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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Fri, Nov 27, 2015

Cheeky Chimps

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.

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.


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