Since my first visit to Africa 13 years ago, The Mahale Mountains and Katavi National Park in remote Western Tanzania, have long been high on my list of places to visit in Africa! So I was thrilled when at last I got the chance to explore a couple of Africa’s wildest and most remote corners.
A lion protecting his kill
It all got off to a great start when shortly after landing in Katavi National Park we spotted two leopards taking a nap high in the branches of trees on the way into camp. During our stay we saw some phenomenally good game, including a pride of lion on a hippo kill and one evening we watched with a spotlight as a lionesses attempted to bring down another hippo –thankfully for the hippo it was a slightly half-hearted attempt as she wasn’t very hungry! Another morning we were having a bush breakfast under a tree watching a vast pod of hippo jostling for space in one of the last remaining waterholes, when a breeding herd of elephant strolled to within meters of where we were standing to drink from a waterhole. These elephants were all very relaxed as they ambled into our space and it was an absolute privilege to be so close.
Hippos jostling for space
Camping in the bush
We were lucky enough to spend one night at Katavi’s fly-camp – which must be one of the most magical ways to spend a night in the African bush. We had a lovely game drive into camp where a bush shower had been set up underneath a tree with views over the plains and the animals grazing. After an atmospheric candle-lit dinner (with a white table cloth!) we slept on very comfortable roll mats under a mosquito net so we could gaze at the carpet of stars above while listening to the call of lions and hyenas in the distance.
A distant leopard
The next stop was Greystoke Mahale on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. After a longish flight and an hour in the dhow it was wonderful to catch first sight of the lodge on the beach, nestling below the lush green Mahale Mountains. The six thatched, open fronted cottages are all tucked into the trees along the edge of the beach. Each morning we all met at breakfast to see whether the trackers had located the family of habituated chimpanzees who live in the forest above the lodge. Everyone wanted to know how long the trek would be, which can vary from anything from 6 hours to 10 mins or sometimes the chimps even come down onto the beach to feed from the mango trees. The trek through the forest was relatively easy and we would find the family of chimps relaxing on the path grooming each other, another time they were swinging through the branches above us calling loudly and on our third trek we had to follow them at quite a pace as they moved through the thick undergrowth. It was amazing to spend time with our closest relations and watch them interacting, using tools to dig termites out of a tree or a mother cuddling her infant – it was clear that we haven’t moved on so very far!
Spotted – a chimp swinging in the trees
My final stop was at Lamai Serengeti, one of my favorite lodges in this wonderful area of Northern Tanzania. It was lovely to be back, the view was just as breath-taking as ever, the grasses shorter and we were fortunate that the tail end of the wildebeest migration was still milling around these vast plains. It was wonderful to wake up one morning to a beautiful sunrise and to hear the grunting of the wildebeest below. We had some fabulous game drives in this delightful quiet area – spending sunset with a mother leopard and her cub as they were basking on a rock, and coming across a fresh wildebeest kill on a morning walk – we suspected hyena to be the culprit. The area around Lamai Serengeti is one of east Africa’s little gems – it has the wildebeest in residence at around the same time as they are found in the Maasai Mara, but of course the Lamai area does not have the crowds.
It was wonderful to spend time in some of the more off-the-beaten track corners of Tanzania, beautiful unspoiled locations, excellent guides to bring the experience to life and incredible wildlife…what Africa is all about.
To find out more on Tanzania, give one of our Africa specialists a call on 020 8682 5070.