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PauloT
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Udzungwa National Park & Ruaha National Park 10-15th March 2014

Setting out early from Iringa and enjoying views into the Udzungwa mountains for much of the journey we arrived at Hondo Hondo lodge in time for lunch. We were greeted by four primate species (baboons, udzungwa red colobus, black & white colobus and sykes monkey) in the trees around the restaurant. Keen to explore the forest we soon headed to the park gate and our first trail up into the mountains. The humidity and steepness of the trail made the afternoon more taxing than expected, not to mention the illusive elephants having trashed parts of the trail the night before. However frequent monkey sightings and the excitement of being in such a different and unique habitat put our tired legs to the back of our minds. The next day after what surely must be one of the finest cooked breakfasts in all of Tanzania, we headed out to walk the Sanje Falls trail. During the rainy season the falls are impressive to say the least and the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular. Our efforts were rewarded with a breathtaking swim at the foot of the falls and Lucy's famous cinnamon buns on return to the lodge.

The second half of the trip began with the awesome view from Hilltop lodge followed by a walk into the last village along the road into Ruaha, Tungamalenga. The bush is lush and green at the moment with wildflowers and butterflies everywhere. The guys then got to visit the Wildlife Connection library and learn about how beehive fences can help local farmers with an additional livelihood and protect their crops from elephants. We were joined on the walk back by two trainee guides from the locally run guide school who impressed us with their knowledge of local birds and tree species. After lunch it was time to head to the park, personally I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the river and how green the park was, having seen it dry for so long. Despite the rain we managed to find two male lions and enjoyed their company right next to the car before the light began to fail. Over the following days we relaxed by the river, ate our fill of chapatis and got very lucky with our sightings which included cheetah on consecutive days, plenty of elephants, bat eared fox and pushing 100 birds species without really trying. But for me the highlights were an early morning bush walk along the Great Ruaha River which was really living up to its name and a wonderful encounter with a heard of elephants late on the last evening, feeding and socialising around us as the sun went down - magic! Big thank you to Mark, Martyn & Becky (not forgetting Habibu) for making it such a great safari.

You can find photos from the trip above.

What they said:

"Thank you for a great week, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience & will remember it for a long time! Having you along with your extensive knowledge of the animals, ecosystems and local social/political influences definitely enhanced the experience (without it becoming a dull educational field trip!). I was pleasantly surprised to find the walk outside of the national park & into the local village just as enjoyable and interesting as being in the park - it's a great unique experience that we wouldn't have received with many other tour operators." Martyn Rosser.

 

"Thanks again for a wonderful trip: very well organised and good choice of vehicle and safe driver Habibe. Paul's passion for the wildlife of Africa provides both added interest and enjoyment to the trip. I would say the end of the rainy season is a time to go as the country and game are at their prime. " Mark Westwood.

If you are interested in a safari, you can contact us here: http://www.paultickner.com/contact

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  • 3 months later...

Hi @@PauloT, thanks for the report. I and my wife will be visiting Ruaha NP and will be staying 6 nights at the TANAPA cottages at Msembe (not the bandas, but the en-suite cottages). Are you familiar (do you have any feedback) with this type of accommodation? Is it clean? Any complaints about bed bugs? I've been also told that there is a small restaurant there (I would assume it is a canteen for the park's staff). Any idea about this? Is the food OK?

 

Thanks in advance for your reply! Cheers!

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@@FlyTraveler Thanks for reading and getting in touch. I must of heard from your wife already as I remember your trip.

 

The cottages at Msembe were built recently by TANAPA and mostly house visiting staff from Arusha. I've stayed there myself and if you want my honest opinion its not the first place I would stay in Ruaha. The rooms are clean and there is a small restaurant, although I'm not sure you want to be eating there for 6 nights in a row! Breakfast is pancakes and frankfurters, dinner is chips and chicken or chapatis, sodas and beer are available. The main problem with the cottages is they are a bit of an eyesore and very hot during the day.

 

For basic accommodation I have always used the Msembe bandas, just down the hill. Its a great location next to the river with lots of animals wondering through. Ablutions are clean but shared, the small rooms have now been thatched so not quite so hot, mosquito nets provided. You can drive up to the cottages to take your meals from there.

 

I would recommend in addition spending 1 or more nights in one of the more affordable camps such as Tandala. You can still use your hired vehicle for game drives and your driver can stay there. You'll get a couple of days of comfort in a fantastic location, for not that much more money.

 

Are you going on the the coast or any other destinations?

 

Well done for choosing Ruaha and Karibu sana! Don't hesitate to get back to me with any questions. You can find me at info@paultickner.com if you prefer.

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@@FlyTraveler Thanks for reading and getting in touch. I must of heard from your wife already as I remember your trip.

 

The cottages at Msembe were built recently by TANAPA and mostly house visiting staff from Arusha. I've stayed there myself and if you want my honest opinion its not the first place I would stay in Ruaha. The rooms are clean and there is a small restaurant, although I'm not sure you want to be eating there for 6 nights in a row! Breakfast is pancakes and frankfurters, dinner is chips and chicken or chapatis, sodas and beer are available. The main problem with the cottages is they are a bit of an eyesore and very hot during the day.

 

For basic accommodation I have always used the Msembe bandas, just down the hill. Its a great location next to the river with lots of animals wondering through. Ablutions are clean but shared, the small rooms have now been thatched so not quite so hot, mosquito nets provided. You can drive up to the cottages to take your meals from there.

