11 days Selous + Ruaha


Sep 24th, 2011, 03:35 AM
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11 days Selous + Ruaha

Just got back from 11 days safari in Selous and Ruaha! Had a wonderful and amazing time again, I can keep doing this for ever!

Will do a trip report, but let me first start with some summaries and conclusions

The itinerary was very simple:
5 nights in Selous -> Lake Manze Tented Camp
5 nights in Ruaha -> Mdonya Old River Camp

Flying with coastal from Dar to Selous, Ruaha and back to Dar (via Selous) was very convenient and nice.

Hearing hyena call almost every night (I just loooove that sound), seeing the wild dogs in Selous, seeing leopard in Ruaha, sunset on the lake with Fish Eagle making their beautiful calls, elephants very close in both camps, seeing hyena walk by the camp while sitting next to the campfire, watching the elephant dig and drink in Ruaha

I enjoyed both Selous and Ruaha very much, but overall I think I liked Ruaha better. This was mainly due to the camp and the weather, so not a fair judgement on the park itself I would say
I like Mdonya better than Lake Manze because it was a bit more basic and had a bit more 'wild' feel to it. They didn't do drinks around the campfire in Lake Manze, but in the lounge instead. This felt a bit more like a real 'bar' almost with people scattered more around than when you are sitting around a campfire.
Also Mdonya felt more part of the whole environment and it seemed to have more 'real' wildlife in the camp.

As for the weather; there was cloudy skies almost the whole time during my stay in Selous, which was nice for the temperature, but not for the lighting (for photography). I was lucky on the last day on the lake though and got some nice evening light pictures there

I will talk more about the differences later on in the details

Going solo:
This was my first time to go alone on safari and I must say I enjoyed this very much.
The interaction with other people is just so easy and I would spent some more time with a few people and share game drives etc.
In Lake Manze I did quite some gamedrives on my own, which I think was great to have full flexibility, but also a bit boring and lonely during the hours that you hardly see game at all.
In Mdonya it was even more easy being solo, as they didn't have a big lounge area with separate seats, but just sat around the campfire and eat on one long table.

My main interest was photography.
My gear:
Nikon D7000 and Nikon D70s
Nikon MB-D11 Battery Grip (on the D7000)
Nikkor 80-200 F2.8, NIkkor 24-85 F2.8-F4
Sigma 10-20 F4-F5.6 and a Soligor 2x extender
Monopod: Manfroto 334B automatic
7x 8GB + 2x 4GB SD memory cards

I was shooting in RAW with a backup in JPG to the 2nd memory card. I then imported those JPG's every day on my iPad so I would have that as a backup.

I used my Nikon D7000 with the Soligor converter and the Nikkor 80-200F2.8 for about 90% of the shots. I had the D70s with the 24-85 on it so I wouldn't have to change lenses in the car.
Being on my own had the advantage that I would have a complete seat to my own, even if I'd share the vehicle with another couple. This flexibility in moving around to get the best shot was really great to have.
The monopod was absolutely fabulous! Being able to extend or change the length by just pressing the handle was so quick, absolutely great!

Ended up with around 2200 photo's, which I brought down to 85 (for now ) you can see here:
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Sep 24th, 2011, 08:59 AM
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Thank you so much for sharing. All your photos are wonderful but I especially enjoyed the birds. The bee-eaters wow!!!

Thank you as well for including what camera gear you were using. I'm in the hunt for a new camera. Of course, you are wonderful photographer and I'm just learning but it helps to know what others are using.

Thanks again.
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Sep 24th, 2011, 01:08 PM
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Wow, what a gallery. I can't choose favorites because each time I would think to myself, "These leopard shots are terrific. Oh no, now I prefer the cheetahs. Now the lions. The landscapes. The dogs. Wait, what about that bee eater?" And so on. Love the young giraffe, quite a beautiful composition to that portrait.

My biggest problem with going on safari solo is having to keep track of all my gear with no one to remind me not forget anything.

