A Christmas and New Year Safari
With returning guests I once again spent a full week in each of Katavi and Mahale National Parks. We flew out on December 18th to a flooded Katavi landscape. I had been a little apprehensive about the rain as reports from around the country of closed airstrips and washed away camp sites had been coming in over the safari grapevine.
I needn't have worried- the Chada Camp is well sited and getting from the airstrip and around the better used tracks was not difficult at all. In fact the heavy rain had turned the Katavi woodlands and floodplains into a garden of Eden.
My other slight worry was that with such weather perhaps the wildlife would disperse into areas we could not get access to, but as my safari companions were extra keen on birds and plant life I wasn't too concerned. It turned out that the park was bursting with wildlife. Fat hippos grazed all day in any open area - looking like giant African sheep in the meadow. Elephants were congregating in large herds of up to 400 animals and the buffalo were everywhere with such tight hides they looked almost uncomfortable.
In fact every animal looked so healthy and many had young. We saw lions of course but the 3 leopards and 11 wild dogs were an unexpected highlight indeed. The bird life was exceptional and wild flowers were coming up everywhere. We saw one Eurasian Hoopoe, a species that had never been recorded south of Arusha before - in the whole of Africa!! The bee eater species included Boehm's and Swallow Tailed. I could go on and on and on - so I won't!
Mahale Mountains came into view on our Christmas day flight there from Katavi. These Mountains always excite me and as I knew it was for a week long visit in unusual weather conditions I looked forward to an adventurous time. The Chimps were not too far away from the Greystoke camp so our first few days were spent with them - a fascinating time.
We then explored on foot and had to ford rivers that tore down the mountainside - one that was over waist deep and moving very fast. All the reed beds had been flattened along it's banks.
The rain held off and we explored south of camp in a boat for a day as well as checking out every bird we saw.
My guests were into every living thing - the butterflies were everywhere - tree frogs called constantly - bugs of every size and shape stopped us in our tracks and it was actually very difficult to get more than a mile from camp! The plant life here is so very different from Katavi. We enjoyed it all and even studied the fishes!
After dinner on New Years Eve we jumped into a boat, taking fire wood and drinks to bring in the New Year away from camp on a relatively untouched beach on the wild shores of my favorite lake- the magnificent Lake Tanganyika.
Our flight to Arusha on New Years day was initially worrying because of a wind swept lake and low clouds but became so very wondrous after we were airborne. These bush pilots are great at what they do. The route to Tabora where we refuel takes us over the Ugalla Game Reserve. It looked so flooded below us, hundreds of water courses were overflowing.
At that moment I was very glad not to be leading a Congo River Expedition!!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR