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.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016
Some lucky residents of Tanzania were very fortunate last week to have the opportunity to meet the eminent primatologist and advocate of world peace Jane Goodall when she visited Arusha.
Jane still spends 300 days of the year travelling the globe as an ambassador for chimpanzees and highlighting the importance of conservation, the protection of their habitats and more recently caring for the human element that effects the protection of all species the world over.
Jane's original location to study the chimpanzees, that she started 55 years ago at Gombe Stream, is just 170kms North of us here in Mahale on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, which makes us neighbours in African terms!
Our own habituated group of chimps in Mahale is also part of long standing research from Kyoto University who celebrated it's 50th year of continuous research last year.
With all these great minds of scientific research surrounding us we feel very lucky to be able to learn from them especially our Nomad guides who are our very own ambassadors for the chimpanzees.
Their passion and knowledge of the chimps and their environment is inspiring and infectious! They know our group of chimps like they know their own families having spent most of their lives growing up with them and have many stories to tell that unfold each day.
Butati Nyundo is one of our lucky guides that had the pleasure of meeting Jane, here is a little more about him and the experience….
How long have you been a guide and what inspired you to become one?
My Father who lives in our local village, Katumbi, worked as an assistant with the Japanese researchers from the very beginning until 2012. So from at least age 5 I used to see the chimps around the research camp. My first memory of seeing the chimps was back when they were still habituating them using sugar cane and bananas. A lower ranking male came in to the field where they grew sugar cane and took all the sugar cane before any of the others could get any! A high ranking male then charged in and got so angry that there was none left for him so he attacked the other male, kicking him and standing on his back and head! The strength he had was the first thing that moved me.
After listening to all the stories my Father used to tell about the chimpanzees I wanted to study sciences and work with wildlife. But my Father had other ideas and wanted me to go to the government school. After high school, in 2008 I got a job as a Guide for Mahale National Park. I had no knowledge other than what I knew from my Father, I pushed myself to learn from books, asking questions from the researchers, assistants and from the guides working at Greystoke. After some time I was lucky enough to be sponsored by one of the researchers for a scholarship to Mweka Wildlife College in Kilimanjaro to study for a Diploma in Wildlife Management.
I then volunteered at the local Primary and Secondary schools teaching Biology and Geography for 5 months before joining Mahale NP again as a guide. Although I loved teaching and think this is an important part of conservation, I wanted to work with wildlife and continue my teaching of these issues through what I now do as a guide for Nomad at Greystoke.
Butati's passion for the chimps and the environment shines through in his storytelling
What makes the Mahale Mountains so special?
The location is incredible, crystal clear water and the beauty of the environment. The chimps here are very unique compared to other groups because of the differences of the ant fishing, grooming and courtships, this makes it very special. Also the variety of plants and butterflies. It's very hard to leave Mahale, when I am away from the mountains I always miss it and want to come back!
Who is your favourite chimp in the M group?
I have 3!!
Alofu (age 33) for his amazing personality, as human beings we can learn from him about democracy. He peacefully stepped down to allow his Alfa status to be taken. He's gentle and not violent in any way. He takes great care of his Mother Wakusi, because of this she is the oldest female in the community at 54 years of age. He's a real gentleman - we can all learn from him.
Michio (age 19) He's more or less like a replica of Alofu! He spends a lot of time with Alofu and learns from him. I consider him to be the next Alpha as he is strong but gentle towards his fellow chimps.
And the unnamed baby who is the son of Cynthia - he is the cutest baby! He's got a bright pink face which I think will make him the most handsome chimp out of all of them!
Alofu - Number 2 ranking male - the gentleman of the group!
For someone who hasn't seen chimps in the wild can you describe the experience of seeing them for the first time?
It's a very different experience each time you see them. Every time something different is happening. They can be peacefully grooming, caring for their babies, mating, fishing for ants, fighting over food or showing off a display of dominance which can be nerve wracking for the first time! Depending on what they are doing your opinion will change. Some guests feel like they have just stepped into a domestic dispute when that happens! Others are shocked when they witness chimps hunting red colobus monkeys as they assume chimps are cute fluffy peaceful animals! Either way you will come away exhilarated at being so close to our closest living relatives and seeing how similar we actually are.
So, what was it like meeting Jane Goodall?
It was emotionally moving for me, I was very excited it was a dream come true and found it hard to control my emotion when first meeting her! I have read a few of her books but grew up knowing she is such an inspiration to children and everyone who loves wildlife and nature.
I got to chat with her personally and found her to be very kind towards me, she was impressed that I was the only Tanzanian that asked her a question at the group dinner.