Thanks for the report--and of course the photos too.
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Sep 24th, 2011, 02:44 PM
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Great pics.
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Sep 24th, 2011, 06:48 PM
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Nikao, thanks for posting! Now I'm really sure I need to go to Ruaha. You had some great sightings (and great photos) there. Steve
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Sep 24th, 2011, 07:28 PM
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Welcome back Nikao! Gorgeous photos and looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Sep 24th, 2011, 08:00 PM
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Sitting at my computer saying OMG as I watch the slideshow. Selous is on my list for next year and this is inspiration for the planning and saving.
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Sep 25th, 2011, 12:14 AM
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thx all for the kind replies!

Some more things on the differences between Selous and Ruaha;
Selous is a game reserve and Ruaha is a national park.
The main difference (at this moment) is the fact that you are not allowed to go off-road in Ruaha, while you can in Selous. This also meant better roads and less bumpy game-drives

Driving after sunset
In both parks you are not allowed to drive after sunset, so that is no difference.
This is particular a disadvantage if you are watching game (maybe predators ready for hunt!) a bit further away from camp, as you would have to turn back and drive straight to camp well before sunset.
Apparently there are talks with the rangers in Ruaha now to be allowed to drive after sunset. The camps just want another hour or so to be able to start heading back after sunset, instead of being back in camp. The park rangers however want to get money out of it and will allow full night drives for an extra 50$ or so, but the camps don't seem to be particularly interested in this; they just want the extra 1 or 2 hours. So they are still talking, maybe next year!

Of course there are differences in the game that is present in both camps. I think you really should consider this when choosing one or the other. I met a couple in Selous that was on their first safari and would only do 4 nights in Selous. However, they were crazy about cats and only learned in the camp that there are no cheetah in Selous. Obviously they were a bit disappointed, and might have considered Ruaha after all knowing this.
Some other animal differences: Lesser kudu only in Ruaha (but very shy), Cheetah only in Ruaha, Wildebeest only in Selous, wild dogs currently only (being seen) in Selous, more types of gazelle in Ruaha, allthough you most likely only will see the grand gazelle.
I'm sure there are many more differences, but these were the most obvious to me as a guest

In general the animals in Selous are a lot more shy and skittish than the ones in Ruaha, altough this will depend on the type of animal.
I could get as close to lions in Selous as I could in Ruaha. On the other hand, especially zebra in Selous started running once they got scent of us or heared the car. Also elephants are more skittish (apart from the regular visitors in the camp ).

Differences with northern circuit
Less cars and more shy animals. Thats the biggest difference to me, although this might be depending on the areas you are going to. Closer to the gate you will encounter other cars in both Ruaha and Selous. But still you will be there with 3, maybe 4 vehicles at one sighting at max.
The nice thing about both parks is that they don't have big lodges, only the smaller tented camps (or with banda's). There are of course bigger lodges just outside the gates, but this would mean no crowds in the early mornings or a bit further from the entrance.
Ruaha did remind me of Tarangire a lot by the vegetation, dry riverbeds and tsetse-flies
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Sep 25th, 2011, 12:42 AM
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Before I start with the 'chronological' report, first a bit more on the sightings and photograph opportunities during the trip.

Animals seen and/or photographed for the first time
Blue duiker, Selous - Seen
Grey duiker, Ruaha - Seen
Greater Kudu, Selous + Ruaha - Seen and photographed
Lesser Kudu, Ruaha - Seen
Crocodile, Selous - Seen and photographed
Leopard, Ruaha - Photographed
Bush pigs, Ruaha - Seen
Python, Ruaha - Seen and photographed
Bush buck, Selous + Ruaha - Photographed
Verreaux Eagle Owl, Ruaha - Seen and Photographed
Scops-owl, Selous - Seen
Crested Barbet, Selous - Seen
Banded mongoose, Selous + Ruaha - Seen and Photographed
Gennet, Ruaha - Seen
Defassa Waterbuck, Ruaha - Seen and photographed

In Selous we tried very hard for leopard, hyena and dogs. We found 1 pack of dogs (5 adults), but I know there was also a bigger pack with little ones and really wanted to see those as well. We didn't succeed.
We've searched every ditch and tree in the nearby area for hyena and leopard, also without success. I did however see hyena on 2 occasions in Selous.

