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GREYSTOKE MAHALE RATES: Greystoke Mahale
GREYSTOKE MAHALE -
LAKE TANGANYIKA, TANZANIA
Greystoke Mahale sits on a pristine, white sandy beach overlooking the turquoise water of Lake Tanganyika, with the forested slopes of the 8000 ft Mahale Mountains rising behind.
For many years our camp in Mahale was simple tents. So when we built Greystoke Mahale, while we wanted it to be as unique as its setting, it was important that it didn’t dominate its sensational natural surroundings. That's why we've tucked the rooms back into the forest line, so that your only view is of beach, and the lake beyond. It’s also why we chose to make the rooms almost entirely from sustainable materials sourced here on Lake Tanganyika. All the wood was reclaimed from wrecked or retired dhows bought (after much haggling) from villages along the lakeshore. We’ve used old fisherman’s canoes as ladders and thatch from palm trees gathered outside the national park for the roofs.
The main mess is the only structure on the beach and it's the focal point of camp. Here is where you can look out over the lake to the mountains of the Congo in the haze beyond. Your days can start there, eating breakfast whilst waiting to hear news of the chimps and deciding what to do with your day. Evenings end with sundowners on the rocks of the headland, where drinks are served around the lamp-lit bar whilst the mountains, rising behind camp, disappear into the darkness.
Greystoke affects us in a way that no other place does; we think it's because of its remoteness, and because of the mountains rising from the beach at our backs, the wide lake with its many different moods and the feeling that we are the only ones here.
Little has changed since we first landed on the beach.
Dine in the main mess banda on the beach and enjoy sundowners in the bar on the rocks at the end of the beach.
images of Greystoke Mahale, click Greystoke Mahale
Greystoke Mahale has just 6 wood and thatch bandas set on the edge of the forest line at the base of the mountains. The six double bandas are on the edge of the forest, looking out over the lake with the mountains right behind. All rooms look out over the beach and the lake beyond.
Each one has an en-suite bathroom - accessible by a short boardwalk - with hot and cold running water, strong showers and flush toilets. Dressing room and upstairs chill-out deck.
All are open-fronted, with heavy canvas curtains you can pull across if you choose. Made of old dhow wood, not one is the same, but all have a dressing room behind and then a short boardwalk to the bathroom with flush toilet, strong showers and hot and cold water on demand. There's a "chill-out" deck upstairs, accessible by a rather clever canoe-ladder around the side of the banda. This is the place to while away a long afternoon with a glass of wine and a good book.
The magical forest of the Mahale Mountains and the many animals who inhabit it, including other primates, bushbuck, bush pig, leopard and a multitude of butterflies and amazing birds; dinner on the beach under the stars and sundowners on the dhow; kayaking and fishing in the clear waters of the lake.
Time spent with them is time away from everything else that is ordinary. We've watched, over the years, as families have grown, alpha males have come and gone, bonds and friendships have been created and then broken, and then created again. They are not so different from us.
It's all acted out on this natural chimpanzee stage, and witnessing it is something we are privileged to be able to do every day.
We watch again and again, through our guest's eyes, as the enormity of what they are seeing hits them for the first time. After tracking them, for an hour or two, maybe more, only aware of the sounds they are making ahead of us, we find them; suddenly they are everywhere. We sit quietly on the forest floor and take a deep breath, this is what it's all about.
For the next hour it's as if you scarcely breathe, so wrapped up are you in watching them go about their daily life. You become aware of the subtleties of different relationships, through gesture, sound and expression. One dictating the pace, another courting favour, yet another perhaps plotting a coup. There is humour too as the young chimps fall about the floor and play remarkably human games.
Hike the forest paths looking for birds and butterflies, as well as the other shy mammals who quietly live there. Swim in ice-cold pools up in the mountain waterfalls, take a kayak out for a dawn paddle towards the middle of the lake; drink your morning coffee there and enjoy the sunrise coming up over the mountains.
Go for sundowners on the old wooden dhow, lazily following the shoreline and stopping to fish along the way, or just relax on the warm sands of the beach with a drink in hand.
The Mahale Mountains
In the 1,613 square kms of the Mahale Mountains, there are still no roads. All you'll find are forest paths and tracks made by animals over the years. This, and the fact that the only practical way of reaching camp is by boat, add to the sense of seclusion here.
Flying in over the northern end of the mountains, you'll see nothing for many many miles and only small villages and local fishermen in dhows dotted along the lakeshore.
As you head down the lake, towards Greystoke, the villages thin out and the forest takes over. It's not long before civilization seems very far behind.
Greystoke has one foot in the forest and one in the lake and your days here reflect the mix of both. We can think of nothing better than a gentle hike in the forest up to one of the many waterfalls, before cooling off for a dip in one of the ice-cold rock pools.
As well as the chimps, the forest is home to many other animals, including bushbucks, bushpigs and an incredible array of birds and butterflies. It's also inhabited by nine species of primate.
If you're not feeling so energetic, perhaps after an adrenalin-filled morning of chimping, we'd suggest a late afternoon trip in the dhow. Head south with a cool box and sundowners on board. If you moor near the shoreline you can often see hippos swimming underwater close to the boat.
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