Where would you stay in Ruaha?

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Dec 17th, 2012, 06:37 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Apr 2006
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Where would you stay in Ruaha?

Next September (2013), my husband is planning to climb Kili, and since I'm not interested in doing the same, I will go on safari while he is busy hiking. I am looking for comparative opinions on certain camps in Ruaha. I have read several books about the area, and combed through trip reports and reviews, but I can't get a definitive feel for which is the right option for me (maybe they're all a good fit?). I am trying to choose between:
Kigelia
Kwihala
Jongomero
Mwagusi

Before your respond, (and please do!) here are some details about me and what I am looking for:
a) I have been on 4 safaris - Bots (3x), Zim (1x), Zam (2x), SA (1) - so already know what I need/like and what to expect.
b) I am absolutely looking for a more secluded, low traffic experience, such as is available in Southern Africa. More than 8 tents starts to feel crowded to me, but I can stretch to 10 tents if the wildlife viewing is worth it.
c) I would prefer camps with no children, or at least a minimum age
d) Food is not a big driver for me, so I definitely don't need haute cuisine.
e) Luxury is nice, but I am fine with "comfortable".
f) Price is not part of the decision
g) I am all about the wildlife experience, big and small. I am not looking for a "soft" experience - I need the hard core: excellent guiding, getting up early, and maximizing every waking moment with wildlife
h) I don't want to be squished in a vehicle because I am an amateur photographer, and would be willing to book a private vehicle - hoping that the camps have that option.
i) I can be just as happy photographing birds and dung beetles, as I am snapping lions and elephants.
j) All-day trips are good, and I don't mind having to work for the wildlife sightings
k) Drives, walks and water options are all enjoyed
l) I'm easy going about the way a camp is run, but the safari part needs to be top notch

So, armed with all that info, and based on your personal experiences, which of the 4 camps would you choose?

Your input, and be honest, will be helpful.

Thanks.
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Dec 17th, 2012, 07:43 PM
  #2
 
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I've only been to Kwihala, but that camp sounds like a match for you. I spent 7 days there in October and it was what I look for in a camp: only six tents, clean and spacious; located in a good area of the park for game; relaxed, laid back feel with outstanding camp management; cars with 6 bucket seats (not the bench variety); and, most importantly, an emphasis on outstanding guiding.

For answers to some of your questions you might ask them directly at [email protected]

Below is a review I posted at Tripadvisor.com.

"If you’re looking for a camp that’s in-your-face Africa, Kwihala will more than fit the bill. With only six tents and no other camps nearby, Kwihala immediately gives you a sense of exclusiveness and intimacy, both with other guests and the rugged wilderness surrounding you.

"I’d say that Kwihala is simple excellence. Tents are furnished in an understated manner, but spacious and comfortable, with an ensuite bathroom with flush toilet and shower. The shower is the bucket type, with cool water during the day and hot water at night (though the camp will arrange for hot water at any time if you request it). The tents were in excellent condition. Free laundry service was available and, at least in my experience, if I left clothes in the hamper in the early a.m. they were dropped off clean at day’s end.

"But it’s wildlife that most focus on and Kwihala didn’t disappoint. Each night I could hear lions roaring in the distance while a couple of nights I could hear hyena and jackals hair-raisingly crying out much closer (actually in the camp, I was told). A pair of visitors with whom I shared
a car and who had grown up in Tanzania (and were therefore capable of tracking) told me they found leopard tracks outside their tent one morning.

"Kwihala rightly prides itself on its high standard of guiding. My guide for most game viewing rides, Marc, was like an animal Wikipedia. I probably picked up more bits of information on animal behavior than on any other safari. And the trip scored me several ‘firsts.’ On a drive with Lorenzo one day he spotted and got me into position to photograph a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, which was a prime goal of my trip to Ruaha. I also got to see a pride with a downed giraffe and a buffalo kill (the horrible sounds of that terrified bull will probably stay with me forever), made a bit more remarkable in that only two females (with a bunch of cubs) did the kill. Also I had the chance to watch a group of 9 lions in hunting mode, although noisy Guinea Fowl in the end blew the opportunity—-it was still fascinating to watch. I also got to see and photograph what appeared to be a feral cat (it did not look like an African Wild Cat, which I’d seen once before in Botswana many years ago).

