Katavi-Mahale-Ruaha

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Nov 28th, 2005, 10:53 AM
  #1
johan_belgium
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Katavi-Mahale-Ruaha

Has anyone visited one of the following camps:

- Chada camp (Katavi);
- Zoe's camp (Mahale);
- Mwagusi (Ruaha).

If so what do you think about them in terms of game and guiding? And which time of year did you visit and which time would you recommend?

Thanks in advance - Johan
 
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Nov 29th, 2005, 08:52 AM
  #2
 
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I was hoping someone with first hand knowledge would answer and I would benefit too. My knowledge is second hand but I have an interest in those areas too.

As to when to go, August and September would allow the best access with fewer areas flooded. I think Jan-Feb is also pretty good.

I got a recommendation on Mwagusi from 2 fellow travelers this past summer. They loved it and mentioned that they saw a couple of cheetah.

Are you asking about Zoe's camp because you are already familiar with Greystoke or because you think Greystoke is too costly?
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Nov 29th, 2005, 09:27 AM
  #3
bat
 
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I think Zoe's and Greystoke are one and the same--used to be called Zoe's and now is Greystoke. I do not have any firsthand knowledge to offer, I too am hoping to hear from someone who has.
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Nov 29th, 2005, 10:55 AM
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johan_belgium
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To atravelynn

Thank you for your answer.

I just got the names from the following website: http://www.africatravelresource.com/...hts/ttl/00.htm.

On this website: they give rates to camps in Tanzania/Namibia/Botswana. Probably you are familiar with that website.

I am still hoping that someone with first hand knowledge will answer but like you know those places are not well-visited. The only thing I know about Katavi is that it's very remote and that there are a lot of tse-tse flies around. But that won't scare me.

Johan
 
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Nov 29th, 2005, 11:14 AM
  #5
sandi
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Johan -

Zoe's Camp is Greystoke and has been for a few years. Unfortunately, some websites haven't updated in years with the name change.

I don't even believe the prices on the ATR site are current, so if interested you should contact them (in the UK) directly.

Because of the distances between these camps, it's often recommended to visit Katavi and Mahale or Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha. Trying to do the three you listed will be dependent on flight schedules. Especially to Mahale as there are no roads to get here.

Flights are best taken from Dar-es-Salaam. Best times to visit are generally between July thru October; January & February can also be good. Just as long as not during the wet season, when most of the camps are actually closed.
 
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Nov 29th, 2005, 11:17 AM
  #6
bat
 
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johan:

Here are some old thread that have some information on the parks and perhaps the camps

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...rchText=katavi

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...rchText=katavi

http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...rchText=katavi

Sandi and atravelynn:
I only recently heard that Jan-Feb might be Ok. Do you know what the difference is between the two time periods? Thanks
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Nov 29th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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johan:
One other thing--Siyabona has nice pictures, descriptions, and rates for Greystoke and Chada (plus other camps in Ruaha and Selous) on its website.

http://www.tanzania.co.za/
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Nov 30th, 2005, 07:46 AM
  #8
johan_belgium
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Bat,

Thank you very much for your help on this topic.

Johan
 
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Nov 30th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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hi johan, my friend lynn thought i should check this thread out. i have just been to mikumi & ruaha in so. tanz. the camps you ask about. sorry i have no idea.
in ruaha i stayed at: ruaha river lodge. 8days i was there. i visited in sept 2004. very hot & dry. but thats expected.
i wanted to visit katavi. but the internal flights messed that up. i wanted 4 or 5 nts there. then ruaha would have suffered. i hear there are many tsetse flies. mikumi also. all you can you. is keep a cloth if your hand and swing it around all the time.
but katavi should be awesome. it sounds like a place hidden from everyone. much wildlife there. massive herds of buffalo. yeah, i guess i should get there some time.
sorry i can't help with those places. but the river lodge and the fox family/camp hands are great!
thx, david
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Nov 30th, 2005, 05:54 PM
  #10
bat
 
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you are welcome. I hope that you go and let us know about it.
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Dec 1st, 2005, 08:53 AM
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ttt for research
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Dec 1st, 2005, 12:46 PM
  #12
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Thank you everyone for your help.It sounded like a must go.
I am curious especially about Katavi. It's one of those hidden gems I suppose.

