Let’s speed up the day just for a minute. I am currently sitting in a bamboo chair writing my blog on an old wooden table facing Lake Tanganyika. My hut is beautiful. I have a huge canopy bed facing the lake with an upstairs and a private bathroom and shower in the back. What a difference between this Camp and Katavi. Let’s not put Katavi down. Don’t forget, I said Katavi is not for everyone. I had an amazing experience in Katavi that will live with me forever. Katavi is about the experience including the accommodations. This Camp is for everyone. Now that I jumped ahead let’s go back to the beginning of the day.
Of course, was woken up at five with a hot carafe of freshly pressed Tanzania coffee. Slept all night with the fan blowing on me. We then all met at the vehicles and left at six.
Sean picked out a nice tree to watch the sunrise. The sunrise did not disappoint. I wish I could watch the sunrise in Africa every day. It is that special. The sun starts to come up at around 6:30 and gradually goes up the horizon.
We then drove on to see if we could find the lions again. We found some of them, but they were sleeping under a huge tree and trying to adjust to the days heat. Yes it is “Africa Hot”. We then drove on and spotted a single young male elephant with nice size tusks. He saw us and constantly did a charge and stopped short of our vehicle. It seemed like he was playing with us and just wanted to scare us away.
We then drove on and found some more hippos in a small pond of mud trying to keep themselves cool. I love how hippos spit out the muddy water. The pictures of them in a mud pond are special.
We then drove back to Camp for breakfast, packing and to say our goodbyes to the wonderful staff. As I previously said, we are the last guests in this Camp until the first week of June. The Camp will be dismantled and stored in two large storage containers on the site.
At eleven we left Katavi Camp for our drive to the Airstrip. We got to the Airstrip at around 11:45. I had not turned on my cell phone for three days and did when we arrived. There was internet at the Airstrip. At noon we boarded our putt putt for a forty minute flight to Mahale National Park. By the way, Will was on the flight into Katavi and he and I hugged. Look up Will Burrows Lucas on u tube. I have learned so much from him and his amazing ability.
As the plane flew close and closer to Mahale, the ground became greener and greener until a deep green color when we landed. We all then had to sign in with our passport information. It is much cooler here and when we landed it was raining. I pray for this rain and much more rain to go to Katavai. Our luggage was then loaded onto an old large boat with a canopy for a ninety minute lake drive to our Camp. Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world and the second deepest. Four countries are touched by Lake Tanganyika. They are Tanzania, the Congo, Bruendi and Zaire. We passed some fishing villages and then entered Mahale. What are we doing here and why? There are no roads in Mahale. You can only reach your Camp by boat. This is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees. There are roughly eight hundred wild chimpanzees living in Mahale. Wild Chimpanzees live in families and each family has boundaries that the families honor. Chimps have a very sophisticated social structure. Our Camp is located within the boundary of the “M Group”. The M Group has about sixty members. This Group has been studied since the 1960’s by researchers and this Camp was established in the mid 1990’s. Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan have published a series of books on the Group we will be observing.
The Camp sends out trackers when the sun rises and when they find the Group they then radio back to the Camp telling us where the chimps are and how far a trek it is. You have to go on a moments notice. We are being given an orientation of what to expect and procedures for the treks. We have been already told that if anyone is sick or feels sick they could not go. A few years ago thirteen of the chimps were killed from the human flu. The day is focused around the chimps, finding them, trekking to them and taking pictures of them in this beautiful natural environment.
At seven we were given our orientation on the chimps. 98% of humans and chimps DNA are exactly the same. The trackers go out at dawn to track the chimps. Breakfast is at 7:30. We were told to dress ready to go when we eat breakfast. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants. Tuck your socks in your pants so that biting ants do not get into you. You can make eye contact with the chimps. Cannot drink nor eat while with them. There are no biting insects in the jungle and we will be under the canopy so sunglasses and sun block are not needed. Also we have to wear surgical masks right before we encounter them. If you need to go to the bathroom, ask one of the porters. We have six porters to carry our camera bags. We will be broken into two groups. We are only given one hour to study the Chimps and take pictures of them. A government ranger will be with us to make sure we all observe the rules. Pretty intense and all precautions are taken to safeguard and protect the chimps. Should be interesting. I hope we find them and I experience this unique location
Dinner was special. We were served a local fish from Lake Tanganyika. The fish is the emperor cichlid. Very soft and tasty. All the water used in the Camp comes directly from the lake. I can hear the waves from the lake as I lay under my mosquito net writing. When you travel to the places I love in Africa, you must use a mosquito net around your bed. I will be woken up at 6:30 to prepare for this experience. Of course coffee will be brought to my hut at wake up. Sean said this is a safari tradition.