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I like your wider angle photos of the landscape, something I often forget to take whilst concentrating on the animals.


Speaking of torches, I always place two within reach even when there's electricity as that can easily fail and I might knock a torch on the floor trying to find it in the dark. My head torch gets hung from the bed post, even at home where electrical outages are rarer but do happen. It was very good of them to return yours but I guess they realised how important having a torch is in Africa.

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What a wonderful way to start my week, reading your report on a Monday morning!

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Yes, platinum ++++++ service. I'm impressed.

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I'm a two torch gal from now own. I always bring 2 tooth brushes just in case. The Platinum ++++++ "torch taxi" is more important to me than a label on the wine bottle.



8:00 am departure flight from Lobo to Tabora = 1 hour and 50 minutes. 20 minutes refueling stop at Tabora, which has a toilet. Flight from Tabora to Mahale = 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Paperwork upon arrival at Mahale airstrip takes about 30 minutes. Bathroom available.


Dhow transport to Flycatcher camp on Lake Tanganyika was 110 minutes, which included a cargo stop at a village and some hilarious pantomime with the children who lined up along the shore, and a 30 minute wait at the ranger station for permits. Smooth sailing to Mahale, but the return trip was in dark, churning waters so I took a Bonine seasickness pill soon after departure and I needed it.




We could see the dhows of the other two Mahale camps as they sailed to their respective locations and I counted the occupants. Mbali Mbali (Nkungwe) had 4 guests and Nomad (Greystoke) had 14. We were 3, the Swiss couple and I. The max number of guests in the park is 40: 12 at Flycatchers, 12 at Mbali Mbali, 16 at Nomad.


The Flycatcher camp is a paradise. The pristine beach is spectacular. The clear, warm lake beckoned me in for a swim, something I have not done in pool, lake, or stream since 1988, unless snorkeling was involved. (Speaking of snorkeling, the camp did not have snorkel gear while I was there but was expecting to get some.) The hospitality of Juma and the staff make for an exceptional stay in Flycatcher Mahale, in every respect.




Flight schedules allow 3, 4, or 7 night stays. Both the Swiss couple and I had as our #1 goal of the trip to do 3 chimp walks, meaning a 4 night stay. It’s possible that the chimps can be just too high up to reach, which is what occurred the day before our arrival, therefore 3 visits increases the odds of seeing them.







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As the season continues on from June, the chimps tend to be in lower elevations, allowing for easier viewing. The weather is coolest in June and hottest in October. For our walks mid-September I needed a wet bandana around my neck and frequent drinks. It was hot! . At Flycatchers there is a tree in front of the dining lounge that fruits in October and attracts chimps, but October can start to get rainy. June and Sept are generally the busiest months for Flycatchers. I think visiting in Jan or Feb is by request only, but not sure how those months work for Flycatchers. The other two camps are open then.





The basic plan is breakfast at 7:30, then wait around until word comes from Tracker Sameru, who has been on the trail since 6:30 am. Departure can be as early as 8:00 am or it can be hours later. Time with the chimps is one hour. The ranger clicks a stop watch on and off, as viewing time can be interrupted if the chimps move. Lunch is back at camp.




The guides, rangers, and trackers did a good job of distributing all three of the campsguests among the subgroups of chimps so we were not stumbling over each other. Six is the maximum group size and you stick with your campmates. That was nice for our group, which was only three. We did not absorb guests from the other camps. This is a different policy from gorilla visits where a visitor group is comprised of unrelated people from different lodigings and almost always totals the maximum allowed.




Another difference from the gorillas is that there are no porters and there is no one to watch your stuff once the chimps are spotted. After the first day I packed far lighter than I did for the gorillas, wearing only an around-the-waist camera bag and taking a compact, folded garbage bag in case it rained. No hat is needed in the dense forest and I wore short sleeves after the first outing. Some people even wore shorts. I was glad I had my water bottle at my side in a holster (a second water bottle fit in my camera bag) so I could drink every 10 minutes to prevent dehydration. The hardy Swiss couple stopped only a couple of times for water out of their backpacks.




Surgical masks are provided and must be worn anytime you are near the chimps. Eben encouraged me to bring some masks, which I did and the staff was very appreciative to receive them. But I used their masks because mine were thicker and less breathable.