Johan
 
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Dec 5th, 2005, 12:30 PM
  #13
 
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Johan

As a specialist African tour operator I headed west across Southern Tanzania last December ('04) and visited the camps and National Parks you mention. All were great and all very different.

I have a long trip report which I sent out to clients and some of which was written up in a company newsletter.

If you confirm you're still checking back on this thread I'll see if I can find the report and post the relevant sections (I'm new to these forums so not quite sure how they work - are long postings a pain?)

Yours, Richard
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Dec 5th, 2005, 12:56 PM
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Hi Richard,
Long trip reports are exactly what everybody wants on these forums. We want the irrelevant sections as well. Just try to avoid advertising.
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Dec 5th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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Richard,

I'll contact you early January 2006 because right now I am quite busy because leaving to Botswana/Capetown next Monday.

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Dec 5th, 2005, 01:27 PM
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Please post the Southern Tanzania info, Richard Smith to give us all more insight into this area.
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Dec 6th, 2005, 01:26 AM
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Dear Johan & Lynn

I hope the following is of interest (and apologies to all for previous postings with advertising):

The report starts in Ruaha National Park. This is ahuge area with few camps. Mwagusi Camp, run by Chris Fox, is situated on the banks of the Mwagusi Sand River.

The camp is simple but to think that it is worse for that is to miss the point. Chris is one of Tanzania’s elite guides and a large amount of time is spent training staff within the camp to the point that they are able to guide at a high enough level for him to be happy. Service and flexibility are also key with meals being taken in different places each time and small groups allowed to determine the nature of their game viewing as far as this is ever possible.

We saw our first lions of the trip here as they relaxed in the riverbed, some sleeping, others drinking from pools dug by elephants. There were cubs harassing mothers for milk or older siblings for playfights and a big male dozing peacefully oblivious to the whole thing. We also saw big groups of elephant, hyena and an antelope called an oribi which was a first for me. As it is coming towards the rains lots of animals had young, including a pair if dik diks whose fawn was about the size of a rabbit!

Days are structured a bit differently to most camps here and I’m (almost) embarrassed to say that I slept in rather than join the morning bird walk (although I’m assured that it was excellent) and then joined the game drive going out after breakfast at about 0930. The animals tend to move to the river as the day gets warm which is a pleasant change to having to get up at the crack of dawn and if you stayed under the shade of the vehicle’s canopy the heat wasn’t too overwhelming.

In Ruaha we’d been warned that Katavi National Park was likely to be wet and full of tsetse flies. For those who don’t know tsetses are absolute beasts and bite hard. Much of Tanzania has them in certain areas and although I have found that they don’t bite if you were well covered in repellent, their presence when trying to view game is off putting. We’d had heavy rain in Selous and some tsetses around Jongomero, so the promise of both wasn’t that appealing. However the remoteness of Chada Camp and the size of Katavi (fifty miles from the nearest road and one million acres of wilderness) is incredibly attractive and despite my worries we took off again and headed West once more, this time flying for a couple of hours.

Each of the Southern Tanzanian National Parks has a slightly different climate. Selous follows the rest of East Africa with rains in November and again in March and April. Ruaha on the other hand follows Southern Africa with rains starting in December and continuing to March. Katavi falls somewhere between these two as rains come in November, a bit in December, January is dry and February to April are wet.

Having had a wet November it was therefore very lush as we landed (with the promised rain falling around us) on the airstrip at Katavi. The rain soon eased off and the drive to Chada Camp was spectacular with beautiful huge open plains and green woodland areas. The tsetses didn’t seem to realise that they had been on offer and didn’t appear on that drive although we came across a few the following morning and at other times of the year they can be worse (in wildlife terms tsetses do have the advantage of preventing an area being used for cattle farming).

