Fatuma's baby sitting on the tree.

Now 50 years old, Gwekulo certainly tries to make up for that by teaching valuable life lessons to infants and spending plenty of time with them.

The lesson of this morning was how to impress other chimpanzees. This was done by pounding the back leg on the tree as loudly as possible. Although not totally visible on the picture, the scene was hilarious. As the baby tried to pound her little leg on the tree, Gwekulo watched her in satisfaction.

Fatuma's baby raising her right leg to start pounding the tree in order to impress others... 

The other lesson was pant hooting. Though chimpanzees panthoot for many reasons, this morning’s lesson focused on paying respect to higher ranking individuals. 

To the right Gwekulo is pant hooting in a submissive way. The baby is paying attention and trying vocalize too...

As alpha male Primus approached the group, Gwekulo showed how to panthoot as a form of subsmission.

Gwekulo moving forward towards Primus as she keep pant hooting.

With the baby paying attention to every detail, you can see how she makes the effort to move forward on the tree branch, trying to pant hoot in the meantime.

And after Gwekulo also Fatauma's baby move forward trying to show respect...

The scenes of this morning were totally amusing and very interesting to see - we hope to catch some more nanny ship lessons in the coming week.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Cotton Stainer

Often overshadowed by the charismatic and more appealing chimpanzees, the great variety of insects found in Mahale Mountains NP is certainly very interesting. Especially after a little research you realize what and enormous array of bugs share the same place as us.

A bug often encounter along the forested paths of Greystoke camp is the pale cotton stainer. Relative small in size with a body length up to 17 mm it’s brightly colored and feeds mainly on seeds associated with species of wild hibiscus and kapok . Interestingly adults remain mated for days!

Mating cotton stainers on the forest path near Greystoke camp

And where the name comes from…?

The Cotton Stainer is widely spread with over 300 species worldwide. Adults can pierce cotton bolls to suck sap from the seeds, allowing a fungi to enter the cotton which stains it with a yellowish color. Especially during the industrial revolution in the USA this little bug caused massive problems.
That’s what I said – you just have to look it up and it becomes very interesting!