My Tanzania – Q&A with safari guide Hamza Mmole at Chada Katavi Lodge
On her recent educational trip to Tanzania’s western parks of Katavi and Mahale, Lucinda took the chance to chat to Hamza Mmole guide/manager at Chada Katavi Lodge.
How long have you been guiding?
I started with Nomad Safaris in 2006, working front of house and hosting, which gave them the chance to see if I would be suitable as a guide. I was, and trained with Nomad, qualifying in 2008.
What led you to becoming a guide?
I grew up seeing wildlife as my father was a ranger in the Selous Game Reserve – the animals were like my family! After I finished school I wanted to study wildlife management to become a ranger like my father. He explained some of the advantages and disadvantages which made me think to try something different, but also with animals.
Where have you guided other than in Katavi?
Mainly in the south and west, so Selous and little bit in Ruaha and Mahale. In the north I do relief work as a host and walking scout when others are on leave.
Which is your favourite wildlife area?
There are two – Selous and Mahale. Mahale is special because of the chimps and the rain forest. It’s like you are dealing with something unique that you don’t find elsewhere in the country. In Selous you have more options and freedom as a guide. It’s normal there to go off-road and combine activities (such as wildlife drives, walking safaris and boat cruises). There’s lots of different habitats too – small hills, rivers, permanent water, forested areas. And of course I have known it from childhood – and I love fishing.
Most memorable guiding moment?
Actually, there are two. In Selous it was an elephant encounter on a morning wildlife drive just after some rain. I had honeymooners in the car and we were going to the hot springs. On the way we came across an elephant in the road having a mud bath. So I switched the engine off about 15 metres away; he was very relaxed and enjoying himself. When we wanted to move I tried to go around him. He didn’t like that. He came straight to the car, I switched off, he stopped about 3 metres away, and walked off.
We stayed another five minutes and then tried again. He came again and walked around the car, stopped in front of it – sniffing from the bonnet up to the steering wheel, which I was holding. Then he sprayed everywhere – his trunk was full of mud and we were all covered! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know, but the honeymoon couple had bowed down in their chairs, hiding themselves. When they stood up, they had no idea what had gone on – asking what had happened to my face. I asked what had happened to their hair!
In Mahale it was my first week with the chimps. We watched two young boys playing and showing off in front of some females – I was busy taking notes. A young chimpanzee called Orion, named after one of the stars, was coming towards me. The other guides knew him and that he’s more active and can be more aggressive than the others. They spotted him coming down from the tree but didn’t want to tell me that he could be like this – they wanted to see what would happen.
I was between Orion and the two young ones playing. Mwiga, one of the other guides gave me his identifying marks, his name and details. So I was busy looking at him and making notes and taking pictures etc. After five minutes he stood up, walked away, and came back with a branch from a dead tree, dragging it towards the two boys, who ran away. The only thing Orion could see was me – so I got whacked on the back. Two days later he did exactly the same thing! That was my first memory, but the other was to be hugged by a male chimp known as Darren. Just proves what different characters they have.
What do you think is the main challenge you face as a safari guide?
It depends on the area and type of guests. For example, in the Serengeti there is lots of wildlife. Guests know this, and they want to see it – especially if it is their first time in Africa and they have been told it is the best place to see everything and the Big 5. That can be a challenge. Sometimes you will have first-time guests sharing a vehicle with those who have been on lots of safaris. As a guide you have to manage that too, when they want to see different things. Then you also have different languages – you understand the English, but you can’t pick up on what the German or French for example, are talking about.
So essentially, reading people is the challenge. Nomad make sure as guides we all meet up once a year and discuss the challenges and the best way to deal with them – which helps.
Where would you most like to visit – in Tanzania, and further afield?
In Tanzania it is hard for me to choose since there are many places I haven’t been to but would like to go – every corner we have wildlife. I’d love to go to Rwanda to see gorillas to see the difference between them and chimpanzees. Essentially anywhere with wildlife – I’m not a city boy!
What is your favourite time of year in Katavi?
Mid-June to mid-September is the best time for weather and wildlife sightings. To be honest it is common to get back in the camp after four hours having seen leopard, lion, buffalo, roan, hippo, crocodiles etc.
Do you have a favourite Nomad Safaris’ camp?
I haven’t spent time in Lamai Serengeti, so it might be different but I love the mobiles. Those are my favourite.
Do you have a favourite sundowner spot?
At Mahale with the sun setting over the lake. I know in Ruaha, Tarangire, and Selous there are nice sunsets over the river or with baobabs but for me, Mahale is the best.
What is the best part of your job?
I love walking safaris. That is why I spend so much time in the walking camps.
Any questions on a Tanzania safari?
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