The camp is beautifully simple with smart comfortable tents each with a functional bathroom with long drop loo and bucket shower. It sits among a stand of trees looking out on the huge Chada floodplain. As I stood under my warm outdoor shower the following morning and looked onto herds of impala, waterbuck and zebra on the plain the phrase ‘million acres of wilderness’ kept repeating itself in my head and somehow made the moment more special than it already was.

Much of our game viewing was spent stopped in awe of the magnificent views and incredible numbers of animals including lions, giraffe, eland, hyena crunching on the bones of an elephant carcass, hippo’s, crocodiles and many more. I believe a recent study has found Katavi has some of the highest densities of wildlife anywhere and its distance from anywhere else means it probably has some of the lowest densities of humans. It’s great – come here!

We continued west from Katavi National Park to Mahale National Park on the edge of Lake Tanganyika. Mahale is home to half the world’s estimated population of chimpanzees. Of these thousand chimps, just one group has been habituated and I was hoping to get close to them.

The Park is bordered on its Western boundary by Lake Tanganyika and looks across this vast expanse of water to Congo. My base was the simple but beautiful Greystoke Camp. Like most great safari camps it is small and fits naturally into its surrounding with rooms under shaggy thatch and furniture made from old dhow wood. Located on one of the few sandy beaches on the lakeshore and with forested mountains rising behind, it is difficult to imagine a more stunning setting.

Most chimp trekking takes place in the cool of the morning. A scout from the camp is with the group when they start to build their nests for the night and another will find them first thing the next morning, allowing guests to enjoy their morning coffee and breakfast before setting off. Once their position and any direction of movement is determined you set out into the forest with a National Parks ranger and camp guide. Of course, sightings can’t be guaranteed, and if the chimps are up high, guests may have to track for up to five hours.

Much of the walking is on relatively smooth paths but there are certainly some steep sections and occasional river crossings (dry for most of the year). If the chimps are not on, or particularly close to the path, there may be a bit of ‘bushwhacking’ to get to them. Generally, I thought it easier going than gorilla trekking and walked in shorts and trainers, although I suspect most people would prefer long trousers and reasonable walking boots for the times you head off into the undergrowth.

The chimps’ behaviour varies from day to day. They were very vocal and agitated on our first visit, apparently due to the proximity of an ex-alpha male who had been superseded by a new male. Aside from shrieks and lots of movement there was also playfulness as they swung from vines and wrestled on the path in front of us. On our second day the second male and many of the other group members had disagreed with the alpha male. There was a lot of stamping and rock throwing, while the alpha male patrolled up and down the riverbank trying to root out the insubordinate group.

Visitors are not permitted to go within 5m of the chimps during the trek. Chimps however, don’t work to these rules and on many occasions walked right past us as we stood just off the side of the paths. It was pretty daunting since the big males probably stand two-thirds the height of a human and have incredibly well built upper bodies. However it was also fascinating and the hour you have with them passes very quickly. Most people are quick to take up the opportunity to try to see them again the following day.

Aside from the chimps you can swim and snorkel in the fresh, clear lake. There is also dhow which is used for fishing and gentle excursions. For the less energetic, it’s a great setting in which to simply relax on the beach.

Either the beach or the chimps would be great on their own. Together they’re a pretty unbeatable combination.

Best wishes, hope this helps, Richard
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Dec 6th, 2005, 08:22 AM
  #18
johan_belgium
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Richard,

Many thanks for your report!!!

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Dec 6th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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Richard:
You report:
"However it was also fascinating and the hour you have with them passes very quickly"

Does this mean you are restricted to one hour of actually observing the chimps?

Thanks for your report!

Cyn
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Dec 6th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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thanks for the report! are you going to be sharing pics? Would love to see them.
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