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The magic of the Mahale Mountains

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I recently returned from a month long journey to Tanzania including a stay in the Mahale mountains. A couple of people have asked me to answer some questions and share my experiences for that portion of my trip so I will start by answering the questions posed by Atravelynn and cover the basics of going to see the Chimps.... then I will dazzle you with tales of the magical mountains.....

So we booked our entire trip to Tanzania including the Mahale portion through Africa Travel Resource out of London. Our experience with this company was excellent and I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone. If anyone is interested in my dealings with ATR let me know and I will be happy to answer any questions.

ATR booked our flight to and from Mahale as well as our accommodation in advance. Due to the remote location you have to fly on a charter flight that only departs a couple days a week. We flew with Zantas Air, but there are a few companies who make the flight. There is also a boat that you can take from Kigoma, but it takes about 5 hours which does not sound like too much fun, plus you would still need to fly to Kigoma first.

Once you arrive you take a boat ride on lake Tanganiyka to your camp, depending on which camp you are staying in the ride is between 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Since the Charters only come twice a week, this determines the length of your stay at Mahale. The minimum stay is 3 nights, we stayed 4 nights, but you could stay for 7 or 10 nights or longer. 4 nights was good, I wouldn't have wanted any less, but I could have easily stayed for 7 nights and not been bored. Many tour operators combine a trip to Mahale with a Safari at Katavi for a total of 7 nights.

In the time we were there we had four encounters with the chimps. You are allowed to spend one hour each day with them, but including the hike to find them and back the whole thing usually took between 2- 4 hours a day.

When you are not with the chimps there is plenty to keep you busy at Mahale. Lake Tanganiyka (the longest in the world) is a beautiful lake and we had a lovely sandy beach for relaxing. It is safe to swim and we were provided with snorkeling gear as well as kayaks and fishing gear. You can also ask your guide to take you on additional hikes and forest walks if you are interested in seeing some of the other abundant flora and fauna of the mountains. You can also take a short boat ride to visit one of the local villages.

As far as what other wildlife you will see at Mahale... we saw a plethora or primates including: yellow baboons, red tail monkeys, vervet monkeys,red colobus monkeys,and of course the stars of the show...the chimps!
If you like birds and butterflies well you will be in heaven. The forest was teeming with them. We had a family of warthogs who visited the beach daily, including a baby and there are bushpig around as well. There are hippos here, but it is not easy to see them as they are most active at night.
There are also leopards at Mahale and although we did not see one, but we had one visit the beach at night and had it's footprints in the sand meters from our tent in the morning.

We stayed at Kungwe Beach Lodge and this was about $600/night cheaper than staying at Greystoke. I really feel like Greystoke couldn't possibly have anything more to offer for that kind of price difference. We had some friends who stayed there a week after we were at Kungwe and they said it was nice, but it felt a little too stuck up for being in a remote rustic mountain setting. Kungwe was laid back and friendly. The food was amazing, the staff were brilliant and the tents were very nice.... built up on platforms with thatched roofs, four poster beds and en-suite bathrooms.
There is also a fly camp called flycatchers that is semi-permanent.... setting up and taking down the camp seasonally. We visited their camp and it was very basic, but probably a lot cheaper.

Mahale is an expensive destination, but worth every penny in my opinion. We paid $900/night (full board for 2 people) for our camp, our charter flight cost us $1000/person (return) and there were daily park fees on top of that. The experience does not come cheap, but this was just the most unforgettable, heart pounding, amazing adventure of a lifetime and I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.

So I hope that answered some of your questions....
more to come on our magical stay at Mahale

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