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Chimpanzee Trekking at Greystoke Mahale

OVERVIEW

A visit to the magical Mahale Mountains National Park is like traveling back in time to a place completely unspoiled by the outside world. In a remote part of western Tanzania, far from the usual safari circuit and about 100 miles from the nearest road, the dense mountain forests of the Mahale Mountains are home to the largest known chimpanzee population in the world, making it one of the best places on earth to come face to face with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. So close that, because they share 99% of their DNA with humans, they are susceptible to catching your cold should you sneeze in their direction. Hike into the lush forest with expert trackers until you find the chimps, and then sit on the forest floor filled with wonder as you’re enchanted by the subtle and humanlike behaviors of these remarkable creatures. By observing the way they forage for food, eat, play, groom each other, and mother their young you may even learn something about yourself. When you’re not interacting with the chimps, explore the other exotic wildlife that roam the dense forests and discover the beauty of Lake Tanganyika, an African Great Lake. At night, watch in awe as that magnificent African moon sinks below the mountains and ponder your incredible luck to have discovered this wild and wonderful part of the world. 

WHAT WE LOVE

  • The arrival - Fly by private charter plane over unspoiled landscapes to reach the lost world of the Mahale Mountains National Park. After touching down you’ll embark on a 90-minute dhow ride past tiny villages with fishermen going about their day and exotic flora and fauna, and as you move further and further from civilization you’ll understand why the journey to get there is part of the experience.

  • Get off the beaten path - When you finally reach your destination you’ll feel you’ve dropped down on the edge of the map. Mahale Mountains National Park sits in an unspoiled corner of western Tanzania, so removed that you’ll feel like Tarzan in the jungle, or an explorer on an expedition to an undiscovered land. Disconnect and enjoy your time off the grid.

  • Encounters with chimpanzees - The highlight of a trip to this incredible part of the world is, above all else, the family reunion - your time spent with the wild chimpanzees who share 99% of our DNA and call this magical place home. By observing these remarkable creatures you’ll be awed by their familiar behaviors, watching as their relationships play out in subtle gestures and sounds, and you’ll understand how they flourish in their pristine surroundings so far removed from civilization.

  • Abundant wildlife - The lush forest of the majestic Mahale mountains are home to a host of other exotic wildlife including birds and butterflies, bushpigs and rare leopards. You may even spot a rare wild pangolin, and this is the only place in Tanzania where you’ll see one. The region is also one of the only places in the world where chimps and lions coexist.

  • Lake Tanganyika - After a day of mountain trekking relax beside the world’s second oldest freshwater lake, take a fishing pole out on the dhow and watch as playful hippos swim along the sandy bottom and below the boat, dodging your fishing line. Glide across the water on a kayak and observe hundreds of species of beautifully exotic fish including different types of colorful African cichlids. Or simply relax on the lake’s powder sand shores and enjoy the sun or stars.

  • Impact Conservation - Mahale Mountains National Park is one of only two protected areas for chimps in Tanzania, and the surrounding community including Greystoke Mahale has been involved in research of the local chimpanzees since the 1960s. By visiting the chimps and staying at Greystoke Mahale your travel dollars are directly supporting efforts toward the protection of this important species.

 

REST & REJUVENATE

Greystoke Mahale

Set on a white sandy beach between stunning Lake Tanganyika and the foot of the majestic Mahale Mountains, Greystoke Mahale is a hidden gem a long way away from civilization and so close to the forest line that it’s possible you’ll wake in the morning to the sound of chimp calls. Greystoke has six beautifully airy open-fronted bandas or beach huts made from old dhow wood that blend beautifully into their natural surroundings, each with breathtaking views of the mountains and lake from a private “chill-out” deck. You’ll start your mornings with breakfast in the camp’s beachfront dining room next to the lapping lake with views of the Congo’s hazy mountains in the distance and wait with excited anticipation to hear what the trackers have discovered the chimps are up to. Chimp trekking takes place every day, where you’ll join Greystoke’s expert chimp trackers - some of whom are locals who have spent their whole lives observing the animals - for an unforgettable encounter with your closest cousins in the animal kingdom. Unwind in the evenings with sunset sundowners on the old wooden dhow or a delicious dinner on the beach under the stars.

WHAT TO KNOW

Getting there:  One of many reasons Mahale Mountains National Park is so special is its distance from civilization - the nearest roads are a hundred miles away. Charter flights take off from Arusha airport on Mondays and Thursdays and take about 3-3.5 hours. The flight is followed by 90 minute ride on a dhow to reach Greystoke Mahale.

When to go: The region experiences a dry season from June to October when the temperatures rise and you’ll see the chimps at lower elevations. The green season is November to March, the sky is usually clear with views of the Congo in the distance and the forest is lush and filled with wildflowers and butterflies.

Restrictions: Children eight years old and above are welcome at Greystoke Mahale but must be at least 12 to participate in chimp trekking. All guests will wear surgical masks while in the vicinity of the chimpanzees as the animals are so closely related to humans that they’re susceptible to catching our germs.

Combine: We recommend the Mahale chimpanzee experience as an extension to another more traditional safari experience in Tazania like our Mara River Crossing Safari or Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater, an alternative to a barefoot luxury beach experience in Zanzibar, Mafia Island, Thanda Island or the Seychelles.