Reviews of Greystoke Mahale
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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.
Greystoke Camp review
Wonderful location and accomodation and although the manager (Nicola) was only a temp she did a brilliant job.
The food was excellent without exception.
The guides were the poorest on the trip. Rather quiet and not very knowlegeable but nice enough and once again it was good that they were around for an evening drink. When guiding they tended to speak together in their own language and give no information on what was happening.
Lake Tanganyka was really lovely for swimming in and I had no idea that fishing could be so much fun. No mosquitos and few tsetse flies!
Perfect relaxing end to the holiday.
Greystoke Camp review
A rainy arrival did not mar our delight at the fabulous setting of Greystoke. The emerald mountains cloaked in cloud, the white sand beach and the clear waters of Lake Tanganyika. The sun came out as we were welcomed onshore by our hosts Nicola and Peter.
The banda was well appointed and comfortable with a beautiful view! Bit disappointed to discover more tsetse flies, which had been a bane to us for the previous few days. However, the excitement and wonder of spending time with chimpanzees in the wild made up for this. A hard, brisk hour or so trek on our first full day was rewarded with an hour spent with 'M' troop, quietly learning about the different characters. We were surrounded and at times found ourselves closer than planned when they became excited, started calling and moving quickly about. Especially close encounter with Pim, the alpha male and two other males who dashed by! Tumbling adolescent males were captivating but it was over all too soon. Our guide Larazzo moved us away and then produced flapjacks to sustain us on our walk back to camp!
The second day involved a more leisurely walk until we got the call from the trackers, then it was full speed ahead as we made our way to the lake and a boat pick up to take us a bit further south. Here we spent time with some of M troop again, mesmerised by Emory sleeping peacefully on a high, narrow branch and Kalunde and Kombo endlessly grooming each other. Once again Larazzo and Kakae (our other guide) were informative, interesting and careful of our safety. There was always something to learn on the forest walks when we weren't route marching!
Other highlights of our stay at Greystoke included warthogs, baboons and vervet monkeys wandering on the beach, glimpses of a blue duiker and a red tailed monkey in the forest, swimming in the lake and enjoying the relaxed hospitality and good company. The service was good and the food enjoyable, but perhaps not top class. Probably a once in a lifetime visit and well worth the effort of the long journey in and out. Shame we didn't see more primates and we were disappointed not to get a third trek as the outbound flight time was brought forward.
Greystoke Camp review
For a premier camp, this falls short of the mark. This is a camp living on it's past reputation and the best chimp viewing experience to be found. The rooms are fantastic and the general staff very helpful, but the managment and the quality of the food needs to be improved. Other than the two latter points this is a fantastic location and I would recommend anyone who wants to see chimps in their natural environment should add this to their list of things to do. It is truely amazing but be prepared to work for the pleasure as the walking can be steep and very sticky. Having said this our first Chimp viewing was 50m from the breakfast table.Read more about the whole safari
Expert Africa comments
We sent this travellers feedback to Greystoke’s management (the Nomad Tanzania team) and received a reply from their MD. He is taking these comments very seriously – and had already starting implementing changes at Greystoke Camp, and is making more as the result of this client’s feedback.
A senior manager from Nomad Safaris has now been moved to the camp, with a brief to address the issues that this traveller brought up. Meanwhile, one of the camp’s permanent managers has being changed.
A ‘chef trainer’ has been brought in to improve the standards of the food at Greystoke Camp, and the chefs have been switched around between Nomad’s sister-camps to “improve teamwork in the kitchen”.
The team are also trying to engage a primate scientist to come to the camp to map the family trees. They aim for this person to further train up the guides, and ensure the Greystoke’s chimp expertise continues to firmly surpass all others.