Update on Leora’s photographic safari to Tanzania! Leora picks up where we heard from her last, which was en route from the Serengeti to Mahale Mountains National Park:
En-route to the airstrip we stopped in to visit the new Lemala Kuria Hills Camp, which is lovely. We then flew from the Serengeti to Tabora Airstrip (in the middle of nowhere) to refuel! Then continued another 1.5 hours to Mahale Mountains National Park. On arrival we had a 1 hour 20 minute boat ride into camp. We were greeted on arrival by about 20 staff members willing and ready to welcome us into their lovely camp for our next two nights. We chose to drop off our bags, catch a quick lunch and then head out into the sunset on Lake Tanganyika to enjoy our first refreshing swim in what is known as the second largest fresh water lake in the world. It was truly invigorating! One by one we jumped off the side of the boat into the depths of the lake (they say no crocs come this deep!). This set the tone for the rest of our stay – no shoes, just swimsuit and kikoi, when not chimp trekking of course. Dinner was served around a long table planted on their white sandy beach and consisted of delicious veggie soup, pork, veggies and peach crumble for our sweet tooth.
This morning we were woken by short rains around 7am for brekkie, then had to wait patiently to be told by the trackers the time of departure for our first chimpanzee trek into the mountains, which are located right behind the camp. Time determined, off we set to find this 60-strong community of chimps deep in the Mahale forest. Although I have been fortunate to trek gorillas in Rwanda, it is still a little intimidating not knowing what to expect. I did however assume these chimps would be a little more docile than their cousins the gorilla, but boy was I in for a surprise. About an hour into our hike up the Mahale Mountain range we started to hear their pan hooting calls. Shortly after, two of them literally came crashing through the bush and ran past us. After lots of screams and what seemed like chaos among the community our guide informed us they were challenging each other, but not to worry, just stand still and observe them. Don’t, however, stare them in the eyes! This show and chaos went on for just over an hour and at times I had to grip our guide Mwiga’s hand. It is truly quite intimidating to be standing in their environment, observing their strange behavior. One of the males who was challenging the alpha had been bitten on his feet and hands just minutes before we arrived and the screams were penetrating. He then dashed past us and went and lay on the ground proceeding to lick his very painful wounds. Our guide was sad as he knows this community of troops very well and did not like to see such behavior. The injured chimp was one of his favorites. Mwiga has been with this community over the past 14 years, he knows every little detail about them, and this is what was so fascinating about our experience. We were standing there watching this show with Mwiga giving us the running commentary on exactly what was going on. It felt quite surreal.
After our hour with these chimps we slowly made our way back to camp. A tasty hot lunch was waiting for us – possibly the best pizza I have eaten, served with fresh salad. After a rest and time to take in what we had experienced this morning, we took the boat out. First stop to see the hippos. Under the clear blue waters we could see their large bodies running beneath our boat and a few crocs slithering in as we slowly made our way along the shoreline. We caught our fresh fish for dinner, brought it back to camp, where the chef cleaned and cooked it for us for dinner.
Another amazing day in Africa….so much to offer, it’s mind blowing!
Continue to follow Leora’s adventures on our blog. Her next stop is the Selous where she’ll spend a night fly camping before heading home. As soon as she gets to the airport in Dar es Salaam, she’ll try to get some photos uploaded!
If this has provided enough of a tease that you’re ready to experience a photographic safari to Tanzania for yourself, call Rothschild Safaris at 1-800-405-9463. We look forward to planning your trip!