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Kipunji Quest, Lintworm goes to Tanzania

Discussion in 'Tanzania' started by lintworm, 17 Jan 2017.

  1. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Though I have spent considerable time in Tanzania in 2015 and 2016, this time was almost completely spent doing field work (fighting with Lantana camara) in the East Usambara mountains, which is a very beautiful and diverse area. But as I was down in Tanzania anyway I figured that I could just as well travel around the country to see more animals.

    Tanzania is one of the more famous tourist destinations in Africa, but over 80% of the tourists spends its time on the northern safari circuit, which includes Ngorongoro, Serengeti & Kilimanjaro. Wildlife is indeed very good in that area, but as it is more touristy, prices are higher and it can get quite busy with tourists. As my holiday was partly within the Christmas holidays, I figured it would be better to avoid the north and head to the much less visited southern half of Tanzania. Here there are also classical safari parks, though with lower animal densities, but there are more possibilities to visit other landscapes.

    Of all the larger mammals of southern Tanzania the Kipunji monkey is by far the most enigmatic. This monkey was discovered only as recently as 2003 by scientists (though it was discovered simultaneously by 2 different teams....) and it is completely different from all the other African monkeys and is therefore placed in its own genus. It is not only unique, but it also looks very cool with a big crest on its head. The downside is however that there are only 1100 kipunji left in 3 separate forests. And these monkeys would not have stayed unknown to scientists if thet did not occur in very remote areas as well. All in all this sounds as a perfect target for a holiday and did I tell you that they tend to be very shy as well :p.

    Though seeing a Kipunji would be a highlight of the trip, I would not devote 3.5 weeks to one punky monkey. In the end we decided to visit the following places.

    Zanzibar, including Jozani Chwaka NP
    Lake Tanganyika
    Gombe stream NP (Jane Goodall did her chimp research here)
    Katavi NP (floodplains and miombo woodland, so good for the "standard" African mammals)
    Kitulo NP (insane amounts of flowers and more importantly: Kipunji)
    Ruaha NP (classical safari park)
    Udzungwa mountains ((montane) rainforest with incredible diversity)

    We travelled in a slightly different style then Chlidonias normally does though, we partly camped and we did not necessarily pick the cheapest guesthouse :p, but we used local buses as well, which is always good for "interesting" experiences.
     
  2. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Sound like this will become a very intresting travel-trip - seen any special snail-species ?
     
  3. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I'm keen to get back to Tanzania to do the Southern Circuit so I'll be keen to read of your adventures. And having been to the East Usambaras, I'll also enjoy reading of your experiences there too. Hopefully you have lots of pictures to upload!

    :p

    Hix
     
  4. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    The only snails I have seen during the trip were Achatina spec., they are big, but nothing special, I also didn't try for the smaller species, that is something I will do in the Jura again...

    There are loads of pictures to sort out and most of the highlights have been photographed, so they will appear on zoochat at some point as well ;)
     
    Last edited: 18 Jan 2017
  5. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Day 1 (December 24th)

    After sending the final e-mails while driving back to Dar es Salaam (Dar), my field work was really over and the holiday finally started. My girlfriend had already joined me for the last week in Amani, as she was curious what I had been up to all the time I spent in Africa. As somebody more interested in modelling micro-plastic pollution, she found my ecological field methods rather amusing, especially the highly sophisticated method to beat insects out of a shrub with a stick was made fun of ;).

    Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania and was governed independently under the British from Tanganyika. Tanzania itself only came into existence in 1964 when Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar and this union is reflected in the current country name ;). Actually Zanzibar consists of 2 separate islands: Pempa and Unguja, but everybody calls Unguja Zanzibar, so I will do that as well ;). The easiest way to get there is take a ferry from Dar. As there have been a few serious accidents with ferries sinking (with 1700 deads), rules have been tightened and the most popular ferry is now a catamaran run by Azam marine. Though it has a modern look, its safety instructions "in case of an emergency, something we do not anticipate...." was a bit doubtful, but at least there were no more people than seats on the boat, so that was something hopeful and very rare on African public transport. We were rushed to the outside deck by very loud and very Christian American christmas songs. That was actually a good thing, because outside we could see sooty gulls, lesser crested terns and brown noddies flying around the boat. Arrival at Stone Town on Zanzibar was chaotic as ever and as they think they are really different from mainlandTanzania, we got another entrance stamp in our passports.

