Reviews of Greystoke Mahale
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Chimping and relaxing at Greystoke.
Greystoke is a small camp with luxurious beach-hut style accommodation, located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The location and the buildings are beautiful, and the food and service superb. The staff are absolutely excellent, particularly the guides whose knowledge and enthusiasm made the walks a pleasure.
The main reason people visit Greystoke is for chimp trekking. Depending on where the chimps happen to be on any given day, this may require several hours of walking, so you should be aware that you may not be able to see the chimps if you are not capable of walking for such a time. You should also be aware that you can only spend a maximum of 1 hour per day with the chimps.
If you are lucky enough to find the chimps (as we were on all 3 days), you will love getting a close-up view of them in the wild. We had the good fortune to spot them "fishing" for ants, as well as getting a glimpse of a young baby and the alpha male, who's an impressive lump of a lad! It's an absolutely great experience.
If the chimps are not too far away, you will have the chance for some relaxation in the afternoons. The lake is fantastic for swimming, crystal clear and cool. The camp also has facilities for kayaking and fishing, so you can try to catch your dinner. Greystoke is the perfect place to stay if you want to incorporate a little bit of relaxation into a hectic safari schedule.
Greystoke Camp review
The experience of observing wild chimpanzees at close quarters was totally enthralling. To do so in such a beautiful setting is beyond words.
The experience is very different from other safari lodges/national parks in that the focus is on one species and you learn about the individual characters and relationships within the chimpanzee community. The excellent guides know each individual by name and who they are related to and associate with and their ranking in the group. Totally fascinating.
It was also a nice change to be somewhere with no vehicles - all acess is by boat - and all game viewing by foot, without the need for armed wardens.
Other widlife included red-tailed and blue monkeys and red colobus. Birds are hard to observe in the thick forest but there are some unusual species for those with patience.
The camp was lovely and the African staff very friendly. But we did have a couple of gripes: all twelve guests had to eat together at all meal times, even breakfast heaven forbid. We felt the others were a dull lot and we would much have preferred to avoid the enforced mixing. That of course is the luck of the draw but it does nevertheless take the gloss off.
We were not impressed with the camp manageress who did not convey any real enthusiasm or interest for the wildlife and local ecology and was more into 'fun activities' and talked about setting up yoga sessions etc. She was a fine hostess in some respects but lacked a bit of sensitivity to different guests interests and was somewhat out of place in this camp. Her No 2 seemed quite bored and was clearly looking forward to moving on.
There is some good information provided on the chimpanzees but no maps and little on the local geography and ecology
At Mahale we also had a great experience in an area in complete contrast to Katavi, which was after all our intent and your company's intent in linking these two sites for this trip. Again the camp staff, managers and guides were excellent and once again the chef managed marvels (how do they do it?).
The experience of walking through the forest/jungle areas was new to us as we had only been in Katavi-like areas before. On two of the three walks we managed to get to see the chimps at relatively low levels and in areas where we could see them easily. The sight of the alpha male charging past waiving a stick to emphasise his position was a humbling experience. I was just glad he was ignoring us!
I do however have to make a few negative comments. I am only doing this because I fear that you might be hearing from others who were in our group and their comments might be more negative.
Could I first say that our group may have been atypical in that, apart from two late twenty year olds, who had recently climbed Kilimanjaro, we were all 60+ years old. Now being 60+ is not a barrier in itself and those of us who were used to mountain walking were equipped with suitable walking boots/sticks etc. and were reasonably fit: the same could not be said for some of the others.
There were people who had never done any serious walking and were wearing footwear that was woefully inadequate and trousers that did not cover their legs. This led to them slipping and falling on the dry sandy steep paths. The good news was nobody was seriously injured, just a few cuts and bruises.
The first day trekking to find the Chimps was one of those days when the chimps started off high up and just carried on up. This led to us being out on an 8 hour walk through some very rough terrain, indeed one member of the group was out for 10 hours, having to be escorted back at a very slow pace by one of the guides. All members of the group, including the twenty year olds, were pretty well exhausted when we returned but some of them were exhausted to the point where they were a danger to themselves. Those of us who have some experience of distance walking, including the Kilimanjaro pair, also felt that for a walk of that distance and in the humid conditions, the water supply was inadequate and perhaps food was required.
I am aware that nobody can predict where the chimps will move after the start of the walk but I feel that the cause of the problem is the fact that it is not made as clear as perhaps it could be, by both the travel companies booking your camps and indeed in some of your Internet pages, just how tough some of the walks can be.
I appreciate that the first walk may have been the only chance we had to see the chimps and that therefore the camp managers and the guides were determined to try to get us to them. But perhaps this determination may blind them to the capabilities of some guests. However I feel that some greater assessment of the abilities of some guests would help avoid the situation we found ourselves in, with some of us having to drop back to help people who were really struggling on the descent.
That said, we managed to view the chimps on each of the three days we went out looking, and indeed on the second and third days the chimps were found within a couple of hours walk. There is therefore no criticism of the ability of the guides and trackers in finding the chimp groups.
Overall therefore I felt that more advice should be given to potential guests as to exactly what sort of walking can be involved. It was quite apparent that others in the party had no idea of the potential extent or difficulty of the walks. I had booked via Expert Africa in the UK and had specifically asked about the possible severity of the walking and even they had I feel somewhat understated the situation. I feel that if people turn up at the camps who are quite clearly not well equipped, either fitness wise or footware/clothing wise, that it should be made very clear that if the chimps are some distance from the camp that a severe walk may be involved and then it would be up to them whether they went or not.
The main sufferers in our group were four American ladies who all seemed to be planning to write to complain so I felt that I should give my view as perhaps a balance. The other camps they had visited were ones where they were transported in jeeps etc. and I got the impression that they did not really take in the fact that this camp was very different.
I must however stress that this problem on one day did not spoil the holiday and we had a really great time at both Katavi and Mahale. Both the camps were superbly run and your staff excellent both at the camps and during transits. We would be very happy to recommend this trip to anyone (who could do the walking).
Expert Africa comments
There are some really valuable lessons highlighted here.
These travellers were fortunate enough to have a couple of chimp sightings at low level during their stay, which each involved a couple of hours walking. In our experience, these are typical of the walks at Greystoke. However, clearly one day they did have a very long walk which lasted about 8 hours.
Although our two travellers were keen walkers, others at the camp (who had not booked with Expert Africa) didn’t have suitable footwear and clearly weren’t prepared for the amount of walking involved here.
Greystoke’s owners commented that their guides do brief each group before these walks, advising them of how far the chimps are hence how long each walk is likely to take. They always encourage the guests to carry as much water as they can, and if you request it, food can be arranged. However, not all guests take up these offers.
( There is also always the option for guests to stop, and even return to camp at any stage, if they find a particular day’s walk too tough. )
The lesson here is clear: although 8 hours is long by Greystoke’s normal standards, these chimps are wild, they go where they like, and this kind of walk will be needed at some times of the year to get sightings of the chimps. So be prepared when you book into Greystoke, and head off walking!