Finally, in Ruaha National Park!
Two hours 40 flight; direct between Grumeti and Msembe airstrips; just the two of us (plus Xander the pilot); and I didn’t need that empty bottle I carried for …… emergencies!
As I’ve said we’ve been to Ruaha before! Extraordinary experience! That’s why our discussions with Rob confirmed a return for safari number 2, to Kwihala camp!
Ruaha is varied terrain, hilly (not craggy), kopjes, river plains; greener and denser vegetation (at this time of year) than Serengeti, trees, baobab forest, bush, grasses and scrub; several river courses, which feature regularly in game drives. (I loved watching elephant digging for water in the “dry” river!)
As it turns out Kwihala has moved to a river- (dry at this time of year) bank position, from its previous site on a nearby hillside. What had not changed however was the warm, friendly and sincerest of welcomes! Strict camp rules and safety briefings yes; but here you ARE “immersed” in the bush and, not surprisingly …. there are wild animals about!
Tony, our “guide to be”, was at the airstrip to meet us (with Augustino his trainee). We had met before; there was much excitement! Greetings complete; Nikki was asked - would she like an alternative to the evening’s menu; she had been less than 100% prior to leaving Ubuntu (THEY KNEW!); preference for “something plain” was radioed-in and readily accommodated by the Chef.
Tam, and the team, certainly went out of their way to make our stay special! Everybody was so keen to understand or needs and wishes, and to reminisce on what we had seen/done before. Nothing seemed too much trouble, but more than that - the whole team were good hosts; like being embraced (if only briefly) into the “family”!
Attention to detail and personal comfort is obviously high on the agenda! The mess and guest tents really are well presented, spacious and comfortable! Bush hair dryer and bucket shower are though still the order of the day! (extra water is available!)
No distant vistas over the baobab forest, true, but the dry riverbed had its own charm. It was also a perfect location for watching the “bush tv” (camp fire); reflecting upon the day with guides and fellow guests. Silver service dinner follows, at a communal table just a few metres away, all under a spectacular starry, “African sky”. One evening a hyena visited during dinner; next night a juvenile African eagle owl accompanied the meal (entertainment NOT an “amuse bouche”).
I’m still wondering how they can provide such good food out there! The very palatable wine is easier; it comes in bottles from South Africa!
Kwihala offers two game drives a day, plus a night drive and a walking safari: who could refuse?
I had forgotten however, there are two 6 o’clock’s in a day! Wake-up call with tea at 06.00: morning game drive at 06.30 (including hot water bottle); bush/bonnet breakfast around 09.30; camp for buffet lunch by 13.30; a bia baridi (cold beer) appears as if by magic; moments to freshen-up (or sleep); tea and cake at 16.00; afternoon game drive at 16.30; “sundowners” at sundown!; back to camp as darkness falls!
Sounds “full on”? Well, it is! But, a lot is packed in; what an adventure and very very special - coming upon a water hole with impala, giraffe and kudu silently drinking - unbelievably magical, enchanting; UNMISSABLE!
For the game drives we shared Tony, Augustino and the vehicle with Kathy; an eight times Kwihala visitor, from the outback of Alaska with whales, seals and orca as neighbours! Five travelling companions with common interests and a shared sense of humour made our adventure all the more enjoyable.
What sights did we share? Ruaha’s captivating landscapes, elephant herds, a “journey” or two of giraffe, occasional “dazzles” of zebra, the majestic greater Kudu, lesser kudu, dik dik, cobra, civet, genet, many beautiful birds and a pride of lion stalking a big herd of Cape buffalo (they can’t have been too hungry as it turns out!). Ah yes! and four leopards; I could have actually stroked one he was so close as he walked past us! I didn’t, hence I can still attempt to type with all fingers!
Tony was amazed (and soo pleased) we had remembered as many details of the landmarks and sightings from our previous visit to his beloved Kwihala, about which he is so passionate! I know they are all proud of their piece of paradise and are happy ... no determined … that you should share in it!
In our view, “it is an absolute privilege to see these animals in their natural surroundings!” A sentiment echoed by many of those we met.
You know when you discover something, you think is so special that you don't want others to find out about it? Well ………………
** Thank you to the authors of this blog, our wonderful clients John & Nikki Satchwell, for sharing their wonderful experience. **