What did you ask her and what was her response?
I believe that the current challenge we have with conservation is the uncontrolled population growth in communities living adjacent to protected areas. People in those communities would like to have as many children as possible just because they can. They believe that having a small number of children increases your risk of loosing them to illness and that every child is born with their own fortune, so having as many children as you can means they can go off and find their own opportunities and the extended families in the community will take care of them. It's also a way of continuing the family name.
The medical care today has improved and now overpopulated communities are turning to natural resources for survival, clearing forests for farming, firewood, fuel and settlements, encroaching on the National Parks and protected areas.
I asked Jane: As you are very inspirational and influential have you ever tried to convince people to practice family planning in the communities living adjacent to protected areas either in your projects or personally?
I think this is the right time for a person like you and others like you to go out there and preach this as an important message, as it's the only way to save our natural resources. Even my Father had 13 children and I do not wish to follow him! I have twins and that's enough!
Jane was very happy that this question was raised by me and asked everyone in the room to praise me for asking such an important question! In her response she said she started to raise the issue of family planning but faced difficulties from the government and human rights organisations so she decided not to continue. She said she sees it's not a good thing here and will continue to raise it in her talks and school visits.
She said there are still lots of things to study not just chimps and even after her 55 years of research there is still so much more we don't know about, for example the migrating butterflies from Kenya to Moshi in Tanzania and various otter examples.
She is such an inspiration and I was truly lucky to have the chance to meet with her.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016
I am very sad to be writing a blog under these circumstances and it is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all Big Bird's fans that he is no longer with us following a tragic boat accident on the morning of the 21st February.
Please read on to remember our beloved BB...
In late October of 2013 a young grey Pelican washed up on the beach here at Greystoke Mahale. He was blown off course from his flock in a big storm, alone and bewildered he definitely landed on the right beach! I am sure nobody expected what would become of him…
Taken in by the Greystoke family the previous managers Jeff and Kerrie nurtured this ugly pelican, teaching him to fly and taking him out on daily fishing trips in their kayak. Over time he blossomed into the most magnificent handsome Great White Pelican and they aptly named him "Big Bird".
And big he most certainly was, in size, in character, but most of all his big heart that made many of the lucky ones that met him fall in love with him.
Slowly but surely he gained a following and with the overnight success of his youtube video with over 5 million hits I doubt there is another Pelican out there that rivals his popularity.
Big Bird started to realise this and became a bit of a diva with it! His attention seeking behaviour often getting him in to trouble, fiercely intelligent he always knew how to test his adoptive parents and loved teasing the rest of the staff making them run circles around him! A favourite of his would be to pick up guest's sunglasses, books and hats…once he got bored of that he would dash inside the mess and hide under the dinner table in between the guests legs hoping we wouldn't see him! Not wanting to share the limelight with anyone else, if there was ever any book or picture with a chimp on it, that would promptly be picked up and thrown in the lake!
Cam and I have been very privileged to take the mantel of BB's parents for the last 16 months and believe me it's been a full time job! He very quickly bonded with Cam (usually preferring men over women - although he'd give me cuddles when no one was looking!) and they would spend their days swimming, fishing, kayaking, playing catch, and recently frisbee!
Loved by us all - BB was part of the family
He loved to help out with anything that was going on in camp!
He did NOT appreciate Jane Goodall stealing the show!
As he's grown up, like any teenager finding his (webbed) feet, he has tested our nerves on several occasions, heading off for the night and not returning until the next morning, and surviving a couple of adventures on the large passenger ferry even a few 'birdnapping' incidents where our guides have had to go on rescue missions…he certainly did like to be the centre of all here, this was his kingdom and he let everybody know it! He would chase off the resident warthogs from their sunbathing spot and had great fun sitting in the palm nut vultures nest parpping at them as they dive bombed him! He thought this was hilarious! But no matter what mischief he got himself up to in the day you could always be sure that he would turn up on the dot for afternoon tea as that meant joining all his new friends on the boat to catch dinner! He really did love to be surrounded by a new flock of exciting friends each week and entertained us all!
There has never been a dull moment with our BB around, he truly was a huge personality that has left an enormous hole here in Greystoke it is with the greatest sadness and heaviest of hearts that we have to announce this terrible news. He was taken too early but had a very loving and exciting life with us all here.
To the ones who got to know our friendly pelican you will have the greatest memories to treasure forever.
We would love to see any of your favourite photos of our wonderful friend please do share them with us and keep his memory alive.
