Mahale Mountains, Lake Tanganyika and western Tanzania, Tanzania
At a Glance
Go trekking in the Mahale Mountains for Chimps
Sundowners on the dhow
Swim in the clear waters of Lake Tanganyika
Relax on the beach
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
Greystoke Mahale is closed from mid March to late May.
The dry season in Mahale starts in June, when the long rains have stopped, and goes through to October. At this time of year the temperatures increase and the skies are quite hazy, the lake has never been more appealing for a cooling dip. As the dry season progresses, the chimps are more usually found in the lower slopes due to their favorite fruits being found lower down.
Mahale's green season runs from November through to March and this time of year is a photographers dream; the haze often prevalent through the dry season is washed away. The forest offers varied viewing, although the forest is at its best, full of the color of wildflowers, birds and butterflies. The lake is clearest in these months with incredible views of the Congo in the distance.
To start planning your vacation to Greystoke Mahale
Greystoke Mahale enjoys a breathtaking position on a golden beach along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, sheltered by the lush forest of the Mahale Mountains. This isolated setting is home to the world's largest known population of chimpanzees.
On a wide golden beach along the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, sheltered by the lush green forests of the Mahale Mountains, is the magical sanctuary of Greystoke Mahale. One group of chimpanzees is within hiking distance, and each day you can venture out into the forest to observe our closest relatives as they groom, wrestle and forage across the leafy floor. Chimp trekking time is variable, and is dependent on where the chimps are that day. Whilst they can be in the forest right behind camp, they can also be far up the mountain and a possible 5 - 7 hour trek away. The forest paths are not always steep, but the walking can be strenuous so it helps if you're fairly fit. Good sturdy but lightweight walking boots/shoes are a must.
After landing at the airstrip, guests are transferred by boat to camp and welcomed into the main bar and dining area. The accommodation has been designed with flair and is made up of six wildly exotic wooden bandas looking out across the soft sand beach, their interiors fashioned from seasoned dhow timber. Each banda is open-fronted, with dressing room, adjoining bathroom and upstairs chill-out deck. With no roads for miles and miles, everything is done by foot or by boat. And if a day’s ’chimping’ isn’t enough, you can kayak along the lake shore, snorkel, fish (on a catch and release basis), or have a private barefoot dinner on the beach. The bar on the rocks is the perfect place to enjoy endless sundowners over the lake.
By visiting Mahale, you’re also helping to support the most vulnerable members of your extended family. Habitat loss is the greatest single threat to animal extinction today, but the National Park fees levied to visitors here make sure this particular habitat remains secure - not just for over 1000 wild chimpanzees, but a vast array of other living things
The six open-fronted thatched banda cottages are set just on the forest line, looking out over the lake, with dressing rooms behind and upstairs chill-out decks. The bathrooms are set back, and accessible via a short wooden boardwalk. They all have flush loos and powerful showers, with hot and cold water available on demand.
There are 6 double banda cottages all of which overlook the beach and lake beyond. The en-suite bathroom is just a short board-walk from the room, bathrooms have hot showers and a flush toilet. All the bandas have a private 'chill-out' deck.
Greystoke Mahale is delighted to accept children of 8 years and over, but please note that only children of 12 and over can view the chimps. Meals and timings can be adapted to suit children and babysitting can also be arranged for those that need it.
The main dining area is a huge thatched building on the beach loosely modelled on traditional Tongwe architecture. It sits beneath the soaring mountains and from here you can dine on decliscious cuisine, or gaze at the stars over cocktails at the bar on the rocks.
Every morning, trackers go out early to find the chimp's, then after breakfast guests head off along the forest paths until surrounded by the calls of chimps. You can then sit quietly for 1 hour with them watching their daily life; grooming, wrestling, foraging, eating, and mothering. You can also observe leopard, bushbuck, bushpig, and a multitude of birds and butterflies.
Other activities from camp include swimming, kayaking, sundowners on a dhow sailing on Lake Tanganika and guided nature walks.
Louisa Verney (Staff)
Greystoke Mahale epitomizes shipwreck chic where you feels as though you have been washed up on a white sand beach on the remote shores of Lake Tanganika. Much of the furniture has been constructed from old dhows and mokoros. All of the six open fronted thatched cottages are nestled in amongst the trees and have views across the beach to the crystal clear waters of the lake beyond.
Each morning the guests meet in the main area for breakfast everyone buzzing with excitement about where the chimps are and how long will the trek be to find them. The walk can be anything up to about 4 hours and sometimes they even wander down onto the beach to graze on the mango trees.
