Greystoke Mahale

The Original Mahale Camp

Greystoke Mahale is nestled on a white sand beach in Lake Tanganyika. Towering behind the lodge are the Mahale Mountains, home to one of the largest known populations of wild Chimpanzees left on our planet.

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Tue, Sep 29, 2015

Mysteries of a Mysterious Bird

The Holy-grail of forest birds must be, most definitely in my eyes, the Narina Trogon. As with most forest birds they are incredibly elusive, this entertains some mysteries to such birds. Over the past few very dry weeks in Mahale, the thinning forest has allowed for some good sightings in and around camp.

A French Explorer and Ornithologist by the name Francois Le Vaillant gave this Trogon its name after spending many years traveling around South Africa from the late 1700's. From where he derived the name 'Narina' is somewhat of a mystery to historians. During his time in South Africa, he made use of a very skilled Khoikhoi tracker by the name of Klaas, they became very close friends over the years. In Khoikhoi the word for flower is 'Narina' and maybe Klaas gave such a description to influence the name.  

What is known for sure is that Le Vaillant named the Klaas's Cuckoo, another bird that frequents Greystoke, after his Khoikhoi friend. But for the Trogon there is speculation of a Khoikhoi mistress of Le Vaillant, her name being 'Narina'. Whether he named this bird after her is not well recorded, given the timeframe, but it is a belief of many. This would make the Klaas's Cuckoo and Narina Trogon the only two birds named after indigenous people of Africa.

This dazzling bird has evaded my lens for many years. Its habit of showing its green back to any threat camouflages it in the canopy. It will often perch without moving for extended periods, patiently waiting for a passing insect to feed on. 

Finally one lucky morning I managed to snap the above photograph, it may not portray the crimson front but illustrates how it hides itself using its canopy colouration. It is an image I have longed to capture and once again I owe a dream come true to magical Mahale.

Fri, Sep 25, 2015


The common term for going out trekking in the jungle looking for Chimpanzee's is 'chimping' but recently our Pseudospondias Microcarpa (a big fruit tree) between our kitchen and office has started fruiting. So with the chimps in camp this evolves to 'Champing'.

The tree in question has very dense foliage and the fruit is mostly on the upper crown, which makes it tough to view the chimps, mostly giving one a stiff neck from tilting the head back and scouring the tree top.

But don't worry about your neck too much, as if you are lucky we will hear the chimps making their pant hoot racket on their way, giving us a chance to ready ourselves. Here Darwin makes his entrance into camp with a quick glance in at the kitchen before climbing into the upper branches. 

After feeding on the small oblong black fruits for some time, the chimps will descend. Hopefully after a good feeding they take some time for a bit of grooming and relaxing around the base of the tree in and around camp. Emory and Bonobo take a minute to check themselves outside our guides rooming. 

Sometimes the whole family comes in for a bit of dinner before retreating back into the jungle for a night in the tree top nests. Quanato with her daughter Quilt, who holds her yet named baby sister.

Once the activities are complete its time to move on to find some shade to rest in or find a suitable spot to spend the night. Teddy making his way along our service paths on his way out.

A speedy descent from our big tree makes it tough to get a clear image of our relatives on their way down, but occasionally someone will stop and pose before hitting the ground to carry on with their day. 

Tue, Aug 18, 2015

Beach Birding

Along the beach at Greystoke one can always find a few feathery friends. One simply must look a little bit closer at the bushes and some true gems will start to shine.

The sunbirds found all over Africa with their iridescence are one of my favourite bird species to photograph, they come in a multitude of colours and can always be found getting nectar from some of the wild flowers which allows for a quick snap before they move on.

The Common Sandpiper is a regular visitor to the beach and can often be seen running along the shoreline of the lake, but you must be quick to snap a photograph as they dont hang around for long. 

The Red-capped Robin-chat has long been a personal favourite, but always skulking in the shadows makes them a tough subject. These very shy birds are one of the best songsters in the bush and one will often here them imitating other species, so if you fancy whistling this bird will often come in for an inspection and try out your tune. 

One pretty little bird you can always hear tinkering away along Greystoke's beach is this Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird. Very territorial birds that can easily be tempted into a good viewing by imitating their call.

We just can't get enough of these Pygmy Kingfishers, such striking colours, they make your day that much better here at Greystoke when you manage to spot one, there are two races in East Africa, this is the race more commonly found in southern Africa, that blueish tinge above its white neck spot is the differing factor.

This is a juvenile Klaas's Cuckoo a naughty bird because in this plumage it's quite difficult to distinguish between the juvenile African Emerald Cuckoo. But in the end that white patch behind its eye tells us this. They can also be classified as naughty birds as with all Cuckoos they rely on other birds to incubate their eggs and bring up their young, this Klaas's Cuckoo specifically using the Collared Sunbird as it's brood parasite.

Of course there is one bird that is a lot easier to find than all the above ones, he is always around, posing for anyone that wants, even a macro shot if you can avoid his bill.

Wed, Aug 5, 2015

Caesar’s Rise

One Chimp that holds a very special place in our hearts is Caesar, he was one of the first Chimps that we saw when first setting foot in Mahale 1 year ago. He is a teenage male that some believe holds very high expectations. His pale freckled face gives him a distinguished feature, making him easy to spot a long way off. 

He is a bit of a 'Mummy's Boy,' often in the presence of his high ranking mother Cynthia who has a young baby boy yet to be named at the moment and a sister who died at the age of 4 before being named. 

Here Caesar and his mother do the diagnostic Mahale 'hand-clasp,' a grooming technique that has many different versions among Chimpanzees but this one unique to our Mahale Chimps.

As a teenage Chimp, Caesar is starting to push his limits, taking on the other young chimps as well as those passed their prime. He is showing much gain over the past few weeks and taking dominance over many other males forcing his way into the M-group hierarchy. 

With a face like this, could you stare him down? His mother's high rank among the females gives him somewhat of a head start in the race to the top of the Males, but still in his teens he is yet to reach his prime. 

But with high hopes of his recent endevours, the name Caesar might just prove to be a well chosen one, relating the name to the famous Roman leaders or Caesar the leader of the Apes in the modern Planet of the Apes films.

If, in years to come, he does manage to rise to the top of the M-community, we are sure with his softer side along with his value of family will make him a leader of poise and modesty.

Wed, Jul 15, 2015

Pangolin Rush

When you are called with excitement 'RUN, QUICKLY, BRING YOUR CAMERA, QUICKLY, NOW!' Your adrenalin starts pumping, and mind starts wondering. What on earth has created so much excitement from the forest, could it be Chimps swimming in the lake, could it be a pair of Leopards playing cards or could it be 'a Pangolin'? 

If you had to ask most guides in Africa what is the one animal that has evaded their careers and a solid majority will have to say the Pangolin. So for us this was our first and hopefully not last, but if it was the last we could still die happy with just seeing the one.

It was spotted by our boat driver running from the beach to the forest. We followed him for several minutes crashing through the undergrowth before he returned to the beach giving us a solid half hour of viewing pleasure.

Of the four species found in Africa, this is the Ground Pangolin, it's large round edged scales seen above tell us that. These scales are made of keratin, the same stuff as your fingernails and Rhino horns. These scales are soft at birth and harden later on and are used in defense, as when the Pangolin is threatened it will roll up into a tight ball that is just about impenetrable.

We were very grateful to this amazing animal for showing itself in daylight as they are generally nocturnal, hence the dificulty in seeing them. We can only hope that one day we come across another one.


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