In comparison with chimp trekking in Kibale, Chambura Gorge, Ngamba, Nyungwe, and Padabi Forest, the Mahale visits lived up to their reputation as providing an unsurpassed chimpanzee experience. Our three outings produced family interactions; grooming; eating; using a stick as a tool to get ants*; mating; wrestling; swinging on vines; sleeping; pant hooting; territorial maneuvering; and one juvenile throwing vines and rocks at us in play. (Those Nomad guests were a surprisingly lively bunch in the forest! Ha ha.) All of this occurred from several meters away to within inches when some of the chimps passed nearby. Each visit was different even though all three were in the same area of the forest. All three visits were magical.


*The tool use that Jane Goodall first observed in Gombe was chimps using a stick inserted into a knothole in a tree to gather termites. The Mahale chimps dont eat termites, but they use the same technique to get ants. The Mahale chimp preference for ants over termites was defined by the staff as acultural difference.



Edited by Atravelynn
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Trek #1

8:30 departure. Arrived at chimps 9:45 and glimpsed the first precious scene of about 8 sitting along the trail. Our one hour of viewing extended to several interrupted hours over very steep and difficult terrain because the chimps were on the move. At one point, I thought to myself, Is it worth climbing these steep slopes for the last 5 minutes of viewing? Im glad we persevered because we were rewarded with a lazy group of 6 males who suddenly heard intruders in the distance and in the blink of an eye sprung into warrior stance, glaring into the direction of the sound that was inaudible to me. What a transformation and what a scene. These guys meant business! Back at camp at 1:10 pm.







One of the males resting with his group of brothers before jumping to attention



After the first grueling trek, I asked Guide Juma how it compared to the typical trek, expecting a response of, One of the toughest Ive ever been on; we were a few steps away from summiting. Instead he said it was relatively easy and that we had ascended 20% up the mountain. Even the avid mountaineering Swiss couple had felt challenged by the hike and they too were surprised at Jumas response.







Edited by Atravelynn
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Trek #2

8:20 departure. Arrived at chimps 9:35. The chimps were on the move downhill to a stream and waterfall so our hour of viewing time was start and stop continually, but going down is easier than going up. This environment provided unobstructed views in good light and the waterfall was on our agenda for that afternoon anyway. What good luck.




Back at camp at 2:00 pm. A fairly easy hike, except for some slippery rocks we hopped along to cross the creek that caused me to take a tumble with my knee bearing the brunt of it.












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Trek #3

8:15 departure. We had the luxury of the entire park to ourselves—no other guests--so we took time to enjoy some of the other creatures along the way. Standing outside the underground den of a family of warthogs, we watched them emerge, one at a time, and prepare for their day. Fascinating!







Yellow baboons are unique to Mahale, and we spent time with a troop.



More elusive were the red tailed and red colobus monkeys, but we saw some of each.



A pair of trumpeter hornbills kept us company from above. Juma pointed out a couple of blue duikers skittering deep in the underbrush.


Arrived at chimps at 11:00 am. Most of our time was spent watching two youngsters climb from the ground into the trees, grab a vine, swing down, jump to the ground, and repeat. They never tired of this routine and we never tired watching them. Back to camp at 2:00 pm. An enjoyable, leisurely outing.













We have the Mahale males to thank for much of our good luck viewing chimps. Juma explained that when the males are around, the females and youngsters feel confident to descend from the trees. When the males are absent, the others prefer the comfort of the treetops.





At the end of our 3 visits, we said goodbye to the ranger and tracker for their hard work. That was the time to offer any tip.



Edited by Atravelynn
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Our last afternoon we headed out--after waiting out a thunderstorm that gave way to surreal lighting conditions—on a dhow ride to see hippos in clear water. It was like snorkeling with them without getting wet.




Sameru and the boat captain then went fishing. I was surprised they caught their own bait on empty shiny hooks, which then was used to catch several bigger fish. We enjoyed a large Kuhe Fish for dinner that night. The chef prepared it expertly and served it along side several traditional African dishes, including ugali. I ate a Thanksgiving-sized amount because I knew I was feasting on one of the best African meals I had ever eaten!


I asked Juma if he could arrange an hour forest walk from 7 to 8 before breakfast for the last morning. The two of us saw baboons, duiker, and red tailed monkeys during our hour long walk, so brief in comparison to the half-day in the forest in pursuit of chimps. I really appreciated his extra effort of getting me out into the magical Mahale forest one last time.



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Noontime Mahale to Katavi flight = 50 minutes

Airstrip to Flycatcher Katavi camp by vehicle = 10 minutes, although Manager Nazir likes to joke that it will take an hour and a half.



Katisunga Plains in front of camp


Katavi is huge at 4,471 sq km or 1,727 sq miles, 1.5 times the size of Yosemite, yet it receives under 1000 visitors each year.