    On our way to our hotel on the other side of Zanzibar, it was rather shocking that the first 20 minutes there was not a single indigenous tree to be seen, mango was dominant and the highway was flanked by a whole lane of mangoes for several kilometres. When we passed the gate from the Jozani Chwaka national park, we already saw our first Zanzibar red colobuses, who were relaxing in a tree next to the road. So that endemic was rather easy, but we would return to the NP 2 days later. After an hour of driving we arrived at our hotel in the beach town of Jambiani, which has a very nice white beach with palms and as well hotels as far as the horizon stretches. Fortunately we arrived before most tourists did, so it was not too crowded when we were around, though it got busier with "Mzungu" people every day we were there...

    The rest of the day was spent walking along the beach and mudflats. Though the beach looks idyllic at low tide, there is a stretch of 500 meters of mud flats, which also means that at high tide, the water for swimming is only half a meter deep... The mud flats were off course busy with animals, particularly hermit crabs, brittle stars, sea squirts, a sea cucumber and birds as whimbrel, sand plover, the impressive crab plover was also surprisingly common. Crab plovers do not really look like plovers, they are more like very fat and oversized European avocets with a huge thick bill which is used to kill crabs. They only occur along the Indian ocean coast and are so unique they are placed in their own family. I had wanted to see this bird already for quite some time and I had seen them a few weeks ago for the first time on the Tanzanian mainland, the crab plovers from Zanzibar were however more approachable and just as enjoying to watch while hunting.
     
    Last edited: 19 Jan 2017
  6. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Day 2 (December 25th)

    A lazy day today, but that is where holiday is for sometimes ;). The big goal of today was snorkelling, so after our breakfast we got in a dhow (outrigger canoe) with a guide to bring us to a reef closeby. I had only ever snorkelled in the Netherlands and that is a slightly different experience than snorkelling at a small tropical reef. Not in the least is the water 30 degrees and not 15 and the fish are a lot more colourful of course on Zanzibar ;). The reef we were brought to, was actually a very small one, still within the lagoon. It consisted of a few rocks with coral on it, that was a total size of 50x25 meters I would say. But this is the tropics, so we spent 1.5 hour just snorkelling around that patch and still discovering new fish species ;). It was almost like visiting an European aquarium in terms of fish species, surgeons, damselfish, butterfly fish, parrot fish, clown fish etc. were all present. Highlights for me was the fact that trumpetfish were really common and we even saw a very large one hovering around. I did not expect to see them here. I also liked the many moorish idols, a fish that is not very common in aquaria, but it was very common here. When we got out of the water I was really happy I kept my t-shirt on, my girl friend thought that would not be necessary, so she showcased some of the most beautiful lobster red that one can imagine ;).

    Around lunch time, I was called by someone from the Kitulo national park, this may not sound very special, but I had tried to get hold of somebody there for weeks, without success. Kitulo is especially famous for being "god's garden", a name it deserves for the very high floral diversity, but more importantly Kipunji live there too. So 10 days before we would be there, I could finally arrange some of the logistics, as in being able to camp inside the park and verifying that my farfetched ideas were possible at all. I did not specifically enquire about the actual chance of seeing Kipunji, but though the guy was helpful, he must have thought I was crazy ;).

    The rest of the day was spent laying in a hammock on the beach and drinking cocktails. The problem on Zanzibar is however that there are too many tourists, so 1) the prices are higher and 2) the locals think of every white person as some sort of personal ATM. So every now and then somebody approaches you and offers you things you do not want... Fortunately Tanzanians are relatively polite, so a no is accepted as a no. But if you see how much money some of the freshly flown-in tourists are willing to pay for services like a simple massage, I can imagine them harrassing every "mzungu" (white person in Swahili). People paid 10 USD for a massage of 1 hour, that is about twice the rate I pay people who work a whole day with me, chopping through thickets and digging soil pits and these people are already very happy with that money....

