NEXT STOP: Living Legend
It’s worth going way off the beaten path to Tanzania’s far-flung wilderness. By Katy Heerssen
Dropped between the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and the forested lowlands of the Mahale Mountains, the thatched paradise of Greystoke Mahale is a vision in wild safari luxury. Rewards abound for those who are intrepid enough to make the extended journey by plane and by boat.
HIKE CHIMP COUNTRY
The name “Greystoke” comes from Lord Greystoke, the fictional character also known as Tarzan. The lord of the apes would find himself quite at home here, on the doorstep of the largest known population of habituated wild chimpanzees in the world. Their numbers are astounding — some 1,000 in all — but they are always on the move. Witnessing their treetop antics on your first trek is extremely rewarding; hikes can last from a relaxed 20 minutes to more intense journeys up to three hours. The chimps chill out lower in the mountains from August through September, so plan your trip during that time of year for an easier trek.
LIVE THE LODGE LIFE
The rustic theme of your getaway is set upon first glance. The gathering point at the main lodge, modeled after a Tongwe chief’s hut, features a dramatic swooping thatch roof topping off an open-sided lounge and dining area. Each of the six double-story thatch bandas continues the elements of local forest whimsy. Native woods and bamboo mingle with breezy mosquito nets, wood from retired ships has been repurposed for custom furnishings and decking and water for the en suite bathroom is heated on demand.
GO BACK TO NATURE
With the mountains behind and the lake in front, you’re always surrounded by wild and wonderful activity. Catch and release tilapia fishing is permitted within Mahale Mountains National Park and it’s a relaxing way to spend your afternoons post-chimp trek. Cruise along the shore to spot a variety of birds including red-capped robin chats, African crowned eagles, harrier hawks and crested guinea fowls. The white beaches are peaceful, and the waters clear and inviting, but it’s easy to forget that crocodiles lurk just off shore. Guides will boat you out to deep water if you feel compelled to take a dip.
GET FAR OUT
If you’re craving an untouched African experience that exists in legend, set your sights on Greystoke Mahale. The flight from Arusha takes some five hours, then the traditional dhow ride across the lake adds another hour. It’s a long journey that is absolutely worth it for that first view of the lodge on its private beach. Flights are infrequent, so plan to spend at least three days here — after such an eventful trek, you’ll want to settle down and to soak it all in.
Greystoke Mahale is open seasonally, from June through mid-March. Pair a visit to the chimpanzees of Greystoke Mahale with primate trekking in Rwanda and Uganda.