"Not least of all, service at this camp couldn’t have been better. From the camp’s manager (Sara, who is terrific) to the staff level, all worked together smartly to ensure my comfort and a very memorable stay."
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Dec 18th, 2012, 03:53 AM
  #3
 
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I have also been to Kwihala (8 nights this June) and would highly recommend it- I have been on many safaris (4 just last year!) and I thought the guiding at Kwihala was some of the best I've experienced in Africa. I'm going back there next year, again for 8 nights.

They most definitely take their safari seriously- early starts every day. I was quite taken aback to discover that some of the camps don't start their drives until 7 or 8am!! We were out at 6:15 while it was just getting light. I believe Jongomero and Mwagusi have later starts- so if you consider these camps you might want to check this for definite with your agent.

The only thing on your wish list that I'm not sure about at Kwihala is private vehicle availability. They are a small camp and didn't seem to have a huge fleet of vehicles- only 2 when I was there but they were getting one more. However, with flights arriving and departing during game drive times (so needing a vehicle for transfers) I'm not sure how they can accommodate private vehicle booking. However, I did see someone on another forum mention he'd booked one so it seems to be possible- perhaps they borrow from their sister camp Mdonya. I also know Jongomero don't allow PV booking in advance, although if they have one available you can pay for it when you're there. Again, these are details you can check with your agent.
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Dec 18th, 2012, 02:30 PM
  #4
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Thanks so much for responding. It's interesting that you both say Kwihala and that you both had long stays. I also prefer long stays as I like the idea of settling in and seeing some of the storylines unfold with the animals. On this particular trip it will likely be 7 or 8 days.

Other questions - with the camp only 45 minutes away from the park HQ, did you feel like there is a lot of vehicle traffic?

And how were the Tse Tse's?

Anyone else out there who would be able to compare their experiences with my "wish-list"?

Thanks.
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Dec 18th, 2012, 03:34 PM
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Only 45 minutes from the park HQ might just as well have been a million miles from nowhere. Car traffic is at a minimum in Ruaha (I doubt we ever had more than 1 or 2 additional cars at any sighting and most often we were alone), an important contributing factor for my deciding to go there. Last year I spent 8 nights in Selous, another venue in the Southern Circuit, and the same applied there, i.e., very few cars. I seriously can't see myself going back to the Serengeti, wonderful as it is, given the Great Migration of humans that occurs there.

I normally fare very well when it comes to insect bites, but this year I was pretty well bitten up. I kept saying the tse-tses were biting me and the guides kept saying they were a different type of fly. Nonetheless, I was scratching like a hound. Luckily, I brought along some Rx steroidal cream for the itching. I should note that the majority of the bites occurred when we would stop to view the corpse of a giraffe that had been taken down by lions and then consumed over a 3-day period. So, it was not like the entire park was infested with flies, rather certain areas that one might predict would attract flies.
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Dec 18th, 2012, 11:59 PM
  #6
 
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I don't think distance from the park HQ really has much impact on how busy it is- there's not much traffic coming in from outside the park. Also, that central area by the river and the Mwagusi river is, in the dry season, the best area for game. I was there in June, right after most camps close for the long rains (Kwihala shuts April and May) and the park was really quiet. I was the only guest at Kwihala for the first 5 nights of my stay. Mainly the only time we saw other vehicles was when we went to sightings we'd been told about by the Mdonya guides (a couple of lion kills)- then there could be several other vehicles but for the majority of sightings it was just us, and whilst driving around generally we hardly saw another vehicle.

If you have been to Zambia I'm guessing you've probably been to South Luangwa. If you've been in the north- the Nsefu sector or the other side of the river (Kaingo/Lion Camp area) I'd say it was similar or even quieter than that.

September will be busier than June but I've also been to Ruaha in August, which is peak time- I stayed at Mdonya which I liked but felt it's location and guiding wasn't as good as Kwihala. August was busier than June but still not very busy.

As for tsetses, they are around, in pockets. So you can go for hours without being bothered by them then suddenly hit a pocket. The area round Mdonya was worse than other areas and they burn elephant dung in coffee cans attached to the back of the vehicle- which seemed to work quite well. Kwihala said they do the same, but it wasn't necessary during my visit.

