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Kichaka Expeditions & First Walking Safari Sept. 2013


graceland
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KICHAKA EXPEDITIONS, RUAHA WALKING SAFARI

A Step Up and A Step Beyond


Our recent adventure safari with Kichaka Expeditions in Ruaha, Tz... led by Andrew "Moli" Molinaro and his excellent team managed by Noelle was a "step up" from our usual vehicle game drives..walking gives one a more encompassing view than from a jeep; the dirt, grasses, shrubs, branches on trees are all connected while walking.

The smells are stronger; the light brighter; each step measured as you make your way through the forests, the scrub brush, the dry river bed- the knee high waters of the Great Ruaha River. There is a connection to each individual component of where you are that one does not feel in a car. There is visual tracking for game - no radios or cell phones, just prints on sand, a spotting of a trunk in the air; a sound from a bird warning others. All the senses come into play and for us it was pure excitement and anticipation.

We stepped beyond beyond any terrain carved by others either on foot or car. No worn paths, no "ideal" direction to find a known herd of ellies or prides of lions. For some that may not be exciting and the game viewing is indeed sketchier than a camp lodge vehicle, but we became hooked rather fast on the exhilaration that did come when quiet was commanded,and a herd of elephants are passing our way.

The Swashbucker exploration (7n)


One who engages in daring and romantic adventures with ostentatious bravado or flamboyance."


This required more stamina(but no flamboyant behavior :)) than climbing into a land rover/cruiser at 6am! I "imagined" I was in pretty good shape, but this walking was way more than I expected; however I loved every minute of the challenges we faced . With Kichaka offering 3,5, 7, and now 12 to 14 nights, Moli will arrange walks at any pace for any physical condition. We told him to "go for it" and he did. TANAPA training must have included breaking large branches off shrubs, tossing rocks, etc. to the side to keep me from forever falling,and Doudee was quite adept. I kept right behind him almost knocking him off the paths several times a day.
We kept track of our milage via GPS and my Jawbone UP and figured we walked approximately 5-6.5 hrs a day and covered about 10 miles a day. more or less by a mile or so...Not a walk in a meadow by any means. Moli said we walked the undiscovered area-after first 2 days of approx. 50kms


RUAHA:

For those few folks (me included) who knew very little about Ruaha, it is very interesting as it is a transition zone between S. Africa and E Africa's flora and fauna overlap. The park covers about 20,000 plus sq.km and it the second largest national park in Tanzania. The park including the game reserves cover approximately 45,000 sq km.

Ruaha is home to a variety of animals including Grant's Gazelle, Lesser Kudu, Striped Hyenas, Sable,Roan, Water Buffalo and a very healthy population of herds of elephants. Wild dogs are known to be in certain areas, though we saw none in seven days - more likely in Sealous And of course lions! Lots of lions near the buffalos!

The Great Ruaha River forms the focal point during the dry season but unfortunately due to excessive use of water by rice farms, the flow has suffered and we observed this in September, as it was quickly drying up from the previous two weeks when Moli had been there. There are not that many lodges in the area, but the one day we drove into "game drive area" we were amazed to see 4 or 5 vehicles so far away from the Mwagusi and surrounding camps.

The Mzombe River on the northern boundary is another important water source but it too does not flow year round. We hope to go on another expedition with Moli to investigate the Mpululu area to the north on this river.


PLANNING:

After an exceptional game filled safari in Botswana last November, we were antsy to return. We, however,are not long term planners and choose to find something we could book 2-3 months in advance. Jud agreed to return to Africa in September if we could do something "out of our ordinary safari zone" Having talked to Stokeygirl and others about perhaps walking in Zambia and Zimbabwe, I found most of what we'd want to do was booked. That is when SG sent me the link to Kichaka. Did not take long - a few emails, and we were booked for 7 nights; I would have preferred 10 in retrospect.


Since Jud did not want to add a lodge to the itinerary I convinced him a few days either in Zanzibar or Ras Katuni which was recommended to me by Noelle,would be worth the MANY hours flight to even get to Tanzania from Virginia.
I watched the flights daily, and found a business class not too overly priced from Dulles - Zurich - Dar.
Done.Book it.

I posted a thread here on ST "First Time Walking Suggestions" and received plenty of good info; esp. on Tsetses of which I was terrified. I react horribly to bites. Most of my carryon was filled with all sorts of meds and homeopathic remedies for the bite. The only one I saw was one Moli picked to show me. So I left my goody bag with them in case an upcoming guest forgot theirs!