We are having a new boat built for the new season and will christen it "Big Bird" in honour of our dearest friend.
He touched everybody’s hearts and truly was one of a kind.
We like to think he has now joined his big flock soaring high in the skies...
Forever young and never forgotten…
Tue, Dec 22, 2015
It's been an incredible year for Cam and I living in Mahale, the mountains hold a certain kind of magic that makes this place truly unique. The natural beauty is breathtaking and not a minute goes by without us discovering something new and wonderous that makes us feel very lucky to call this home. Living with Chimpanzees, monkeys, warthogs, leopards and a variety of other shy forest creatures is incredibly humbling but some of the best parts of living in Greystoke are the people we share it with.
Our Mahale Family have become part of us and they are the ones that create a lot of the magic here in Greystoke. We have all been very busy over the year working on behalf of the Nomad Trust and the generous donors to support Katumbi, our local lake shore village, where the majority of our team come from.
Here are some of the stories and highlights of our achievements this year….!
Guest's generous donations arrive on the shores of Lake Tanganyika at Katumbi Village
PACK FOR A PURPOSE -
Pack For A Purpose is a wonderfully simple and incredibly effective initiative that allows a traveller to locate their destination and camp online, find projects that are linked to the lodges/hotels they are staying at and select the most needed items on their list that they can pack in their luggage and bring directly to the source. Over the year we have had hundreds of kg's of items brought to the camp through this charity. It has supported our small clinic with much needed and otherwise unobtainable supplies. The school children also benefit from having sports equipment, stationary, text books and other gifts brought along and the guests enjoy visiting the village to donate these directly into the hands of the children!
To find out how you can help please click on this link: http://www.packforapurpose.org/
Hassan and Butati handing out much needed babies clothes to Nurse Elizabeth who looks after a delivers all the babies in the village!
Each year a donor will sponsor our nursery children to have porridge in the mornings - something that keeps them going throughout the day!
A big THANK YOU to Safari Tracker Adventure in Arusha http://www.safaritrackersadventure.com/ who donated for 2015 and great news that we have a wonderful donation for 2016 from Andrew and Giulia Lodder who raised the funds as part of their wedding gift from all their guests!
As part of Governemnt policy all children must have uniform to attend school, most families can only afford one set which can get a lot of use! With lots of broken zips we had a kind donation to allow us to hire a sewing "fundi" to stitch 100's of uniforms! We are in the process of raising more funds to buy the material to make shirts, skirts and shorts for all the children.
PENCILS FOR HOPE -
Last year we had two lovely guests from Germany, Fabio and Barbara, who brought 50kg of medical supplies through the 'Pack-For-A-Purpose' initiative. They then spent a life-changing day with the children in Katumbi handing out all their gifts, playing football, taking polaroid photos for the children to keep and generally having a great time meeting our local friendly residents. Since their first visit they were so inspired that they have been working very hard back in Germany over the year setting up their own charity in order to raise funds to help develop the school and the clinic. Together with Nomad Trust we have bulit a close relationship and have made some great achievements already and have many more plans in the pipeline, to find out more please see their website: http://pencils-for-hope.org/en/projekte/
The school children receiving t-shirts and stationary from Pencils For Hope
Mwiga Mambo one of our star guides at Greystoke who works as part of our Nomad Trust Committee always gets the children laughing and inspired!
He's great at football too....! Here he's taking on the local handmade football!
Pencils For Hope also donated sports equipment for the school; footballs, frisbees and skipping ropes which were a huge hit with the girls!
One of the first of their larger projects was to raise funds to build 50 desks for the school. This was very much in need as most of the children had to learn whilst sitting on a dirt floor. A great success we have just finished the first 50 desks and the children now have a better learning environment! Here's to the next 50!
The head Teacher receiving the 50 new desks with our Trust Team!
Football is BIG in Africa, and Katumbi has one of the most picturesque pitches I've ever seen!
Under the the palms and huge mango trees the village community spirit is kept alive with the thrill of a good match - lots of our guests have donated much loved footballs and kit. Our Greystoke team love to spend a rare afternoon letting off steam with a good game! They often win too!
THANK YOU Fabio and Barbara for all your compassion and hard work, we look forward to working with you next year!
ALL ABOUT THE LIGHT -
David Middleton a recent guest, runs a wonderful foundation "All About The Light" where he provides inflatable solar powered "Luci Lights" to people all over the world who have no electricity. He kindly brought with him 12 lights which he delivered to some of our well deserving residents who now benefit from having a cost free solution to cooking or studying at night rather than buying kerosene for their lanterns.