Beat and Yvonne and I shared a vehicle, making up .3% of the annual visitor population during our stay in Katavi. We had a great time together and were a most compatible .3%.



Katisunga Plains in front of camp




Egyptian Geese and goslings & Fish Eagles



Sightings of 8 or more Fish Eagles were common



Juvenile Verraux's Eagle Owl



During our stay we saw about .5% of the other visitors when we encountered another two vehicles on the road about 3 times. The only other vehicle at sightings was the other camp vehicle and we usually travelled in tandem. The Foxes camp was on the far side of the plains in front of the Flycatchers camp and sometimes their vehicle was visible on the Katisunga Plains.



Two things struck me upon our arrival in camp. One was the tremendous amount of animal activity in the plains in front of camp. Nazir was not joking when he said some guests just stay at camp instead of going on game drives because it is all happening right there.



Kaitsunga Plains in front of camp



The other was the constant presence of the rangers and their giant vehicle in camp. When I inquired why we were being monitored, I was told it was the elephants that frequented the springs surrounding the camp that were being monitored, not Flycatcher guests. The current drought had produced unyielding mud and sometimes the elephants got stuck—especially the little ones—and they needed some help to extract themselves. That’s when the rangers would drive in with their massive vehicle and rig up some ropes to boost and drag the trapped ele out of the mud.






I asked what the other eles did during the extraction process and was told that it had happened often enough (and of course the elephants wouldn’t forget) that the rest of the herd had learned to just clear out and give the rangers room to work. Then they’d run in to comfort the rescued victim. It reminded me of Jessica in the well. I never got to observe the rangers performing a rescue, but I appreciated being filled in on their duties.




The extremely dry conditions were due to the worst drought since 1981. Our first sighting illustrated the severity of the situation as we observed a pair of male lions sucking water out a pool of mud. Their desperate efforts at hydration were unsettling.






We had several other lion sightings, including a pride with cubs, in greener and more hospitable surroundings.





Edited by Atravelynn
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Guide Nazir found us a python in a tree on more than one occasion. He explained that the pythons climbed up high to escape any potential fires that might start given the arid conditions. One of the pythons even left a recently shed skin on a nearby branch. Nazir stated that his years of experience had taught him to recognize a snake by scent and he asked if we could smell it too. We could not.



Python and recently shed skin & beehive


We made several visits to phenomena that are unique to Katavi—croc pits and hippo pools, both with occupants numbering in the hundreds. The lack of water resulted in mud baths for the hippos and drying mud pits for the crocs, which forced some of the reptiles to seek shade under nearby trees. Nazir told us the crocs could live for weeks under the trees, but hippos needed water. We were all hoping that within two weeks the rains would return. In the meantime, the focus of these species was solely on surviving the drought so they were less active than normal. The harsh conditions had taken a toll on baby hippos and we saw very few.















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My goodness, it makes you appreciate how desperately hard it is for the animals in the drought, seeing those photos. I would love to see so many fish eagles, impressive, and I keep going back to the warthogs exiting their dens, how I would like to see that as well.


I'm enjoying this very much, thanks Lynn.

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After dinner, back at my tent, I placed my folded umbrella in the corner, prepared for bed, and quickly fell asleep. I had just drifted off when I heard a loud racket in my tent. I awoke with a start and fumbled for the light switch. (There was an electric light in both the tent and ensuite loo). In the several seconds it took me to turn on the light, my fear grew. When I switched on the light I saw the umbrella had popped opened. It must have smacked against the two walls of canvas and caused the racket. Whew!


THIS ...is material for the next "whatever you do don't run" book!



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Good thing I did not run out of my tent from my brelly. Those warthogs remain a highlight of the whole trip and that was something so unexpected. But we all know that's what keeps us going back to Africa.

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I think that's true about the chimps, Lynn - that the females prefer to stick mainly to the trees when the males are not around. That's what happened to us. Lots of females and babies, but mainly in the trees. They were on the ground only for short periods of time. Your pics of the males are wonderful, and without the forest cover either.


Wonder if the drought got the tsetses too? All those horror stories and you encountered almost none? Did you see any in Bologonja? We were hammered there.

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The crocs’ mud pits were shared by dying catfish, and that attracted hundreds of Pelicans, Marabou Storks, Yellow-Billed Storks, Palm Vultures, Fish Eagles, and Saddle-billed Storks. Such large fishing parties I’ve never seen!



