Wild Philanthropy

Mahale, Ntakata, and the Tongwe: A conservation journey to a lost world

By | Tuesday, 13th February, 2018

Greystoke Mahale chimp in tree - Nomad Tanzania

Here at Wild Philanthropy we work with some extraordinary people and places. Planning and writing our client itineraries takes me to storybook lands of remote tribes, wildlife-filled plains and drought sensitive deserts. When I sign off Outlook at the end of the day, I walk out into the buzzing streets of Brighton, I can smell the ocean. How easy would it be to forget those people and places in faraway places? I could easily invest all my energy in helping to resolve community and ecological dilemmas closer to home.

Personally, I believe it’s all about balance, and when you find something that lights you up, like the work I do at WP, it’s a case of looking out for those both near and far. We learn a lot from our African partners, and they from us, not least those that WP clients will encounter on our Southern Tanzania Conservation Journey, the chimps.

Often the highlight of a conservation journey to this region is a stay at the lakeside sanctuary, Greystoke Mahale. Only accessible by boat, its romantic, thatched beachfront cottages, which overlook Africa’s deepest lake, offer guests the opportunity to trek from camp into the Mahale Mountains, to encounter habituated chimps in their natural habitat. However, as well as this, WP clients will go a few steps further, taking a 25kms/ three-hour journey through the jungle to the Ntakata Forest, home to the Tongwe and Bende tribes, who live alongside unhabituated, uncontacted chimps, elephants, leopard, and many endemic species. Currently no other tourists, except a handful of hardy researchers, venture to this area. Leaving the jeep behind, it’s travel on foot or mountain bike only. Accommodation’s a fly camp, which would include a mess area, great basic food, and the chance to sit around the campfire with hosts and friends. It’s beautiful, and wonderful, and very simple. It’s a rare opportunity to travel to this lost world.

Plus, if dates and budget permit, there’s the potential to be guided by Roland Purcell, the pioneering spirit who dreamed up and created nearby Greystoke Mahale, and who went on to establish the Tongwe Trust with one of Greystoke’s original employees. His charismatic Irish charm, humour and unmitigated adventuring expertise appeals to / translates well with both Western travellers and the local community.

A conservation journey to Ntakata will be life-changing, coupled with the mutual benefits that come from a lifelong connection to an already successful and highly rewarding conservation project in its infancy. This journey is for someone who recognises the value of protecting an endangered species and culture, and who’s ready to get involved at a critical time.

Coming face-to-face with chimps is an unforgettable experience, evoking a primal feeling, perhaps a spiritual connection to our distant past. So, you see, even when I log off my PC at the end of the day, there’s no chance I will ever be able to forget that emotional response. And if, by planning these Wild Philanthropy itineraries, introduces more people to this, I’ll be happy.

Wild Philanthropy’s Conservation Journeys open up a new way of travel. All profits are returned to the charity, and used to cover operating costs, ensuring donations received can be deployed on the ground, where they are most needed. If you would like to travel with us, become a Friend of Wild Philanthropy, donate, or simply learn more, then please do get in touch.

Will Jones Ntakata Tanzania