LOGISTICS:

Living two hours from Dulles International Airport has its advantages; driving there is not onecould take 2 hours - or, it could take 4 or 5 because of traffic. Leaving early we went around our elbows to get to our thumbs and arrived in 3 hours backcountry. We flew United to Zurich; changed to Swiss and arrived in DAR at 8pm. Being the 3rd couple off we were in good position for visas; Jud got his immediately; I imagine my $100 bill looked suspicious, or either I did. The officers in charge decided to make me wait yet another half hr. Then off we went to Southern Sun - average but doable for an overnight, with pleasant staff, terrible wine, but a nice spot outside in a garden to relax before falling into bed to awake early for a 7:30am ride to Domestic airport for our flight with Coastal.

Our 8:30 am flight to Msembe was late and I entertained myself trying to figure out where everyone was going - either Sealous or Ruaha. Most went to Sealous. I was VERY sick on the flight and if given the opportunity would have turned around and gone home. I seriously could not see myself walking, much less for days. Apparently the pilot was teaching another pilot, and he had no control over the plane. Bad luck! After landing in Sealous and handing the pilot my TWO vomit bags, he took over, LOL
I did not see anymore bags on board and thankfully none required though I remained very quesey the next hour and still wondered what I had gotten myself into.

ARRIVAL:

Having never been to Tanzania I was really looking forward to the landscape by air; but with my head in a bag, I really could have cared less. I kept my head aloft as best I could, willing the plane to just land which it did about 3 hrs after takeoff. A very "green" me was the last off the plane, and I recognized Moli instantly ~ and thankfully felt happy and excited we had finally arrived in Ruaha with a weeklong adventure ahead of us!


EQUIPMENT:

By now you know we are not super photographersnor do we care. Our memories are what take us back to Africa year after year; not a photo. Lighting in Ruaha was HARSH; there is no way to position yourself for favorable conditions when not in a vehicle, so these pics represent what we saw of the area and our experiences.

We took a Canon 20D, that zooms to 300 mm; a Panasonic Lumix P&S; my personal fav, my iPhone 5, and a new Go-pro3 - a guy needs his toys! My toy was a Jawbone "UP" hoping to count the number of steps I walk each day. It was fun and pretty accurate comparing with Moli's GPS. Everyone gathered around me (one way to get attention) to see how it worked with the iPhone and if it actually showed my calorie count! Wine did not count of coursenor G&T's, nor Tuskers. So I was working in a deficit. :)


LET THE GAMES BEGIN:

I think Moli was as curious about us as we were him. Jud and I were his first "7" nighters, first walk for us ever --flying so far and not even going to a lodge to ease into the transition. I imagine he thought we were lunatics. After getting our 2 duffles and 1 camera bag and my travel pack into the totally cool retrofitted vehicle (PLUG IN REFRIGERATOR!!)he offered cold ones; I was not ready for a Tusker but took a cold water and off we went. Needing to pick up our ranger from the Ranger Post we took a half hour drive around, seeing a giraffe immediately. The first animal is always one to remember and though too far for a good pic; I still remember her with glee. Moli did a history of Ruaha; stopped here and there to chat and after a good half hour we started laughing about my green face exiting the plane. It never stopped from there on.(the laughter; I did not have another green face until flying home!) I think the laughter started when I used the rest room and saw hoses on the wall.I asked him if they were showers for the public campsite... He cracked up. I was still thinking about that as we drove on


We picked up our ranger, Doudie, a quiet, but very smart young man; and proceeded to drive over 3.5 hours - saw our first cheetah and giraffes, ever present impalas and zeebra

And having Moli's specialty - grilling - chicken kabobs, fresh veggies, cold wine! Excellent!

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Edited by Game Warden
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So I already made a mistake....Be prepared there will be more!! .Where is my 2013? Editing did not let me add a 3; can a MODERATOR do that for me.

Or I will have to just quit here!!

Thanks..

 

More to come; in hospital with my brother (first Gracie, now Rick) and decided to go ahead and get this out for distraction purposes

Bare with me.

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can a MODERATOR do that for me.

 

Some members are soooooo demanding...

 

Or I will have to just quit here!!

 

Isn't that called blackmail? ;)

 

@@graceland Looking forward to making the journey with you in this report :)

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can a MODERATOR do that for me.

Some members are soooooo demanding...

 

Or I will have to just quit here!!

Isn't that called blackmail? ;)

 

@@graceland Looking forward to making the journey with you in this report :)

 

 

YES........YES........and be prepared to be on standby for HELP!

 

THANK YOU KIND SIR.