    Enough complained ;) the next day would be a mammal day again, when we would be going to Jozani Chwaka NP, one of the few remaining natural forests of Zanzibar. The main goals were 1) better views of the Zanzibar red colobuses, something which would be pretty much guaranteed and 2) finding black&rufous sengi (giant elephant shrew). One of my favourite mammals and a species which made my girlfriend roll her eyes when I showed her the pictures....
     
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  7. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    What about Ader's Duiker?

    :p

    Hix
     
  8. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Nearly impossible if you are not willing to pay $$$$$ for a lodge on Mnemba island where a few have been translocated. According to a blog on mammalwatching.com, you could see them in a small forest (Mtende) on the south of the island, but when I contacted the author of the blog, this forest was taken over by a hunting concession... That said Aders duiker do occur in Jozani Chwaka NP, but in low numbers and chances of seeing them are very low there....
     
  9. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I'd read this blog in the past, hence my post. Wasn't aware of the developments with hunting.

    :(

    Hix
     
  10. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    Your girlfriend's reaction is very similar to my wife's and will probably never change :p. The deal we have that if the animal watching trip is nice for normal people we do it together. Is it something completely crazy that includes waking up at 4 or 5 am or in conditions no sane person is willing to go through I do it on my own :). A trip including primates though is usually something she does enjoy though but the idea of watching a sengi and me getting excited about is still odd after 10 years. What are your chances for seeing a sengi though?
     
  11. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    We saw sengi easily on Zanzibar. First during a walk in Jozani, and multiple seem to hang out near the butterfly center. Diurnal and highly active.

    Wonder how you liked Udzungwa. When we were there in 2013, it was so rediculously expensive to go into the forest that we gave up after two days. $120 a day if I remember correctly for my wife and me. Just entry alone.
     
  12. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    I figured beforehand that seeing at least one species of sengi should be very likely at some stage during the trip, black&rufous and checkered sengi are not exactly rare in some areas ;)

    Prices are a bit lower now, you now pay 30 USD per person per day and 20 USD for a guide. But they add 18% VAT (tax) to everything now, so that still makes it relatively expensive...

    Day 3 (December 26th)

    The past night was unfortunately spend in a different room than before, so we did not have any ocean views anymore. But apparently termites also prefer some sea breeze and rains of wood grains on the bed are not the most pleasant, so we shifted....

    We were picked up in the morning by a car that would bring us to Jozani Chwaka NP, which is (unfortunately) also one of the most popular tourist attractions of the island. Our approach was delayed a bit because I was taking GPS points along the road of invasions of Lantana camara, one of the exotic shrubs I am working on. On arrival I was informed that a tour through the national park would last 1.5 hours. This is off course b*llshit, as you pay park fees that are valid for 24 hours and after some discussions at reception, I negotiated with my guide that we could stay longer... If you offer some extra money everything becomes possible at once in Africa :p and in the end we stayed over 3 hours in the park. By the time we really entered it was already 10am, so the temperature was already hitting the 30 degrees celcius and would only rise further.

    I already instructed our guide I was particularly interested in finding black & rufous sengi, so he knew what task lay ahead of him ;). But first we went to watch a group of Zanzibar red colobuses next to the head quarters. These monkeys are completely habituated and are professionals in ignoring selfy sticks and smart phones. It is really ridiculous how these regular tourists behave if they see a monkey and I was happy we would be off the beaten track in two days from now ;). The red colobuses are cool though, they occur only on Zanzibar and Pemba islands (where they are introduced) and they are pretty endangered as natural forests are getting very rare on Zanzibar... Fortunately they do not mind exotic plants, as there are quite some stretches of Guava forest, but they use these forests a lot. Like many colobuses their hair cut looks a bit like an explosion has happened just in front of their face and their fur is nicely coloured red and white. So all in all a very nice monkey to watch up close, though having to do that with loads of tourists is a bit annoying.

