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BigBird and the Mahale peli-cam

A late October storm over Lake Tanganyika deposited a young Great White pelican near the Mahale shoreline.


bigbird mahale

He’d probably been sucked up from his nesting site into a large cumulonimbus storm cloud. These are treacherous waters when the weather’s wild.

Luckily this 3 or so month old chick swam ashore and took shelter and comfort at just the right spot! Nomad’s Greystoke Mahale beach camp.

The young bird was unable to fish without his flock so special permission was given by the Park’s authority for him to be fed by the Greystoke team. He settled in and goes by the name, “BigBird”.

At maturity Great White pelicans weigh in at up to 15kg and with a wingspan that’ll reach up to 3,6m they rank with albatrosses and condors.

BigBird’s nearest relative flock is most likely across on Lake Rukwa or at Katavi National Park which is around 150km away as the crow flies. For now it looks as though he’s taken up semi-permanent residence at Greystoke.





Flight training took some weeks to get off the ground but early in February BigBird took a beak-cam on a short circuit off the Greystoke beach.

Great white pelicans catch prey by corralling fish co-operatively and then scooping with their large stretchy pouches. Fishing in Lake Tanganyika’s deep waters as a big buoyant bird without some maternal guidance isn’t easy so camp staff have been tasked with talking him through fishing skills from a kayak for the next couple of months or at least until he gets the hang of it. In one instance Jeff the camp manager tried being like a fish in bill!

So if you’re passing through Greystoke Mahale this season, be on the lookout for BigBird in between the more serious business of chimp-trekking, forest-wandering, bird-watching or simple-chilling.
In my book, Mahale remains one of the most atmospheric gems on Africa’s safari circuit and whilst chimps have always been the main attraction there’s always been something else that’s added to Greystoke’s special charm. No doubt BigBird will provide educational entertainment this season.

Find out more

 Join the Katavi and Mahale safari – where, when, how, tips and notes

The Great White Pelican – wikipedia
(video and photos courtesy Nomad Safaris – Tanzania)