Greystoke is an exceptional lodge...
Greystoke Mahale: Our full report
Greystoke Mahale is a unique, high-end camp that sits on a white-sand beach overlooking Lake Tanganyika’s clear waters inside the remote Mahale Mountains National Park.
The adventure starts on the journey to Greystoke: after flying to Mahale (about five hours frpm Arusha, or 40 minutes from Katavi), you’ll be greeted by camp staff and escorted to the camp’s large, wooden dhow for the final leg of your journey. An hour or so later, you’ll see the unmistakable thatched roof of Greystoke’s main lodge on the beach with the forested Mahale Mountains towering behind.
The high-roofed main lodge stands in the centre of the beach, and is completely open sided to let in the breeze and make the most of the verdant views. It houses the main dining area, and a small seating area where you can read up on the local bird and wildlife, as well as detailed information about the chimpanzees you’ll be tracking. Upstairs, is a relaxation area with board games, a book swap, and some extremely comfortable beanbags – set right in the peak of the thatch, with a great view and welcome breeze. Raised up on the rocks on the far corner of the beach where the lodge is located there’s also a “Sunset" bar, where guests normally gather for drinks before dinner. The views from up here are fantastic.
The six bandas at Greystoke Mahale are set further back from the beach and nestled into the vegetation. They’re well spaced out with a good degree of privacy, and all face towards the lake (although some of the more private bandas have a slightly less clear view of the lake). Each double-story banda is broadly the same: they’re completely open at the front, no doors or zips at all – although there are heavy curtains which can be pulled across and secured to the floor if you want a little more privacy. The main frame of each banda is made of wooden poles and bamboo blinds, with a tall makuti thatch roof. The large four-poster bed stands in the centre of the room, swathed in a mosquito net. It looks out onto a small decking area, furnished with a couple of sunloungers and a small writing desk. The bedside tables have solar lamps, which work 24 hours a day. Behind the bed, there’s a dressing area with a lockable trunk, some space to hang your clothes and a selection of toiletries. And, at the far back of the banda, is the en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet, shower and sink. Water is heated on demand by individual kerosene burners. Your guide will call ahead at the end of each activity to ensure warm water is ready for you on your return – this usually takes about 15 minutes. The top floor of the banda is reached via a flight of steep stairs carved from an old wooden canoe. Up here there’s a day bed to relax on, and in one of the bandas there’s also an extra bed for families.
Greystoke Mahale’s bandas are spacious and well put together. The majority of the furniture in the room is crafted from old recycled wooden dhow boats salvaged from nearby lakeside villages – the result is a unique, rustic style in tune with its surroundings. Thoughtful touches, such as kikois and towels for the beach, and water bowls to wash the sand off your feet, are very welcome.
The main activity at Greystoke – and the reason most people come here – is the superb chimp trekking. It’s very professionally run: at all times you're accompanied by a park scout and expert guide who know all of the chimps by name, and can explain their behaviour and past history meticulously. This deepens your whole experience beyond simply watching the mammals. For us, it’s one of the most riveting wildlife spectacles in Africa. Trekking can take anywhere from a leisurely 20 minutes, to a more strenuous hike of three hours or more. From August to September the chimps tend to be lower down in the mountains – and often in camp!
There is plenty of other wildlife to see, while searching for the chimps. Birds such as red-capped robin chats, crested guinea fowls, palm nut vultures, harrier hawks and African crowned eagles, as well as the small blue duiker and silver and red colobus monkeys live in the forest. You may come across clay pots left by the BaTongwe tribe, who used to inhabit the area before it was made a national park.
After a morning watching the chimps, spend a lazy afternoon kayaking on the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika, or sailing on a beautiful old dhow. From the boat, you can take a nature cruise along the shore – we were lucky enough to see hippos! Large crocodiles are occasionally spied lurking in the reeds too. While swimming is not recommended from the shore – due to the occasional crocodile and hippo – they will take guests far out into the deep water in the afternoons to swim. The water is beautifully warm clear and fresh, and it’s a fantastic experience.
Mahale Mountain National Park is one of the most remote and most beautiful parks in Tanzania, if not Africa – and Greystoke Mahale is the best camp in the park. The chimpanzee experience is incredible, the afternoon boat rides relaxing, and the camp itself is beautifully constructed and very well run. For those who aren’t afraid to go off the beaten track, and have the budget to stretch – you won’t be disappointed by a trip here.
Ideal length of stay: There are two flights a week into Mahale (Monday and Thursdays), so three- or four-night stays are usually required.
Directions: Mahale is about a five-hour flight from Arusha. From the airstrip, Greystoke is reached via a one-hour boat ride in the camp’s old dhow.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On our last visit, in June 2013, the food at Greystoke was very good indeed – fresh, varied and plentiful. Meals are normally taken communally in the main lodge seated around one long table. Here’s an example of what to expect at mealtimes:
Breakfast is usually served around 7.30am. There’s a buffet selection of cereal with yoghurt and fresh passion fruit. The waiters will then come round and take your order for a cooked breakfast – including eggs, bacon and sausages. While you’re eating breakfast the guides will be communicating with the trackers as to the location of the chimps. Once they’ve found them you’ll all set off.
Lunch is usually a light buffet selection. We had dishes such as Thai beef, roasted aubergines, tomato and cucumber salad, and watermelon and feta salad. A light dessert is then served to your table. There was always a really good choice of dishes, and they were all very tasty.
At about 7.00pm it’s usual for guests to gather in the Sunset bar for a pre-dinner drink. The waiters bring out some nibbles, and when we were last there they even prepared sashimi from the fish we had caught a few hours earlier! Everyone will then gather around the dining table for a three-course dinner. Starters are usually light; we enjoyed a cucumber, salami and tomato salad. Mains are usually served in large bowls which the waiters will bring around so you can help yourself. We had pilau rice, Thai chicken curry, pumpkin and fresh vegetables. For dessert we were served an excellent chocolate-and-cashew nut cake.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included except premium wines and spirits.
Honeymoons: One of the continent's most original and spectacular places for a honeymoon – and reassuringly expensive too!See more ideas for Honeymoons in Tanzania
Beach holidays: Greystoke’s spectacular white beach of fine powder-sand is not beside the ocean, but deep inland, next to the great Lake Tanganyika. So whilst chimp-tracking in Mahale, pause to enjoy a superb beach holiday right in the heart of Africa.See more ideas for Beach holidays in Tanzania
Photographic: Perhaps Africa's best place for seeing and photographing chimps in the wild.See more ideas for Photographic in Tanzania
Walking safaris: Mahale's chimp-tracking trips can be quite strenuous and may include some steep forest paths.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Simply the best place for watching chimps and other primates in the forests of central Africa.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: The camp welcomes families with older children.
Property’s age restrictions: Children have to be aged 12+.
Special activities & services: None
Generally recommended for children: The Mahale Mountains National Park are remote, difficult to access, and expensive, so we’d only recommend it for families with older children. One of the bandas has an extra bed on the mezzanine floor.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: They have a backup generator.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception in Mahale.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid kit on site and the lodge has links with flying doctors.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: You’re escorted to and from your room in the evenings.
Fire safety: Fire buckets in the rooms.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included. It is hand washed, line dried and coal ironed and usually returned to you within 24 hours. However, like most camps in Tanzania, women’s underwear is not accepted.
Money: Each banda has a trunk which can be locked.