    Fortunately we were the only people looking for sengi, so in the stretch of forest on the other side of the main road we were the only ones. Sengi are diurnal and feed on insects they find in the vegetation, so the easiest way of finding them is listening to litter being overturned. Unfortunately sengi are not the only animals who do such kind of things, so first we only found red-headed robin chat and a bearded scrub-robin, the scrub-robin was a lifer and the robin chat I had seen only once (in 2011 in Botswana), so that was still nice. I was however not very hopefull as temperatures were well over 30 degrees by now and in the next 15 minutes we only found a skink and some people making sengi noises... We then decided to take another road and quickly I saw some mammal crossing the road, but it went too fast to see what it was, but it could have been a sengi... Fortunately a minute later our guide pointed out an animal 2 meters next to the road, hidden in the bush and there was a black and rufous sengi foraging very close by. It was not disturbed at all by our presence. But even though it was close, the animal was surprisingly hard to see in the shadows of the thick shrubbery. But most importantly, we found our main target and my girlfriend even loved this strange creature, which surprised me a bit ;). b&r sengi are only found in coastal Tanzania and Kenya, and they are one of the only 4 members of the giant sengi group, 2 of which we could still see later on in the trip ;). The 4th one only occurs in the Kenya/Somalia border region, so I will never see that one I guess...

    We decided to go back to the other side of the road, as this was were the main forest is, with trees higher than a few meters, a rarity on Zanzibar. Many parts of Zanzibar have a coral rag soil, which is basically dead coral rocks, not the most suitable soil to grow big trees... The main forest in Jozani Chwaka mainly consists of Mahogany and Pandanus palms, a very nice combination to the eye. As it was already quite warm we did not see a lot, though African goshawk, Zanj sun squirrel, Crowned hornbill, Zanzibar sykes's monkey and Striped kingfisher still made it an enjoyable walk.

    By now we were completely wet of all the sweat and we were becoming a bit hungry, so we decided to finish our tour in the park at the mangroves. This was a short ride and within a minute after we got out of the car our guide found a second black & rufous sengi, this time 10 meters from the road, but again not impressed by humans. I was by then very happy to have this guy as a guide, as normally I am sharper than the guides that are obligatorily forced on you in these parks. But this guy found me a sengi 2 times, so he deserved his tip ;). The mangroves are seen from a boardwalk, which takes a tour of a few hundred meters through thick mangrove. Apart from a Striated heron we did not see any birds. But this bird is called mangrove heron in Dutch and this was actually the first I did see in an actual mangrove, so that was nice. Apart from the heron we saw many crabs and small trumpetfish in the creeks.

    After this we went back for a deserved cold shower (the ocean temperature is 30 degrees, so that doesn't cool you down) and the rest of the day was again spent doing nothing ;).

    After all these relaxations, 2 travelling days lay ahead of us, but they would bring us literally to the other side of the country, to the border of Lake Tanganyika with views on the DR Congo. So the next story will be one of taxis boats and planes and not so much wildlife ;) .
     
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  13. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    No sense of adventure Lintworm :p. That trip would give you the advantage of not being bothered by tourists.
     
  14. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    30 USD for me, 30 USD for my wife, 20 USD for a compulsary guide and when we wanted to enter the park itself it was 40 USD for a compulsary armed guard. That made it a round $ 120 a day. And our plan was to camp inside the park, but that would have been even more expensive so it was not recommended anymore by our excellent Hostel just outside Udzungwa NP (who actually gave us an extra lunch because the guide and armed guard wouldn't get any from the NP).

    Those fees really started to annoy me at some point... otherwise, beautifull country and looking forward to the rest of your report
     
  15. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    We didn't need the armed guide, so that saved us of some costs fortunately. The fees are a bit annoying indeed, especially as all parks are equally expensive (except Serengeti and Gombe which are even more expensive) and the fees for a guide are just very high for the work they often do... At least all transactions are now done by creditcards, so the fees should end up with TANAPA and not in the pockets of some official...

    I still think that I prefer militia with selfie-sticks over militia with AK-47, though it is a choice between 2 evils. Somalia is really on the bottom of the list of African countries to visit, though a visit to Somaliland should be very interesting (but extremely hot...) and that is by far the safest way to look for speke's gazelle ;)

    Day 24 (December 27th)