This lady now has an easier solution to looking after her 2 week old baby!
Nurse Elizabeth often has to deliver babies at night on call so now she has a portable hanging lantern to make life a little easier!
To find out more visit: http://www.allaboutthelight.org/
Hassan Rashidi - An expert chimpanzee tracker, boat driver and all round superstar!!!
Hassan works tirelessly to help his community and is the one on the ground who facilitates and oversees all of our projects out of his own will to see his community thrive. Without his good heart and the rest of our team none of these projects would be possible!
One of our major projects that Hassan finally helped realise at the beginning of this year - the building of a teacher's house to give a comfortable home to the teacher's who come from other areas. It has a prime view overlooking the forest at the top of the hill behind the school!
Butati, another of our star guides and former Katumbi resident gives a talk to the community to explain our work!
We value our relationship with our local communities and know that it's important to help them to understand why were are here and what we do, with the success of our annual football match with the schools we hosted the winning team for a day of education and a visit to the chimps! The children were blown away - let's hope we can move a step closer to helping them protect their wonderful enviroment as well as giving something back!
It's been an incredible year - THANK YOU to all who have helped make life on the lake for those in Katumbi a little bit easier!
Looking forward to what 2016 will bring!
Fri, Dec 18, 2015
The quintessential afternoon activity whilst on Safari is the 'Siesta'. The hot African sun at midday bakes the earth sending temperatures soaring, so this really means no other option tham to find a cool spot with a light breeze and get some shut-eye. Here on Lake Tanganyika our cousins have a very similar approach to facing the heat or just a full belly.
A good option, especially now that the rains have come and the ground is wet, would be to build a nest. All Chimps do this every evening but during the day for a Siesta it is not a priority. But a few folded branches in the right fashion makes for a comfy bed worth protecting.
Of course not everyone builds the perfect nest and some extra support is needed to keep oneself up in the trees.
Once the nest is perfectly made, pulling funny faces at your friends on the wet ground is a must, just to show off a little bit.
But the ground is suitably comfortable for most, Michio here shows how to make the most of nothing.
A mere yawn is enough to ward off anyone thinking you are vulnerable having a nap on the floor, Alofu shows off his fearsome teeth, I couldn't helping yawning myself.
Orion too doesn't mind a quick nap on the floor, maybe he finds it more comfy on his belly.
You might expect the Alpha Male, Primus, to have a nest prepared for him by one of his cronies, but no he doesn't mind the ground...as long as he has a few others tending to his other needs, see below.
Making the most out of nothing, a tree makes a very good head rest, keeping eyes to the tree tops to plan the next fruit raid or colobus hunt.
A meagre branch will do the trick if the floor is too wet and building a nest is too much to ask.
Sometimes that perfect fork in the tree just begs for a nap, even if only for a few minutes of shut-eye.
Of course it is never as easy for mothers, little ones know nothing of the importance of a nap, much the same as our children play time is all the time and mom is always kept up to make sure the little ones don't wonder too far. Puffy has definitely got her hands full with that cheeky little face.
Fri, Nov 27, 2015
Each Chimpanzee has its own clear cut personality just as we do. If we start delving into each one, a few of them come to mind of having somewhat of a cheeky demeanor.
The King of cheek is without a doubt Christmas. Born on Christmas Day, his birthday is around the corner and he generally knows, acting out by slapping people as he runs passed. He is however a teenage male and not as strong as he thinks, so quite often his shenanigans land him in trouble with the higher ranking males who put him in check.
Of course not all female chimps are elegant in their ways, take our friend Quilt for instance, the older daughter of Qanato who seems to drive her mother mad always running off her young sister to practice her own mothering skills. In the above photo Quilt with her little sister hanging out in a tree while mum is busy below trying to get her youngest daughter back.
Another audacious fella is Omari, the five year old son of Omo. He really is quite bold, if he thinks you are a bit close to him, he's not shy to show it, running around slapping his belly, screaming at the top of his lungs and baring all teeth. We think when he gets bigger he might be a bit scarier.
The big cheek is our Alpha Male, Primus. He has no problem throwing his weight around with a brassy smile. Here he and Alofu pant-hoot returning a call from some far away friends.
Babies mean trouble, their confident curiosity and frisky nature tends to have their mums running around all over the place. One particular little babe, that we have dubbed Peanut, the young son of Puffy, a little cavalier showing no fear of us always putting on a good show playing in the vines and trees.
When two little ones start to play it can often turn into a kicking, punching and biting match as things slowly escalate. Here Peanut, shows his force kicking a much older baby while swinging through the trees.
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