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Hi Graceland

 

I have really been looking forward to your tripreport. So far so good, keep writing :-)

Were in Ruaha in feb. Going back next yeari in sep. on camping.

Why did you bring a ranger isn't Moli a armed guide.

 

Michael.

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Yay! I've been waiting for this one. Lunatics indeed.

 

@@Africalover it's the park rules in Ruaha that a ranger has to be there on all walks. I assume Moli was also armed- on the walk we did from Kwihala, both the ranger and our guide were armed.

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The airstrip is at the MSEMBE, and our Base Camp was about 3.5 hrs northeast from there, past Lunda, along the Great Ruaha River. As you can see on the map, most of the camps are around Msembe and the Mwagusi River,so they really are not able to drive so far out. Moli received very positive input & support from the TANAPA group in locating a camp further out- and is hoping in the year to come to move towards Mpululu (not on this map but going west. His intentions are to have TWO base camps, with fly camps on the move between the two.

 

There were no roads, just rough patches or deep sand to drive in, therefore a walking safari is excellent for the the Lunda and areas further east. Moli has trucks that can traverse the area as well. I thought the roads in Botswana were sandy! We got stuck so many times just trying to get back towards Lunda and Msembe!

 

 

As we drove towards Lunda and the base camp the scenery changed from the wet and green areas of the Ruaha river to a vast, dry, palm fringed bushI did not think it particularly pretty in landscape terms, but it was inviting; as we eventually walked it, I could see birds, impala, giraffe, and zebras taking solace in their solitude way out in the middle of nowhere; very skittish upon our approachthis is not for serious photographers hoping for that magical shot. It is just living in the moment. However I saw more running giraffe, zebra and impala than I ever have in a car and I rather enjoyed watching something other than grazing!

As stated, it would be perfect to add to a camp before or after for those exceptional shots (as @Stokeygirls)

 

 

 

Hours later we arrive at a beautiful site on a bluff above the (now) dry Ruaha River. Two weeks prior they had been swimming in it! But we really loved the site; it was shady,with an atmosphere of romance and intimacy. We could not comprehend how they managed to build such a camp so quickly and with so many amenities.

 

Some pics of Lunda Base Camp (which up to our trip had been taken down and put up every couple nights - now it will remain stationary, and fly-camps set up 2 or 3 different areas of Ruaha...

 

and the Amazing Kitchen and Equipment Noelle brought in....and moves as needed! Freezer, Refrigerator, Stove, Oven...truly out of this world meals made by her and her great staff!

 

So they are the specifics of the camp, and it is most inviting....when we get to flycamp on the 3rd night I'll post those pics.

 

Coming up.....my first walking safari after a glorious evening getting to know Moli and Noelle....over a

scrumptious dinner under the stars of Africa.

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Hi Graceland

 

I have really been looking forward to your tripreport. So far so good, keep writing :-)

Were in Ruaha in feb. Going back next yeari in sep. on camping.

Why did you bring a ranger isn't Moli a armed guide.

 

Michael.

Yes @@Africalover, we had Doudie a most knowledgeable TANAPA Ranger with us (I think I mentioned him in first post) who really looked after me as I was walking just about on his heels :) He and Moli both carried arms; but as SG states, it is required to have both.

 

Doudie served as "lookout" when we would stop to watch animals, do the "sneak" as I called it....he would walk to the side and keep watch over the brush, trees, etc. Obviously you do not know what can be hiding, esp if you came upon just one animal - as we did with a lion!

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africapurohit

@@graceland a great start (apart from the emesis episodes) and look forward to more.

 

I hope the reason for the hospital visit is not serious.

Edited by africapurohit
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Thank you Stokeygirl.

 

By the way really enjoyed your Ruaha-Selous tripreport :-)

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Thank you Graceland.

Maybe they take extra precausions, since the woman that was killed by an Elephant some years ago.

 

Cant wait for the rest of the tripreport :-)

 

Michael.

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As we were on a 7 night expedition, only 5 days were really spent walking - the first day is a game drive of sorts just getting to the remote camp - as is the last (8th) day getting back to the airstrip. In the middle of the week, we took one day long drive back the 3-4 hours so we could try for some lions and better photos etc.

The first full day in camp we walked the Lunda Base Camp area, and after that - a very long day walking to the Flycamp for two nights; then 2 more days walking in extreme undiscovered areas. I felt I should have a machete for some of the areas. HOWEVER, we loved the uniqueness

 

 

 

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ss of the days and area and never felt we were missing out if hours went by with only glimpses of birds. I guess you just had to be there!