Young Yellow-billed Stork



3 different species: Saddle-billed Stork, Yellow-billed Stork, Marabou Stork





They flying Yellow-billed Stork has a fish in its mouth










Fortunately my vehicle mates Beat and Yvonne were as enthralled by the fishing parties as I was and we spent several long sessions observing the squabbles and thrashing around. At one point Yvonne excitedly called our attention to a croc that had plucked a bird (Marabou I think) straight from the air as a snack.



The Marabou in front dropped the catfish

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We went to Paradise, which was 120 kilometers away and required a full day’s outing. The route to Paradise had just a few sightings and some regions of tse tses.



Pelicans and Saddle-billed Stork




Open-billed Stork



It also was where I spotted a fishing poacher and the rangers were alerted by radio. The other vehicle saw the poacher on the way back from Paradise and when he fled, the fishing gear he left behind was confiscated and dropped off with the rangers.


Near the wet Paradise Plains we happened upon three roan, a very lucky sight.




Roan in the distance


Once we reached Paradise, where we rested and had our lunch, we looked out upon hippos, giraffe, zebra, a variety of antelope, ground hornbills, egrets, and other birds in the vast wetland that stretched before us.



Hippos and more in Paradise


Paradise served as the fighting grounds for a pair of hippos who made more noise and flashed more teeth than engaging in any real fighting. But it was quite a show and their lack of contact meant they both lived to fight again.



Edited by Atravelynn
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Closer to “home” there was always something happening and sometimes the action entered camp, such as hyenas at that were visible along the perimeter vegetation when we shone our flashlights as we gathered around the evening campfire. One afternoon we delayed our game drive by about 20 minutes when a large bull elephant came by to graze in front of Tent 4.





I liked my Tent 1 because it afforded views spanning 270 degrees.








On the last morning we stayed out until 30 minutes before our departure flight. A highlight of the morning drive was a photographable leopard in a tree. Beat and Yvonne had really wanted to see their first leopard in the wild so they were especially thrilled.




Katavi morning drives started later than most camps. We left at 8:00 or even 8:30 am for the all-day trip to Paradise. Nazir assured us that our schedule was in keeping with the natural rhythm of Katavi, which operated on a timetable that was not typical of other parks . He offered an earlier start on the last morning to show us that not much was happening at daybreak, but the consensus of those taking part on the final game drive was to stick with the normal 8:00 am departure. So I’ll never know for sure what lurks out there in Katavi in the early dawn.





Our last evening in Mahale Yvonne, Beat and I had a farewell Amarula toast. Saying good bye the next day at the Ruaha Airstrip, after sharing such exciting and memorable times, was a bit sad.


Flight from Katavi to Ruaha = 1.5 hours


Flight from Ruaha to Dodoma = 45 minutes, then 15 minutes to refuel

Flight from Dodoma to Arusha = 90 minutes






For another Flycatchers report, click here: Sangeeta's Flycatcher report

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I seem to have made an error. Since I can't go back and edit, I'll stick the correction here:


Paradise would seem to be roughly 25 -30 km from Flycatcher as the crow flies.


I had 120 km in my notes. I might have misinterpreted our entire mileage that day, including sidetrips and meandering, as the distance to Paradise. The 25-30 km is even better. Makes me think you could head out on a mobile walking safari from Katavi camp and reach it 2 days. Now I might have mission for a return trip. Thank you and Darn You former member! Where's that 2012 planning thread? Seriously, I wouldn't go back to Katavi in 2012 (only due to travel funds and vacation time), but I would consider something like that in the future.


The last installment will be Tarangire. It's not that remote, exotic, or unique but it is a tremendously rewarding and beautiful destination, especially when explored with George, a Kiliwarior gem.

Edited by wilddog
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Tarangire Camp, Tarangire River Camp, Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tarangire Lodge, Teri Garr, Tarangire Tented Safari Lodge, Tarangire Tented Lodge…so many similar sounding names. What’s the difference?


There are more Tarangire accommodations than this, but these are the ones that have similar names.


Tarangire Camp (No lodge, no river in the name; but there is a Tarangire Camp with the word Nomad in it that is an entirely different camp)


Arusha to Tarangire Camp = 90 minutes


This is a new place outside the park at the perimeter, which allows animals to roam into camp. I saw dik diks and warthogs. There were Ashy Starlings everywhere, a species that attracts serious birders to Tarangire.



Ashy Starling at Tarangire Camp


During the night there was a battle between lions and hyenas outside my tent that the Askari told me about the next day. He was concerned I might have been frightened by the ruckus, but unfortunately I had slept through it all.


