July 2011 Greystoke and Mahale revisited for 14 days
Please click on any image for an larger version and a slideshow
This visit of two weeks is not only my longest visit but only the second time I have been here and been free to explore and concentrate on my photography. In 1989 I came to Mahale for the very first time and those first 10 days make quite an impression, it was my honeymoon after all! After the Greystoke camp was established in 1991 I returned for either 3 or 4 or sometimes 7 nights, usually once or twice a year as part of a Tanzania safari. What has changed I ask myself? Surprising little is the answer, a few more visitors and certainly lots more sophistication in camp operations, but these are surface things. The soul of these mountains and the peace of ambling around the forest trail remain just as it was in 1989. The excitement and challenge of birding here is ever present and as my photography has improved (well I think so) I'm thrilled this time to try and capture the chimpanzees in images I can share. The forest, the Lake and the ambience here are a constant joy to me, they are indeed just the same as when I first came. It is rare to feel that way about a place these days.
Encounters with individual chimps I've known for years are of course rather special. And to think that Kalunde, the oldest chimp and I are only a few years apart in age and that I have possibly seen him every year for over 22 years is bringing home to me the passage of time and the extraordinary success of Mahale National Park. He's certainly still able to hike these mountains much better than I ever have. His political skills are legendary, his nick name ' The King Maker ' deserved. When I find the time I plan to dig up my old slides from the earlier visits and perhaps, with the help of the guides in Mahale, I can find a series of past photos for each of the older chimps that I photograph on this visit.
Here’s Kalunde in a thoughtful mood.
I still feel that the Nomad camps in Mahale and Chada in Katavi are the best the west has on offer.
Greystoke is a busy camp and over the 14 nights there only 2 nights were not completely full. July and August are always full, September less so. The sheer volume of supplies, plane flights and meet and greets, departures and boat trips that camp managers have to organize in this remote place is incredible and I’m glad not to be doing it. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…..I apologize for the number but I hope you enjoy these images below and get a chance to visit Mahale at least once in your life.- Check out the update at the end.
UPDATE. As I write this in October news that the alpha male of the chimp group has been murdered by the other males just came in. Read more on the Nomad website