Part 2: Another wonderful visit to Mahale
Flying into the Mahale Airstrip couldn’t be more different than the Mara River experience. It always feels as thou you have reached the West coast of Africa.
Lake Tanganyika is everywhere ahead. Fishing villages dot the shore and The Mahale mountains look dwarfed by the scale of the lake. Our following days on boats, hiking the mountain trails and lazing on the beach or swimming in the lake’s cool waters was just the tonic everyone needed. Being in safari vehicles for long periods is not good for youngsters is it?
And many an adult in our group was itching to get out and hike.
Our boat rides were a pleasure and our tents delightful - we certainly didn’t rough it!
Meeting guides, rangers and children is often interesting and can be such fun.
We had come to view chimpanzees in the wild, to have an insight into our ‘supposed’ nearest relatives. It is always a delight to watch a certain realization grow in the mind’s eye of visitors.
Spending your first hours with either wild orangutans, gorillas or chimpanzees is one of those moments in life that wildlife lovers never ever forget.
Comments such as “ I can’t believe how human they appear” or “ how could you doubt evolution after such an encounter” or “ that one chimp reminds me of David “! “ but it was a girl chimp wasn’t it?” “ I think it was a boy wasn’t it?””wasn’t that baby cute”!
And meeting the wild chimps of Mahale can be life changing.
Our guides were outstanding and patient, they are key to this experience. It is up to me to piece it all together in a lecture to explain just why such National Parks are special and of such importance. I explained the evolution by River basin theory proposed a few years ago by Jonathan Kingdon in his wonderful book ‘Lowly Origins’. Basically he argues that around 12-15 million years ago a very dry period in Africa’s climatic history started and the ape types of then, that were widespread, would have been isolated either side of a north south running line which suddenly became very arid and hostile to ape type animals. This proposed ‘Kingdon’s line or gap’ would have run from Ethiopia to South Africa, effectively cutting off any contact between these two groups of ape like species. Predecessors of chimps and gorillas on one side and our lineage and others on the other side to the East. Kingdon argues that the Eastern group would have sought refuge in the many coastal forests and over time have wandered up stream to the highlands of Eastern and Southern Africa.
He points to the major hominid fossil finds at watersheds in The Ethiopian, Kenyan and South African Rift Valleys and Mountain ranges to support this isolation idea. A fascinating theory indeed.
I see you watching me- isolated no longer eh?
Remember that you must wear a surgical mask when in close proximity to your closest relatives! They can catch your flu viruses!
My lectures are designed to encourage further reading and there is no keener audience that those that have just spent exciting hours with wild chimpanzees.
See Part 3 of our Safari which was spent in the land of big beasts - Katavi National Park.
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Next page: Part 3: The land of large beasts. Katavi National Park