So that being said, this is a very different type of report than what is usually presented here on ST.

Because most Safari Walkers are experienced in Zambia (and I imagine Zimbawbe) the first thing you would notice is there is not the abundance of game - therefore not a plethora of photos as we've seen in many excellent reports of late. The terrain is much different, the game is extremely skittish - and obviously since I've not been to Zambia I cannot honestly compare it.

However I have discussed with with several long time Zambi walkers and it is clearly not what is offered by the excellent and well known walking guides in Zambia --who pretty much have acclimated the game to walkers; who have been there long enough to instinctively know where they might take a route to find a pride or a herd or a gang...this was not what our walk was about.

Ruaha has so many terrains and on some days we were walking through them all.....
Our first day we saw many elephants as we were closer to the waters of the Ruaha than later...though it was interesting how we'd find them in the sand digging for their water. Quite amazing to watch. Instead of leaving in search of water, they dug for it preferring to remain in their spots.

This part of the expedition because of the water did allow us to see so many elephants; and sit and watch them (and rest!) for quite a while. Moli is an encylopedia and his knowledge and love of the bush kept us entertained and interested even when hours went by with no sightings. We truly were not expecting it being so far out; but when it did happen we were all joyful and thrilled to be a part of their world.

Remember too, I only had an Iphone and "Gopro". We have no idea how anyone can carry 20lbs or more of photo equipment all day long. The binocs and water were too heavy for me....however, I refused to let anyone carry them for me. I wasn't going to be a girly girl with these three men!

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Helping with the formatting. You owe me a beer.

 

Many Safaritalkers are Safariwalkers too :)

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Taking the evening to be with my brother. One reason I began this report before I actually was ready is he wanted to be able to read it (or be read it) and see some pictures while in the hospital. A lesson to all to get out there NOW- and do what you want, go where you can before you are totally unable....and live with regret.

 

As noted I am bundling everything as these 5 days could really not be separated day by day - too much time between; but every day brought a new and rewarding sunrise and sunset, including a morning with a lion....I wish I had snapped the go pro on my hat...but the heat was very intense mid-day - lighting very harsh, but will try to put into words what we saw; along with our afternoon game drives which did produce some fun sightings.

 

Thanks for reading along....and patience!

 

A few pics taken daily....

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Helping with the formatting. You owe me a beer.

 

Many Safaritalkers are Safariwalkers too :)

Lawdy, I owe you a case and a few bottles of vino thrown in (sharing of course. I did warn you to "standby"...wish I could have taken you along as our official photog. Edited by graceland
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Me? I'm a pants photographer. But I would have given some beard advice to the two chaps in the last photo ;)

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Taking the evening to be with my brother. One reason I began this report before I actually was ready is he wanted to be able to read it (or be read it) and see some pictures while in the hospital. A lesson to all to get out there NOW- and do what you want, go where you can before you are totally unable....and live with regret.

 

As noted I am bundling everything as these 5 days could really not be separated day by day - too much time between; but every day brought a new and rewarding sunrise and sunset, including a morning with a lion....I wish I had snapped the go pro on my hat...but the heat was very intense mid-day - lighting very harsh, but will try to put into words what we saw; along with our afternoon game drives which did produce some fun sightings.

 

Thanks for reading along....and patience!

 

A few pics taken daily....

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Our 2nd day Moli finds a herd of elephants oblivious to us...he wears a sak of "ash" on his belt - as he shakes it he can tell where the wind is....up or down. He is VERY concerned with these elies not accustomed to humans that we stay downwind. It is quite exciting to stumble upon them...although truthfully in Ruaha they are everywhere....post-5364-0-86474700-1381187850_thumb.jpgpost-5364-0-57889800-1381187880_thumb.jpg

 

I was pretty psyched to get to close with my iphone as Moi said the ones without tusks were particularly

mean....booties he called them.post-5364-0-69602200-1381188005_thumb.jpg

 

A rustle of grass; a step on a branch.....and off they go..

 

We follow along the riverbank watching, hoping they may change course....but not to our avail.

 

However to get so close we are all very pleased - it's not easy but Moli and gang are up to the challenge

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The same day we are walking through really high grasses, thus no pics...unfortunately this expedition did not produce the pics I would love to show everyone, but there are times things happen so fast even a Iphone or go pro is forgotten..

 

We see the always present impala; but one is staring intently at us or so we think. Highly unusual as they run, leap high; I think of ballerinas and though I've seen them in every African country I've ever been in; I appreciate their presence here so much more. They truly are "art" in motion and if I had their grace and ease I'd been a dancer.