 

I would recommend in addition spending 1 or more nights in one of the more affordable camps such as Tandala. You can still use your hired vehicle for game drives and your driver can stay there. You'll get a couple of days of comfort in a fantastic location, for not that much more money.

 

Are you going on the the coast or any other destinations?

 

Well done for choosing Ruaha and Karibu sana! Don't hesitate to get back to me with any questions. You can find me at info@paultickner.com if you prefer.

 

Hi @@PauloT, thanks very much for your very useful and informative reply. I have exchanged a couple of messages, this is why you are aware of our trip :) I mentioned that I had already booked a vehicle and a guide with Warthog Adventures.

 

The reason we preferred the cottages instead of the bandas is that the cottages are en-suite, I and my wife really do not want to go outside for a toilet use during the night. I know that the bandas have a better location close to the river and plenty of wildlife around.

 

How is the location of the cottages? Looks like they are uphill and further from the river. Is there a nice view from there? Any wildlife around?

 

We are not fussy about food and the small restaurant would do. My main concern was cleanliness in the cottages / presence of bed bugs. Tandala camp looks comfortable, but it is outside the park (I'd rather be staying in the park).

 

This is going to be a low-budget relatively short trip:

 

- Arriving in Dar on Sept. 29, getting the early morning Auric Air flight to Iringa, meeting Geoffrey from Warthog Adventures there, getting the guide and the Land Rover and driving to Ruaha for an afternoon game drive.

 

- 6 nights in Ruaha, then Safari Air Link flight Ruaha - Selous - Dar - Zanzibar.

 

- 2 nights in Stone Town (Tembo House hotel) followed by 2 nights in Jambiani (Blue Oyster hotel).

 

I will keep your email and phone number with me, just in case something goes wrong with our other arrangement. I really hope that they have experienced guides.

 

Thanks again for your reply and I hope to see you in person one day. Cheers!

 

P. S. Just remembered something - do you know if Ruaha is covered by Flying Doctors emergency evacuation services based in Nairobi? Just thinking of purchasing their coverage for the period that we will spend in Ruaha...

Edited by FlyTraveler
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@@FlyTraveler

 

Thats right the cottages are situated on the hill between the Msembe park HQ and the Ruaha River drive. This is useful as you can get down along the river where some of the best game viewing is early in the morning, by September animals will be congregating along the river so you will enjoy lots of elephant, plains game and that area is major lion real estate!

 

The view is good from the cottages, if you don't like the one you get just ask to move to another as they aren't usually busy. You have a big sliding window in there so get that open and the room won't be too hot while you're there. Elephants do wonder past that area and its a good spot to listen for night sounds like hyena and lion. You are also right next to the old airstrip which is a good spot for lion. I have also seen cheetah and serval there.

 

You have plenty of time in the park so make sure your guide takes you to explore different areas. It will be nice to stop regularly and enjoy the wilderness, you don't need to spend all day driving. I would really recommend a bush walk from Msembe along the Ruaha River. Your guide should be able to organise this for you. The park rangers have been well trained and are knowledgable and safe guides.

 

Tandala is just outside the park gates but is visited by as much wildlife as any of the camps.

 

Flying Doctors cover is certainly available for Ruaha and I strongly recommend you get it. You might be able to organise it through your agent, if not you can do it yourself through their website, I think its the Silver cover you need which covers Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

 

Pleasure to help and of course please be in touch. I should be in Iringa/Ruaha in September.

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Hi @@PauloT,

 

I really, really appreciate your feedback and I believe that this information will be also useful for many other readers and participants in this forum.

 

We'll stay in touch and in the meantime I think that any photographs that you post here will be admired by all of us.

 

 

Asante sana!

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  • 10 months later...

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~ @@PauloT

 

That's an especially attractive cheetah portrait.

The surrounding vegetation brings to mind the work of the American painter Andrew Wyeth.

Beautiful colors, superb composition, excellent focus.

What's not to like?

Thank you for sharing this Ruaha image.

Tom K.

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Thanks kindly @@Tom Kellie :)

 

See some of my latest work here www.paultickner.com & https://500px.com/ptickner

 

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~ @@PauloT

 

It's so kind of you to share a link to your images.

The ‘Looking for the Pride’ photo above is so classic, with superb environmental context. Your color balance is topd!

I was impressed by your efforts around Ruaha, including the innovative guide school.

Such dedication to helping the local community deserves the highest praise, as such work requires patience, persistence and resilience.

Your safaris sound interesting, causing me to think more about Ruaha,

BTW: One of your leopard photos was stunningly beautiful!

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

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You're too kind @@Tom Kellie, thanks for taking the time to look.

 

Come and see us in Ruaha anytime for some wilderness photography, you might like to visit the guide school and one of the young guides can accompany us.

 

With regards

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You're too kind @@Tom Kellie, thanks for taking the time to look.

 

Come and see us in Ruaha anytime for some wilderness photography, you might like to visit the guide school and one of the young guides can accompany us.

 

~ @@PauloT

 

Thank you so much!

Ruaha keeps cropping up, here and there.

I take that as a nudge to give more serious thought to a visit.

Your work there is impressive to me.

I will definitely keep it in the active area of my safari planning.

Tom K.

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