Reviews of Greystoke Mahale
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Tanzanian Birthday Adventure
What can we say about Greystoke, Mahale? The camp is wonderful with spacious comfortable bandas well spaced out along the back of the beach with the communal area centrally placed. The setting is magical - beautiful white sand on the shores of the crystal clear Lake Tangyanika with wonderful sunsets reflected in the waters each evening.
As the dhow, which had brought us from the airstrip to the camp, pulled onto the beach we were greeted by staff who implored us to quickly disembark as there were 2 chimpanzees in the camp - which watched, awestruck, as the chimps played in the trees by the camp kitchen and then followed them up the small hill behind the camp where we stood watching them groom each other. We could not have asked for a better start to our stay at the camp.
The days that followed were fantastic with marvellous sightings of chimps quite low down and relatively close to the camp on the first day, the second day the chimps had taken themselves off into the mountains so we left the younger guests to make that trek!!
On our final day there were a few chimps low down so Peter and I ( the geriatrics!!) opted to trek them whilst the other guests had quite a gruelling hike back into the mountains to find the main group. Our little trek turned into a delightful nature walk seeing not only chimps but other wildlife too. Our guide Butati told us about the vegetation and plant life and spotted things that we would have just not seen like the green spotted tree snake - very interesting.
Each afternoon after a siesta we all went out in the dhow - the plan was a gentle trip on the water but once the fishing lines came out some how there became a great rivalry between the men and the women as to who could catch the most, the biggest and the smallest fish! I caught the first one - a yellow belly - and for that I had to kiss the fish. Later , Sarah, another guest caught a huge fork tail perch. Over the days we were there the women caught the most and the biggest fish but Peter won the prize for the smallest!
Each evening we had sushi, to accompany our pre dinner drinks, made from some of the yellow belly caught that day, on the first day we also enjoyed some of the fork tail perch with our dinner. Any remaining big fish went to the staff or TANAPA . The small fish were the most important catch - they were for Big Boy the habituated pelican at the camp who is unable to fish for himself
On our last afternoon dhow trip apart from the fishing we also went up a river seeing some interesting bird life as well as many crocodile. We had also had the opportunity to swim in the lake.
All the staff at Greystoke are fantastic. Our guides Mwega and Butati were marvellous. Their knowledge of the chimps ( knowing each one by name and recognising their voices) was amazing and their general knowledge about the environment etc second to none. Added to this they were a fantastic double act and should they ever retire from guiding should go on stage!! Pity they are Arsenal supporters!! ( I jest!)
A very big thank you to Kerry who managed to keep smiling and keep every thing running smoothly despite her damaged ankle whilst her husband, Geoff ( camp manager) and Cameron ( about to take over from Geoff) both took to their beds with flu. Thanks also for our birthday cakes.
Amazing chimpanzees at Greystoke Mahale
Chimpanzee tracking with guides Butati and Amos was excellent. Boat trips on the lake to see the forest, go fishing and swimming were very enjoyable. Our banda accommodation was very comfortable and had a wonderful open view of the lake through the open front. Not having to bother with zipping up door (because no biting insects or dangerous animals) was very pleasant.
The location of this camp is absolutely stunning. I am so pleased that Liz persuaded us to come here! Everything about the camp was just wonderful, the views over the lake, the beautiful colours of the trees in the forest, the food, the delightful, friendly staff, Big Bird and finally trekking through the forest to find the chimpanzees. We had such an amazing time just watching them. Listening to their stories from the guides added to the whole experience.
It was a very special way to end our trip to Tanzania.
Greystoke Mahale review
Quite a way west of other lodges and if traveling from a previous safari lodge destination it is quite a trip to get there, consisting of game vehical, plane, boat (1 1/2 hr boat ride) so all the day can be spend travelling to get to the location.
Very nice lodge and pictersque location, but each rooms are a little bit down a path so as darkness sets in they soon get hit by the light fading. Good food at the main lodge and very nice bar overlooking a sunset location.
Good views and interactions with chimps on both days we were treking, and spent the optimum 1 hr with them on the first day and approx. 1/2 hr on the second before they move away from us. The nearness of the chimps each day makes the distance to walk the factor in seeing them.