 

Moli is perplexed as to why this particular impala is not moving; I on the other hand see in the tall gold grass something unusual, but having been told to "remain quiet" I do so....Doudie is in front of me and I can tell by his body posture he sees it too.

Only being the 2nd day I am not quite sure what to do....IF I say anything I may be mistaken and the impala will run; Moli might not trust me again (this is what I am thinking!) so I look at Doudie; he looks at me....finally he snaps his fingers at Moli (their signal)

Whew, I was not afraid, just worried....as 20 feet in front of us was a lion stalking the impala. In my walking safari "naivete" think if they aren't worried, I am not worried.

 

Moli kicks into action....raises his hand for us to reteat; we do so and I am obviously pleased I saw the young lion before anyone else! Adrenalin kicks in and Moli silently leads us back and towards the a tree to hide behind - yet still see.as he constantly checks his wind.....I've never been so excited and maybe a bit worried at the same time.

 

But with two experts in front of me, and endorphins running through me, I want more.

 

I did get a beautiful sunset that night

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Super, super stuff, @@graceland. Every bit as exciting and adventurous as I had imagined this would be. Both of you did fantastically with the length of the walks - day after day of 10+ miles is quite a feat.

 

I can feel and hear your anticipation - I think that is the magic of walking in wild places. Not so important what you do see but what you might see. Do tell us about night sounds and how it felt to be fly camping in these areas after the sun had gone down.

 

Hope your brother is enjoying the story. We certainly are :)

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Great experience. You'd get a ice-cold stupid under pressure award if you'd got a picture of your lion encounter. Exciting isn't the word given where you were with unknown, completely unhabituated animals. Well, that's what I think!

 

Very cool stories (well except the vomit, but it is a good scene-setter) and I am glad you find the writing and posting therapeutic. Best wishes to you and especially your brother - hospital is a place with no upside, except the nurses (no, I don't mean it like that!) and hopefully getting out. I love the pictures. They enrich the report and for visual folks like me they make a big difference. Holiday snaps from Eden!!

 

The base camp looks amazing. What a beautiful trip.

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Thank you @@Sangeeta and @@pault for your kind words...I was worried two fold about this report = though we absolutely LOVED the experience How would I ever convey it without all the images most take....how do I convey the increbible feelings we had being in the middle of nowhere - where no tourists had ever been before....without any pics....I hesitated to even start.

 

It was my brother who told me to just write.....tell it as I felt it and tell them and him now..he is having brain surgery this week (diagnosed one week before we left,so you can imagine my angst) and he willed me....no matter how bad my photos could be, my memories are forever.

 

And since he knew I cared about my ST group -he promised me they'd not be looking for the pictures, but moreso the story. So this is for him. And Moli. A most incredible guide who can tell you every single environmental, scientific, latin named thing you could care less about come alive. Jud called him the "rocket scientist" of Africa. And he does not impress easily...on the other hand I was most impressed with the sack of ash on his belt and kept watching it to be sure I was downwind. Those little things impress me.

 

One other thing Moli has is toys. Guy toys. I haven't gotten to that yet. IF the game comes,he will find them. Being in a new, never explored area, I have worried safarifolks are too spoiled - every where they turn there is a lion in Bots, Kenya, Zambia, Serengeti...to look for hours is quite another take on life - if you are in an undiscovered spot.

 

Though others (TZ rangers) told me - do not worry...they are there --And as Moli explores (we were only the 3rd guests)and finds new and different areas there will be more. I still wonder how one would carry all that photo equipment by hand for 5 hours. I wouldn't. I wish I could have figured the go pro on a hat or a vest..but we were too late to figure that out. We purchased it the week before we went. I have some movies and hope GW will guide me in their uploading.

 

Thank though for appreciating my words...it truly was an experience I am thankful for experiencing.

 

SO one more pic for tonight - jumped out of a tree while we were on a kopje and kept walking. We were of no importance to her at all.

 

I was REALLY getting into this trip....

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Edited by graceland
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Wow- good job catching that leopard. Was that with the iPhone? You must have been quick. I've seen a few leopards on walks and they usually appear and disappear so quickly you barely even know it's a leopard.

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Shame about the dodgy start!! But looks like you are really getting into the walking. Loving the scenery shots and as for that leopard - amazing!

 

Going to enjoy reading this to see how it compares to walking in Zim and to give me some idea of what to look forward to next year.

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What a beautiful leopard and beautiful words too.

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