Lake Tanganyika Expedition
In 2016, my wife Ruth and I hoisted our 6m long fully loaded kayak down to the shore in Kigoma, Lake Tanganyika, to set paddle on a journey that changed our lives. 600kms later, and having lost a lot of weight, our fatigue was clouded by what we had just experienced. Lake Tanganyika took our souls and I vowed to return many times throughout the course of my life.
I have just returned from a fingerprint safari that I designed encompassing aspects of exploration, adventure, wildlife, evolution and our closest living relatives - the Eastern Chimpanzees. Tanzania is an epic country with a lot to see and do and for many, a lot to 'tick' off. When you delve deeper and peer through the veil of this wild country an Africa of old appears, spirit in-tact, epic starts transforming into extraordinary.
The Tanganyika Collage
Part i: KATAVI NATIONAL PARK - remote - alone - free
Little visited, little known, few people = recipe for perfection! Katavi National Park is a hidden gem in every way. It is far off the well worn roads of the busy northern circuits and therefore seldom included in itineraries. However, if in combination with Lake Tanganyika, especially Mahale National Park for the chimps, it quickly becomes just as good if not better. Katavi offers something fresh in that it offers something old. Its an extraordinary destination to get into a rhythm, set sail on safari and enjoy wildlife in an ancient and beautiful landscape.
Wild, old and soulful - the Katavi way
Part ii: Like an Ocean but a Lake, the Cichlids, the Story, the adventure.
More like an Ocean getaway, Lake Tanganyika is charming just the same but without the salt. Full of colorful Cichlid fish, the same group of fish that adorn your dentists waiting room, the lake offers an epic insight into species diversity and speciation. It seems unjustified to sell a safari for tiny little luminous fishes when there are leopards hanging from fig trees elsewhere, but the fish are the key to unlock something bigger. They're the portal into exceptional. Old Swahili dhow boats, ancient ways of fishing, gin clear water and the most breathtaking landscapes on the continent... This is one hell of a destination that quite simply forces you to fall in love. No dust, no sweat, no matata.
Part iii: Mahale National Park - Living relatives, scenery and just simply amazing.
Arriving by plane is epic, arriving by dhow boat is .............. ! Something I regret not adding to the itinerary for this trip was a bottle of champagne to officially celebrate arriving at the most beautiful view in Africa along the southern Mahale coastline. Mahale's endemic Kasoge Forest clad mountains fall steeply onto thin stretches of white sandy beaches which again fall into Bombay Sapphire coloured waters - there’s not much in the way of improvement. From afar and along most of the Mahale coastline, old and new chimpanzee nests adorn the miombo forest mosaic like mistletoes in the canopy. If you switch the engine off for long enough, you’ll hear them call. It is here however that a notorious group of chimpanzees known as the ‘M’ community wander the forest and are the true conservationists of the region. Without habituated chimpanzees, there would be fewer travelers. Habituated and pretty easy to see, sometimes with more sweat than comfortable, a trek to find these chimps is adrenaline. Where else in Africa is there such a cocktail of intensity and solitude? Mahale National Park is a high five, a wanderlust, something we all deserve to see.
Along with so many extraordinary moments from this safari, another highlight was witnessing how well the African tourism industry has 'recovered'. Occupancies everywhere where excellent and I personally could not tell the difference at the many airports if it was pre or post Covid.
Africa is not opening up, it is open.
I cant wait to get back out on safari again soon with new and old friends. There is a lot to see, a lot to experience and a lot to catch up on.