    Today only involved travelling over just about a hundred kilometers, from the east coast of Zanzibar to a hotel next to the Dar es Salaam airport. I expected that the travel to the Zanzibar harbour would take about 1 hour, but I underestimated all the traffic jams in Stone town, Zanzibar's capital and location of the ferry. So we arrived "only" 40 minutes before departure. But that meant that the boarding for business class passengers like us, was already closed.... This meant that a lady took us to the exit of the harbour and we could walk straight to the ship from there. So in the end we still had to wait 20 minutes on the boat itself before departure, but the ferry actually leaves quite on time. This is not too special in Tanzania, the big uncertainty is always what time you arrive.... The ferry ride itself was rather uneventful, but apparently Tanzanians have a very weak stomach, as the small waves seemed to cause a quarter of the passengers to be sick... So by the time we arrived in Dar, you had to be careful in some places where you would step. We did not see any new birds, except a lesser black-backed gull, but we did see a few Flying fishes, which were new for me and a rather bizarre sight. They do not really fly, but they are like silver bullets gliding above the water for quite a distance.

    Arrival in Dar was off course just as chaotic as expected with baggage being dropped at random points in the arrival area and taxi touts shouting and harassing everybody who was only slightly white. We fought our way out of the arrivals hall and found a taxi without a tout and without a lot of haggling we got a fair price to bring us to our hotel. If anyone is travelling to Dar, I would recommend staying in the Triniti airport hotel, which is only 5 minutes away from the airport and it is a clean and friendly place, with proper food (and the Barclays premier league on tv off course), by Dar standards it is even quite cheap with 70USD for a standard room. It never ceases to amaze me how expensive the hotels in Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Dar are, they are in third world countries and travelling just outside of the capital hotels become relatively cheap at once, but inside these cities, you are completely ripped of.

    The rest of the day was quiet and except a trip to a shopping mall (including traffic jam of course), we stayed in the hotel. We would be going to some of the remotest areas of Tanzaniain the coming days, so we figured it would be handy to have enough provisions and money. After 5 tries we found an ATM that actually worked, so we both got enough money to make us millionaires. At least millionaires when counting in Tanzanian shillings, which is quite easy as 2300 TSH is roughly the equivalent of 1 USD and as the largest note is 10.000 TSH, you are guaranteed to have a money belt that is close to bursting...

    Day 5 (December 28th)

    We started our day around 7 am, as we had a flight to Kigoma at 9:30. Kigoma is one of the main cities in Tanzania and lays on the western border of Tanzania, right next to lake Tanganyika. It was around here where the slave caravans started their way (by foot off course) to the harbours of Dar and Bagamoyo. The slave caravans took several weeks to cover the rougly 1500 km long journey. If they would have taken Precision Air like we did, it would have been about 3.5 hours ;). Next to Kigoma is also the small town of Ujiji, where Stanley famously met Dr. Livingstone and there is still a mango tree there under which it is said that the legendary "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" was spoken. We where not planning to go there, as we had seen more than enough mango trees already and there are enough other things to do in Kigoma.

    I am always amazed how random the security controls in African airports are. I have once flown with a full plastic bag of nails in my hand luggage from Addis Ababa to Amsterdam, without any problems. This time I forgot to take a large bottle of sun screen out of my hand luggage, but when the security officer saw it, he just waved me through...

    The Precision Air flight had a pilot of Indian origin (there are many Indian immigrants on the east African coasts) and he flew the plane as if he was driving a car the Indian style. Some African carriers are quite professional, such as Ethiopian, Kenya and South African airways, Precision air was definately not very professional, but they got us in Kigoma, after a short stopover in Tabora, a town in the middle of nowwhere and 5 people got off here...

    On arrival in Kigoma we could see the landscape was very green and very wet, eastern Tanzania had a very dry wet season, but Kigoma did not suffer that much. After a very abrupt landing we were parked on the smallest airport I have ever seen. The building was not bigger than a normal European house and the arrival procedure was that you had to write your name and nationality in a big visitors book. We then had to wait with all passengers in a room of maybe 15 square meters to wait for our luggage to arrive. This airport also had the most sophisticated luggage belt I have seen so far. It was a simple wooden hatch on which the luggage pieces were laid one by one.

    On the ride from the airport to our camp site we could already see we where in tropical Africa. The eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika is part of the limits of the Congo-Guinean rainforest, which stretches over most over western and central Africa. In terms of birds we only saw some robin chats, which I think were snowy-crowned robin chats. The landscape was very green and the people were very dark here and the road was very bad, full of pot holes and the like.