If you have 7 or 8 days, then you could split the time between 2 camps. Kwihala, Kigelia and Mwagusi are all relatively close together but Jongomero is in a quite different area. I have to say, for me the 8am starts there would be a bit of a deal breaker but I don't know how flexible they are about that. I didn't find 8 nights at the same camp too much at all. Kwihala do quite long drives which allow you to cover quite a lot of ground. You can either go out at 6:15am, come back for brunch about 11:30, or take a "bonnet breakfast" and come back for lunch about 1:30pm. I tended to alternate from day to day. Afternoon drives are 4 or 4:30 (depends how hot it is I think).
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Dec 20th, 2012, 11:15 AM
  #7
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We loved Jongomoro and Mwagusi in Ruaha. We were there in the green season - January. We had an amazing experience. The camp managers at Jongomoro, Noelle Herzog and (“Moli”) Andrew Molinaro are wonderful. We had Moli as our driver and guide. We often invited Noelle along for a drive too. We really enjoyed her company. We rarely saw another vehicle until we got close to the park gate. At Mwagusi we had a private vehicle (by default) and many enjoyable days with our guides and a huge pride of lions. Yes...a few tse tse that would swarm when the vehicle stopped. If you exit the auto, they will disperse immedately. Not really a big deal.

Here is my trip report for both Ruaha and Selous.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...and-selous.cfm

Here are my photos:

www.tonna.zenfolio.com
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Dec 20th, 2012, 11:40 AM
  #8
 
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I have been a few time in Ruaha, first in 2002 and last in 2011. I have only stayd once in Ruaha river camp. I usualy stay at the Bandas and the public campsite. I have drive for days along the Great Ruaha, the Mwagusi ant the Mdonya river.
during my stay i have come into contact with guide and staff of the Mwagusi and Mdonya camp,verry nice and helpfull people all!These tre camps i mention (RRC, Mwagusi, Mdonya)are long established in the park. Generaly it s mean they have a great knowledge of the area. At least the people in charge as for the staff it can change from one lodge to another...There is a consencius for ex in Ruaha that the game viewing is at is most productif around 1000 am witch might be the reason for a later star on the morning drive...
I think most off the camp concentrate their drive around the Ruaha and the Mwagusi, probably because it is the most game rich area. If you drive for ex along the Mdonya or on some of the road away from the river you would probably be on your own. A few camps has been started these last years and mobile safari vehicle are becoming a more common sigth these day especialy in the hight season and i have been asked for direction and siteseeing by some of those guides...
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Dec 20th, 2012, 11:44 AM
  #9
 
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About the tsetse it generaly not a problem in the area around the rivers. Somme woodlands have more flies but not on a skale like for ex kafue np in Zambia.
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Dec 20th, 2012, 12:00 PM
  #10
 
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Early starts aren't necessarily about seeing more game- if you're into photography it's about catching the best light. It's also about seeing animals before it's hot when they're still active rather than, for example, lions sleeping in the shade.

When I was there, on several mornings we caught lions first thing in the Mwagusi sand river while the cubs were chasing each other round and playing. An hour or so later it had warmed up and they'd retired into the shade or deep into the bush where we'd never have found them.

The way we mostly found the lions first thing was by following the direction they were calling in. Generally they stop calling around sunrise so you need to be out early if you want to locate them that way.
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Dec 20th, 2012, 12:08 PM
  #11
 
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a few facts abouts Ruaha if looking for uncomon species
elands a generaly seens on the interiors roads away from the rivers and on the acces road from Iringa (the never ending side)i still have to find the roan and sable of Ruaha but i have been told that one have to drive towards Lunda or Mpululu
roan are also seen north of Msembe and along the Ruaha towards RRV.
also the lions of Ruaha seems to prey regulary on girafes...
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Dec 20th, 2012, 12:34 PM
  #12
 
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YEAh i totally agree with you! the light is fantastic in the morning and i also saw the cubs playing in the morning, not the same i think since they were on the Ruaha river bed Dawn and dusk are definitively an esentiel part of a day in the bush.
But for the majority of the plain game the 10 oclock rule seems to apply, you don t see them so much and at 10am they are everywhere... Ruaha relatively speaking of course...
Lions seems to be quite numerous with 3 diferents groups seens on somes days in january 2011 and a pride of 25 on the RR in november 2005.
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Dec 20th, 2012, 01:07 PM
  #13
 
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Yes, we saw loads of different lions- my guide listed about 10 different prides that they see and I think I saw lions from 5 of them. We saw some that had killed a giraffe, others that had killed a buffalo and then on my last morning some lions killed a warthog about 100 yards from my tent. That was a nice early wake up call about 5:15am! The guides came out and we got in the vehicles and watched them eating this warthog as the sun rose.
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Dec 21st, 2012, 04:00 AM
  #14
 
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Must have been one verry special moment!
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