If you're into activities they're very focused around seeing the chimps and the boat ride out into the lake or afternoon walk (very little to actually see in the forest) are not too great pulls. The boat trip up the coast to the river estuary is good but beware the insects as the dusk settles in.
Not just about chimps
Mahale Greystoke is beautifully located on the shore of Lake Tanganyika and well worth the long trip across Tanzania from the main safari circuits. Its main selling point is the chimpanzees and on this it certainly delivered in style. But we found that it has quite a bit more to offer than just the primates - notably the bird life (even though it requires some effort and patience to see and identify birds in the forest) and lake-related activities. The guides were all good: we would offer a particular word of praise for Mwega who has been at Greystoke for well over a decade but has only recently taken up guiding and is already first class.
The camp is comfortable and well-appointed - a relaxed and relaxing atmosphere (although actually tracking the chimps up the ridge and through dense vegetation is not for the faint-hearted or weak-kneeed!). And it was a real pleasure to spend three interesting days without even seeing a truck!
Greystoke Camp review
Amazing place. Wonderful location, excellent design, great staff.
Greystoke exceeded our expectations because as well as seeing the chimpanzees, it's also a very lovely and relaxing place to stay.
Greystoke was out of this world
From the moment we arrived at the airport I knew that Greystoke would be as special as we had hoped.
We were collected by Lazaro and Hamza two of the guides and taken by boat to camp. The colour of the lake was the first thing that hit me! It's so turquoise blue. Its quite a long trip by boat to camp but we were served an absolutely delicious lunch and drinks and were quite happy to lie back and enjoy.
When we finally arrived, we were given a warm welcome by the managers Steve and Kerry and the rest of the staff. Steve, Kerry and the rest of the staff could not have been more helpful or friendly. I should also say that Steve and Kerry had the whole place working like clockwork; it was very well managed.
Our banda was delightful; so different from a standard hotel room. It had everything you could possibly need but also had so much character.
The food at Greystoke was the best we had. Every meal was delicious and different. But it all felt quite healthy! Lots of salads and fruit. It was hard to imagine we were so far from the closest market!.
And now to the stars of the show at Greystoke - the chimps. On the first day, the group could not be found. As the morning drew on, a few of the guests including us went for a walk into the forest with one of the guides while the trackers kept looking. We did eventually see a few individual chimps including a mother and very small baby, as well as some colobus and other monkeys. While we were a bit disappointed not to have seen the group, we were glad to have seen the forest and to have had our first chimp sightings.
On the second day, the whole group of chimps were found just behind the beach along from the camp and so, with very little effort, we were able to see them. It was fabulous to see so many and catch a glimpse of them interreacting with each other (and us!). The only downsides were the heat and shortness of time to see the chimps. It was very, very hot and quite enclosed amongst the thick undergrowth. With the addition of face masks it was a bit uncomfortable.
We were allowed one hour with the chimps. While I understand why, and objectively I can see why it is thought necessary to have such restrictions, it felt very short particularly as we had not seen the group the day before.
Apart from chimp searching, we loved just enjoying the views and relaxing in our banda or in the main camp buildings, reading all the fascinating material they have on the chimps. But we also tried kayaking and fishing, and I spent a lot of time in the lake swimmming. So there was certainly no shortage of things to do; just not enough time in our brief stay to do them!.
Each evening drinks were served up in the bar overlooking the lake, with dinner either in the main buildings or on the beach. It was very special to be sitting out on the beach in the middle of nowhere, but in such comfort and luxury!
There were a number of guides at Greystoke. Our main guide was Lazaro. He was a great guy, friendly, helpful, very well informed about the chimps and full of enthusiasm. Hamza had arrived just a short time before we arrived and was still learning about the chimps. However he was a very knowledgeable guide and as his english was near perfect, we were able to have more in depth discussions with him about Tanzania and its wildlife etc. We know he had previously managed one of the other Nomad camps. So I am not sure where he would go next; whether as a guide or manager. But we were really impressed by him and he is definitely an asset to Nomad who they should hold on to if they can!
Paul was the other guide. While he never guided our group and so we did not get to know him quite as well as the others, he was also clearly knowledgeable with a great sense of humour.