    We would be camping at Jakobsen Beach for 3 nights and this campsite was set on an amazing location in a woodland right on the lake shore. This meant we had a small sand beach 15 meter from our tent, which is most certainly how holiday should feel. In terms of wildlife we did not see a lot of special things, but on the lake we saw African giant kingfisher and palm-nut vultures. The camp site itself was terrorized by vervet monkeys and common bulbuls. The vervet monkeys steal your food, the bulbuls are making noise all the time ;). The camping was also home to a few Grant's zebra, which were the first zebra my girlfriend ever saw in the wild, so that was a nice experience, even though the experience took place on the parking lot. Late in the afternoon we also saw a Common duiker, the first antelope of the trip. That night we went to bed early, as the next day would be a long day on which we would make a day trip to Gombe stream National Park, which is where Jane Goodall did her research on chimpanzees.
     
  16. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    this is a most excellent thread. I have always had plans to go to Africa, but somehow always end up in Asia. Cost has a lot to do with it, but maybe one day I will get there...

    A lot of the traveller scenarios encountered seem similar between the two continents :)
     
  17. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Qatar Airways has just launched direct flights to Auckland, so at once a large chunk of Africa becomes relatively cheaply available ;). But Africa can be very expensive, if you want to see wildlife and especially mammals you are often stuck to the national parks, which are very expensive in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, but very cheap in countries like Ethiopia and Madagascar...

    Day 6 (December 29th)

    Today should be one of the highlights of the trip. Halvdan, one of the owners of the excellent Jakobsen beach told us that an excursion to Gombe leaving from his camp had never failed to actually see the chimpanzee (knock on wood...). This is off course a dangerous statement and my girl friend has an amazing quality for scaring high quality animals (at least in Europe ;)...

    At 6 am we set out by boat to Gombe by boat. Gombe can't be reached by any road, but fortunately is also on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. When looking on the map Gombe and Kigoma are very very close but Lake Tanganyika is the size of Belgium and measures more than 700 km from north to south. So Gombe was still about 30 kms away and our boat was not the fastest, so the total travelling time was about 2-2.5 hours. Though this is not very fast, it is way faster than the "lake taxis" that also hop along the shore. A taxi sounds nice, until you realize it is a fairly large open boat that you share with about 50 people (who all cannot swim) and their luggage and goats/chickens/freshly dead fish. It is no wonder that accidents are common, as they are completely overloaded. All the boats pass very close to the shore, but Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world (over 1400 meters) and it starts to go down immediately, so these people drown within 10-20 meters of the safe shore. We thus opted for a smaller boat, which we shared with 4 other tourists. That was good because the boat charges 210 USD for a return journey, but splitting by 6, that makes it acceptable...

    The journey started in complete darkness and when shining our torches (or dropping them...) we saw many freshwater jellyfish. When it finally became light (which is more than half an hour later than in eastern Tanzania), we started seeing the first birds: Reed cormorants, White-breasted cormorants, Pied kingfishers and the ubiquitous Palm-nut vultures. At some point an African pied wagtail decided to join us on the boat and he entertained us by sitting in the front and wagging his tail, like wagtails do... After some time we arrived at the border of Gombe National Park, which was quite obvious as you go from no forest at all to a fully grown forest... Gombe is only 5000 hectares and stretches along the coast for over 20 km, so it is basically a narrow strip of good forest in the middle of an ecological desert. There are currently about 150 chimpanzees in the forest, divided in 3 communities. Only the middlle community has become habituated to people and can be visited, the other 2 do not appreciate human presence... These chimps became habituated after the hard work of Jane Goodall and it must have been very frustrating in the start, when the chimps just keep running away...

    Because we had to go to the center of the park, where apart from the chimps also the park HQ are located. So we already had a chance to spot some animals along the beach. We saw a dead Bush pig, many Olive baboons and a grey heron. The highlight was however a small group of red-tailed monkeys. These guenons do just like the chimps reach their southeastern limit in western Tanzania. Together with Central African red colobus monkeys, these 3 species are a mammal freak' s main reason to visit ;). So that was primate 1 out of 3, making it my 99th mammal species of the year.