I had the most magical few days at Greystoke Mahale and was looked after so well by everyone. From chimp trekking, kayaking on the clear blue waters of the lake and going fishing there was a wonderful balance of relaxing and being actives - making it a wonderful addition to a traditional safari in
Louisa Verney (Staff)
We were all laying splayed out, soaking up the sun, on the front of the dhow. We had been there for about an hour and a half when one of the guides called to us to let us know that we would be there in a couple of minutes. As we all came out of our jaded states, the beauty of the Greystoke beach appeared around the corner.
A long strip of golden sand, being lapped up by a crystal-clear blue lake. We drifted further around the corner and the fabulous main area of Greystoke Mahale stood there, in all its glory. It looked fantastic with its shaggy thatch drooping down off the roof.
The beach is surrounded by the thick jungle of Mahale that is home to the chimpanzees. We pushed up on to the sand and disembarked our dhow. We were greeted by the fantastic Steve and Kiri, the current managers at Greystoke and were shown to our bandas by some of the guys who look after the guests and the camp.
The bandas are great, set back from the lake slightly, built out of distressed wood with heavy thatched roofs. The beds look directly out on to the lake (which, by the way, is so large that you can't see the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the other side of it!). The dressing area is behind your bed area and your bathroom, with running water and flush loo, is set back behind that. There is a little chill-out area above your bedroom, which you reach by climbing up a ladder which is really a dug-out canoe.
Later that afternoon, about an hour before sunset, we headed off in our dhow for one of my most memorable evenings of the trip. Armed with nothing but a fishing line and a hook we took it in turns to try our hand at catching fish. The truth is, there are so many fish in the lake that you don't even need bait to catch something! We all came home with something, be it a meter long Perch or a foot long Kuhay. We all felt incredibly proud of ourselves... the guys knew better. We arrived back at camp as the sun set and our Kuhay was whisked away to the kitchen. It reappeared later, as we were sat at the bar set on the rocks, as the freshest sushi I have ever eaten. With their own soy sauce mix, and fantastically hot wasabi, all eight of us devoured our catch so quickly that the next night they had to bring out a double portion!
The next day we went chimp tracking. I'll never forget this day and I still smile stupidly as I remember it. We set off at about 9.30am, having been ready from about 8am, we had to wait for news from the trackers who they send up before you to find out whether you're likely to see something. We were all in such good spirits, excited and nervous about seeing our closest living relatives in the wild. Probably for the only time in my life. After a few hours, tempers were beginning to fray as we hauled ourselves up steep pathways which had just been created by our Scouts and their trusted machetes. Everyone was hot and tired and flustered but then we heard news. The chimps were just a short walk further. After the hours we had done already, a few hundred meters seemed like nothing... we picked up the pace and then we heard something. One chimpanzee calling to another! And then Viennay, one of our guides pointed to something moving in the distance.
It was better than I had imagined. We crept up, slowly and cautiously. We all found our own space and no one talked. For about an hour, we just sat there, high in the Mahale Mountains watching, in silence. Every now and then someone would gesture to one of the chimps doing something uncannily human and we would watch in awe as a mother helped her baby across from one tree to another. Time stood still and I could have spent all day up there as one of the chimps looked me dead in the eye for a good few minutes as he played with his foot. One of the other guides gestured that it was time to go; we had spent our hour with them. This is all you are allowed to spend with them to ensure that the chimps don't become to accustomed to human presence.
That was a fantastic day at a truly fantastic place.
Lake Tanganyika is beautiful and somewhere I will never forget.
Chimpanzee tracking in Mahale
Hiking through the verdant forest in the Mahale mountains in search of chimpanzees is a heart-racing experience. Watch as these primate cousins stop to groom, eat and build nests in their natural habitat, accompanied by an expert guide.
Kayaking on Lake Tanganyika
Paddle along the sand-lined shore of Lake Tanganyika, Africa's deepest body of water, enjoying the tranquillity and dramatic scenery around you.
Katavi National Park & Mahale Mountains
from $9100 pp 8 nights
- Impeccable and friendly service
- Delicious breakfasts with a different flavour smoothie each morning
- Iced water in cool boxes for every couple on the beach
Location & directions
Mahale Mountains, Lake Tanganyika and western Tanzania, Tanzania
Kangwena Beach on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, in the Mahale Mountains National Park, western Tanzania.
How to get there
8-hour 30-minute international flight from London to Nairobi and then Arusha. There are no roads within 60kms of camp, and access is only by aircraft using their shared charter flights which operate on Mondays and Thursdays only from Arusha, or by private charter. Greystoke Mahale is a 90-minute dhow trip from the airstrip.