The park gate is a 30-minute drive from camp though Maasai villages. Walking safaris, guided by a Maasai, were offered. All meals were served on a plate under a shiny metal dome that was lifted with great suspense and fanfare to reveal the entree—a fun camp ritual. (So if you go there, don’t be peaking under your dome until it’s time.)


It offered the perfect location for my first in case my flight was delayed. Indeed, my flight was delayed several hours.


I stayed in a lovely tent (#11, second from the last tent) on the ground but there were tents on raised cement platforms too.



Tarangire Camp


Tarangire River Camp (outside the park, on the river)

Owned by Mbali Mbali, who also have a Mahale camp.


Teri Garr

Apologies to fans of Mr. Mom and Tootsie.


All the rest of the names are ones I’ve heard or seen for the same place. Tarangire Lodge = Tarangire Safari Lodge = Tarangire Tented Lodge = Tarangire Tented Safari Lodge

Arusha to this lodge = 2 hours; Kilimanjaro to this lodge = 3 hours


For 25 years Tarangire Safari Lodge has been operating inside the northern part of the park. The term “breathtaking panorama” is not an exaggeration to describe the view of a multitude of animals drawn to the river, surrounded by baobabs. Most of the units are luxury tents along with a few bungalows. The tents are fairly close to each other and it is a big, bustling lodge. But, oh that view! Plus there is an accommodating staff and a variety of good food.



View from Tarangire Safari Lodge

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I had tent #15, which had a great view. Between #10-#22 were all nice, unobstructed views, and so were #4-#7. For anyone who wanted to limit walking distances, #4-#7 would fit the bill and provide a wonderful view. #4 is closest to the lodge. The vegetation played a role in my rating the tents’ views, and that can change season to season. On the opposite side of the lodge are units #23 and up. The bungalows are on that side too. I think the views are superior on the side I was on, Tents #1-#22, with #22 farthest away from the lodge. Regardless of the tent, the veranda always offered a “breathtaking panorama.”



View from Tarangire Safari Lodge


From dusk on, it was necessary to be escorted to/from the main lodge because of the wildlife that migrated through camp, especially elephants. I was commending one of the night guards on his bravery for facing wild animals with only a torch and a radio and for his toughness to cold temps during his night shift. He was appreciative of the compliments, but he was most proud of his job making the morning coffee and tea for the guests, his final duty before retiring in the early morning.


Tarangire Safari Lodge manager, Annette, does a marvelous job of knowing the many guests by name and taking a moment to visit with them each day.




View from Tarangire Safari Lodge

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Wonder if the drought got the tsetses too? All those horror stories and you encountered almost none? Did you see any in Bologonja? We were hammered there.


The tse tses were not a problem in Katavi. There was a total of about 20 minutes throughout 3 days of really annoying flies. Not bad in Bolongonja either, though we did have a few. Certainly not hammered, though.

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I tried to incorporate the iconic baobab tree into several photos. Eles stripping bark from the baobab and munching on it was one of the first sightings.





Sightings, with the emphasis on elephants

My guide George, from Kiliwarriors/Eben Schoeman Safaris, was outstanding and prompted me to declare at the end of our time together that no one saw more than we did during our time in Tarangire. Id bet money on it!


We were out at 6:10 am each morning for a couple of hours in search of predators when no one was around, then back for breakfast about 8:30, leaving again until lunch or taking lunch with us. The herds at the river did not materialize from the surrounding forests until about 9:30 am, sometimes as late as 11:00 am if the temps were cool. The heat of the day was a good time to watch the wildlife at the river right from the lodge.


Some of what we saw that is not shown in photos:


Pearl-spotted Owlalways a cool bird

A Lilac-breasted Roller in its tree knothole home

Northern Pied Babbler

Spotted Morning Thrush

Cardinal Woodpecker

African Hoopoe--my fav

Wood Hoopoe

Pygmy Falconalways a cool bird

Yellow Collared Lovebirdsbeautiful en masse

Several hornbill species

Green Pigeon

Orange-fronted Parrot


Pair of bat eared fox, Black backed jackals


Mother impala and a baby that was in its first hours of life, and already standing


3 pythons in the trees near Silale Swamp


Large herds of buffalo and wildebeest


A rare sighting of hippos2 adults and a baby


Instead of the standard vehicle, Eben had kindly upgraded me to his photographer mobile that had more open space for the windows, so all that I saw was more easily photographed!


The specially designed Kiliwarriors /Eben Schoeman Safaris vehicle. The clear flaps were rolled up throughout game drives.

Edited by Atravelynn
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post in error--can't delete

Edited by Atravelynn
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