    When we arrived at the park HQ, the warden with the key was naturally not present. So this means that you leave as early as possible and then find yourself being delayed by a lazy selfish Tanzanian. When he finally arrived, he turned out to be the most rude and asocial Tanzanian I have ever met. First 2 other tourists wanted to get reduced resident rates, as they lived in Kenya (but being Swiss) and this resulted in an endless discussion over which rate they should pay... Apparently in the Serengeti they get the resident rates, but officially they should pay the normal rate. But I understand it mattered to them, because the normal rate is 100 USD per person per day, whereas the resident rate is about 3-4 times as cheap. In the end it was decided after consulting TANAPA headquarters that they should pay the normal rate. So when this was finally settled, it appeared that we could not pay by card... TANAPA only excepts payments in visa/mastercard, so that meant we could not pay at all... Fortunately he let us go into the park and we would pay when we got back.

    So after 1 hour of pointless waiting and watching the olive baboons, we could finally leave... In hindsight we should have taken our own guide and not waited for the others, but more about that later... Every morning a guide goes out into the forest to find the chimps, this tracker than informs the other guides and stays with the group when they move around. When we were ready to leave, our guide informed us that the tracker found the chimps and that they were about 1 hour walking away. So he urged us to come "haraka haraka" with him, instead of "polepole", so fast not slow... This was interesting as Gombe is situated on a series of high hills on the lake shore and chimpanzees don't care that much about ascending/descending in a slippery rainforest. 2-legged apes have more problems with that and within 15 minutes it became clear that one of the group members did not have any condition to speak of, so in the end we were going pole pole anyway. The chimps had decided to be "haraka haraka" as after an hour of walking they were still "an hour away", after 1 hour this was repeated... By then we were completely drenched in sweat, after transversing 4 mountain valleys along a steep, narrow and slippery path. The chimps kept on moving though and we heard them crying far away. In the meantime we passed a group of Central-African red colobus, these monkeys are one of the favorite live prey of the chimps... But we were closing in on the chimps eventually and I was getting very tired as well, finally we were at the forest edge and the chimps were very only 500 meters further.

    We were afraid at some point that we would not see them, but at once there they were, just sitting in the grass. The group had finally decided to relax after moving through the forest for 3 hours. I am not the biggest fan of Chimpanzees in a zoo, but seeing them in the wild is a completely different thing, as you can just see their intelligence. Officially you have to keep 10 meters distance, but that rule does not apply to the chimps, as they just pass you 1 meter away, completely ignoring the white blobs in the landscape. The young chimps are kind of curious though and they are more interested in women then men. One of the young males gave a small display to my girlfriend, 1 meter away from us, which was very impressing. Even more impressing are the shows the adult males put on, with 3 of these big black apes running through the forest, breaking trees, screeming etc. you get a lot of respect for them, especially as normally there is nothing separating you from them...

    After an hour or so the chimps decided to retreat into the undergrowth and we were left completely amazed. Fortunately we could now just descend to the beach and the walk back only took about 1 hour and was very flat... We saw a few Little bee-eaters and those were literally the only birds we saw when walking through the forest. I was hoping for some Ross turacoes, but they remained hidden and silent...

    On arrival we could finally pay by card, but the warden was already quite drunk, as he had to wait 5 hours for us, so drinking beer is the best pastime... The boat was still waiting for us and exhausted but very satisfied we went back to Kigoma. The day after would fortunately be a resting day, to prepare for the 8 hours of bus the day after....
     
    zooboy28, ShonenJake13, Hix and 2 others like this.
  18. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    16 May 2014
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    2,519
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    Oxford/Warsaw
    Wait, ubiquitous Palm-nut Vultures?
    I've never managed to find a Palm-nut Vulture, and that's not for want of looking. :(
     
  19. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

    Joined:
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    Sydney
    I agree they are certainly not ubiquitious on the Northern Circuit; perhaps they are more common in Kigoma?

    The Tanzanian Warden sounds typical of a TZ bureaucrat.

    :p

    Hix
     
  20. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    27 Oct 2008
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    Location:
    Europe
    I have also never seen palm-nut vultures outside of Tanzania ;) But in the west they are the most commonly seen raptor, maybe it helps that there are many oil palms. They are also reasonably common on the tidal mud flats and we saw them regularly in the Usambara mountains as well. I even saw one in Mkomazi NP, which is fairly dry.