This is part two of our trip into Tanzania this past week – a much deserved soul-break for Kobus and I.
I quote from the brochure we were given by Sarah, the manageress at Kwihali Camp, after one of her most helpful and friendly guides directed us to this luxurious tented camp and offered us a complimentary ice-cold Coca Cola – much appreciated in the heat of the day:
“At 10 300 sq kms Ruaha is the second biggest of Tanzania’s National Parks, although when it comes to visitor numbers it is certainly one of the lowest. Perhaps it is because it is “off the beaten track”, or that it does not combine easily with the more popular northern parks that its natural splendours of scenery and wildlife are at the moment only enjoyed by the privileged few.” And privileged and thoroughly spoilt for sightings we felt!!
“The life-blood of the park is the great Ruaha river and its many seasonal tributaries and pools, making this amazingly beautiful semi-arid landscape home to some of the greatest herds of elephant of any National Park in East Africa.” Kobus and I counted 63, no less, elephant around us at one stage. Whilst sitting in our car checking the antics of some youngsters in front of us, we nearly hopped out to our seats with fright when another cheeky young bull calf trumpeted right behind our vehicle in the road – clearly our attention was in front, so we did not see the rest of the herd creeping up behind us.
“Game driving in Ruaha is a constant delight, not only for the fauna and bird-life, but it is the landscapes of Ruaha that so impress – this is where you see the true splendour of wild Africa in all its majesty – unspoilt and untouched.” Kobus and I can vouch for this, we were delighted at the numbers of game sightings and beauty all around – the smells and sounds as thrilling as the sights.
We booked into Ruaha Hilltop Lodge – not in the park, just before the gate. What a pleasant budget stay!! The owner, manager and staff welcomed us warmly, the room was spotless and had a great view over the plains, the bed big enough for 4 adults, the food an absolute pleasure – right down to the picnic lunch packed for us the next morning before setting off into the park. It is owned by a local Tanzanian and a pleasant place to stay if you do not want to pay the hefty prices, although well worth it, for some of the luxury camps in the park. For the more budget conscious, there are bungalows on the edge of the river where you can sit and watch the elephants come down to drink in their hordes.
And as stated above, we drove for miles without seeing another tourist vehicle – just animals everywhere!! The birds were singing so loudly at some spots, we sat and listened with the car engine off, enthralled to be so one with nature.
The river, the life-giving artery of the park, is filled with masses of hippos and crocodile – we counted at least 24 crocs, and as many hippos just in one spot. And it is beautiful – oh my, it is beautiful!!
Although we were absolutely enthralled with everything we saw, as per most tourists, the cherry on top was late afternoon when we encountered lions. At first I noticed some vultures crowding in a tall tree, and commented that there was probably a kill close by. The words were scarcely said, and I noticed a huge lion head peering from behind a bush. Kobus reversed the car, we drove closer and found not one but 5 lions around their kill – a baby elephant, which accounted for the two forlorn elephant hovering very close by to the lions. Elephant are very family oriented and these were clearly mourning the loss of a calf. The carcass was well eaten, and all that was still intact was its trunk and feet. We spent some time, again all on our own with this marvellous scene, before setting off for the gate. En route we encountered two jackal, one visibly lactating, and to our amazement she dug up her prey, killed and buried earlier, to first chew and then to go and give her cubs hiding in a hole nearby. A fitting finale to an enthralling day!!
P S – as stated in the previous post – some devil caused a loss of some 200 photos off my camera!!! I was devastated, but grateful to at least have some to show.