If I was recommending Greystoke to others-which of course I would do - I would highly recommend that they tried to go for the 4 nights rather than the 3. Having only two opportunities to see the chimps made it quite pressurised. Also you just want to stay at Greystoke as long as possible - it is so beautiful - and it is such a long way to get there!
The only other observation I would have is this. If I was going again I would go earlier-perhaps late August. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it was beginning to get very hot and humid when we were there in early October and August would I think have been much less humid but still dry. Also there were quite a few tsetse flies around. We did not get too badly bitten but they were very annoying particularly when out in the kayaks and in the boat, even when swimming. Going earlier would also have avoided this problem.
Also apparently the chimps come to eat the fruit from some trees right behind the camp - right behind the managers' office - and if you go when the fruit is there - apparently August /September - we were told you have a fairly good chance of seeing the chimps on a daily basis without even leaving the confort of the camp
Greystoke Camp review
Delightful co-managers, very hospitable, took care of our every need.
Our guide Ka-Kae was outstanding, one of the best we've had anywhere in the world. We're glad that we spent four nights at Greystoke -- three chimp treks are needed to begin to appreciate and understand their behavior.
One of the best wildlife experiences ever.
Greystoke Camp review
A wonderful experience! We saw the chimps every day! How perfect! On our way to the camp by boat, some chimps were near the shore feeding in the trees. The guides stopped the boat and we walked about 10 minutes to be among them. It seemed too easy!!!
The following 2 days we again only had to walk 20-40 minutes to find them. They ignored us and continued grooming, feeding, playing and interacting meters away from us. Some even ran between us as we stood to the side out of their way. As the alpha male of M community ran by us, he punched a guide in the leg as well as slapping my pratner's leg! This community was obviously normalized to humans.
That afternoon we went by boat down the lake, motoring past the border of M community's territory and into K community's territory. K community is not normalized to humans, and so are very shy. We were lucky enough to see 15 of them playing in the trees! The guides were very excited as this group of chimps are not ofter seen! We tried to get a bit closer to the shore for an even better look, but when they heard the boat, they quickly dispersed. We also fished from the boat with success!
All the staff were very friendly and exceptionally attentive. Petra & Hugh were wonderful hosts, paying attention to all details, both large & small. The cuisine was fresh and tasty, amazingly so considering the isolated location of the camp and the logistics required for all the camp's necessities!!
Greystoke Camp review
Hot and humid - "chimping" should not be undertaken by anyone who is not prepared to sweat. That said, the hardest tracking we did was only a 45 minute walk (up a very steep hill). We saw chimps on 3 days out of 4 (we went out in the afternoon of the day we arrived). On the last day the chimps had gone to the far side of the mountain and the trackers failed to find them - so success is definitely not guaranteed. We had a good sightings of red colobus monkeys and red tailed monkey - aided by excellent guides who kept moving us back and forth so we could glimpse them as they travelled the tree tops.
Face masks have to be worn when anywhere near the chimps - to prevent human infections passing to them - and these are a real problem for spec wearers and for anyone trying to use the eyepieces of cameras or binos (they steam up instantly you put the masks on). Wish someone had told me to take contact lenses - I have them for skiing (same problem) but did not think they would be needed on this trip. Take a small towel and lots of lens cloths for your camera.
The humidity, and very early arrival of the rains, meant washing in the camp could not dry. If you tend to travel very light (or, like us, take so much camera equipment that this is forced upon you) you may find you end up wearing clothes to dry them. We travelled home with a bag of clean and beautifully pressed damp clothes!
Great experience at Greystoke
We did have some apprehensions before coming to Mahale as we had great expectations and were not sure how we would take to the chimps. Suffice to say, Mahale and Greystoke did not disappoint.
The camp is located in a fantastic spot and the palatial rooms are full of character and intricate details.
But no doubt, the chimps are the star attraction. We were lucky to get very good sightings every day of our stay and while the trekking can be a bit strenous, it was still doable for the unfit (ie. us).
The crystal clear waters of the lake are especially appealing after a morning's hiking and just relaxing by the beach is a great complement (or even alternative...) to the chimp trekking. A cool cocktail by the lake and a wholesome dinner perfectly rounded off our days and it felt almost unreal to head back home from this fantastic place.