I would constantly 'bug' my driver and guides about wanting to see Serval .. Although I was really joking, the truth is that I would really REALLY love to see them one day. Even more joking I would also mention Aardvark as the next target I wanted to see. Not gonna happen!

I really thought it a striking difference with the northern circuit how hard it seems to be to see hyena in the south. You would hear them at night (yey! loooove their call ) and see the footprints + droppings during the day, but they seem to be more strictly nocturnal in the south than in the north. Even on the carcasses we saw (in Ruaha), I never saw a hyena there.

Another animal that you see constantly in the north, but I only saw them on 2 occasions in Ruaha. Also more shy/skittish?
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Sep 25th, 2011, 06:24 AM
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Your observations about jackals and hyenas were mine too. Looks like you had a good trip and your list of "firsts" is impressive.
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Sep 26th, 2011, 02:39 PM
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A very useful report, thank you so much.
Also just watched your two camp videos on youtube.
Very informative and make me long to be on safari again (what doesn't?!)
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Sep 26th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Looks like you had a wonderful experience. I am planning on doing a safari and what you described is exactly what I am interested. Couple of questions:

Did you go on a tour or arrange all on your own? If a tour company do you mind providing some details? If on your own, how much effort did it take and how did you find the contacts.

Thanks for any information. You have made me even more excited to be going.
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Sep 26th, 2011, 10:42 PM
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@Kavey thx, ive posted also a video there while walking from my tent to the lounge area (lake manze), gives you an idea on how the 'camp' / nature looks like (and the fact that it's a 2 minute walk )

My choice of destination, days/nights to spent and camps were made on my own, but I did book through an agency. I contacted quite a few, and in the end the one from Holland (where I live) was the cheapest and helped out good. You can read more on my booking process and experience here:

the funny thing is that I was redirected by Roys to Takims holidays, who never got back to me. In the end, BMS Travellers was using Takims for the transfers and booking of the flights!
I must say I was quite happy with BMS Travellers. They might not have the detailed knowledge or insight of some other companies, but they have great customer care; got a text message wishing me a good trip on my way out, also another one when I arrived back and they had sent a 'welcome home gift' to my house when I arrived back.

Any ideas of itinerary or when you will be going yet?
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Sep 27th, 2011, 09:08 PM
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Thank you for the information. I will definitely contact these companies. Just got a response from Kensington Tours, I wasn't wowed by the itinerary, especially since I like off the beaten track type trips.

My trip is planned for all of May, 2012. Low season so I would hope prices are for low season. I am not sure what to expect for prices but so far I have been quoted around $400/day US which seems high (especially since I like roughing it a bit).

Is $400 an expected amount? Thanks to all who can provide any guidance.
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Sep 27th, 2011, 11:10 PM
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that really depends on the camps you are quoted for. Normally I would say that's a bit high for this season, but then again it could be that only the more expensive ones are still open at that time. (I know Mdonya and Lake Manze both are closed in april/may)

just start your own topic here with the itinerary and you'll get plenty of reactions and advice
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Sep 29th, 2011, 05:30 AM
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Some video's to give an impression of the camps and the tents;

My tent in Lake Manze

My tent (and view) in Mdonya Old River

Rafiki passing by in Lake Manze Tented Camp:

Elephant not wanting to let us through and leave

Elephants drinking from the riverbed in Ruaha. A very lovely and common sight!

Walking from my tent to the lounge area in Lake Manze tented camp. It takes 2 minutes and I wasn't the last tent on a side, giving an impression of the size of the 'camp'
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Sep 29th, 2011, 05:47 AM
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Great and very helpful videos!
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Sep 29th, 2011, 08:18 AM
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While at Selous, did you do any boat safaris? If so, how did you enjoy it?
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Sep 29th, 2011, 09:58 AM
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I did 2 .. ; on the lake and on the 'channel'
Didn't very much enjoy the first one on the lake, that was mainly because we didn't see to much animals (except for hippo's and crocs of course) and it was cloudy.

The last night I went on the boat again, channel this time, and it was great. I was able to take a few of my favorite photo's that sunset
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Sep 29th, 2011, 03:47 PM
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Nice shots! They have some gorgeous sunsets down there. This was my favorite:

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