Social Distancing in Mahale Mountains
Times have changed, but then again in some places they haven’t. As social distancing and seeing people in masks becomes the new normal, I’m reminded of a place where this has always been the status quo – visiting the chimps of Mahale. Such precautions have been in place ever since Nomad Tanzania opened Greystoke Mahale, and everyone at the camp follows them: the guides, trackers, researchers, and those few lucky enough to visit. And believe me, getting to visit Mahale makes you very lucky indeed.
Seeing the primates is magical. To sit still and watch from a rock as they move around you is so special that words often fail me. Which may be why I prefer to take photos. In one direction, a couple of youngsters doing a little grooming and some general goofing around. To my right sits Darwin, the patriarch, looking for intruders, while Phone tries to keep her youngest from getting down and wandering away, which any parent can attest isn’t always easy. They were at ease and pretty much ignored me and my camera while getting on with their daily business, to my delight.
But, why the masks and physical distancing when we share 98.6% DNA in common? Precisely for that reason. Because one sneeze from us has the potential to spread something that can acutely endanger or completely wipe out the entire group. Sound familiar? Seeing the chimps of Mahale was one of the most amazing and humbling things I’ve ever done. So until you’re able to get on a plane again and visit Mahale yourself, you’ll have plenty of time to practice for the day you’re able to meet the chimps in person.
Yvonne has roamed all over Africa, and you can ping her here to start putting the wheels in motion for a trip of your own to Mahale. In the meantime, you can get started with Jane Goodhall’s classic My Life with the Chimpanzees, and read about Nomad Tanzania’s conservation and community engagement work here.