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Moli Magic in Mpululu

Zim Girl

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This trip came about because we were looking for a walking based safari similar to the ones we have become used to in Mana Pools the last few years.


During all of our safaris over the last 10 years we have always tried to include walking to some extent or other, but after our first visit to Mana in 2011 we were totally blown away by how close wildlife encounters could be on foot.


So in June 2013 we booked 12 nights with Kichaka Expeditions in Ruaha National Park. We wanted to have something in place for 2014 before we went to Mana in the September because we knew if we didn’t, we would come back from there and rebook straight away for the next year as has been the case for the previous two years.


Kichaka appeared to offer exactly what we wanted, a mobile walking safari in private camps with a private guide.


We used Expert Africa to arrange the trip as usual. We flew Emirates on 6th September from Manchester to Dar es Salaam via Dubai arriving at Dar in the afternoon. We stayed overnight at the Dar Serena hotel and then flew on the early Coastal Aviation flight to Ruaha the next morning.


The flight only took 1 hour and 15 minutes as we were on the quicker Pilatus plane and didn’t make any stops on the way in.



Welcoming committee




Moli and Noelle met us at the airstrip and right away we knew we were going to have a great time. You will be hard pushed to meet two more enthusiastic people anywhere!


This is a broad summary of how we spent our time.


The point of the holiday for us was to be on foot as much as possible. This pleased Moli immensely and so we planned to spend the first few days walking our way over to the Eastern Boundary of the Park roughly following the Ruaha riverfront and using the fly camp and sleep-out tents (pics later).


During this time, Moli and Noelle discussed with us the idea of packing up a small fly camp and doing a 3 night mini-expedition up to the Mpululu area over the escarpment in the north of the Park. Moli had never had the chance to explore the area properly and apparently no other tourists had ever camped overnight there, so we would be the first. Well, we jumped at the chance!


After the time in Mpululu we came back to the Main Camp for a couple of nights and explored the riverfront going west from Lunda towards the Little Serengeti area.


Then, for the last day we crossed the bridge over the Ruaha near the main gate and walked the other side of the river for around 15kms. This was another area that Moli had never walked before.

By the time we finished we had covered around 75kms of Ruaha riverfront. Another first!


In total we walked approx 130kms during the holiday and had witnessed some of the most wonderful areas of unspoilt Africa we had ever seen.

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Some of the highlights of our long drive into camp. We stopped for lunch on the way and had the first of many very good meals.







We came across three female lions lying in the dry river bed with a cub, however they were determined to keep it hidden and this is the best I could manage.




The impala in this area of the Park were particularly relaxed.




This little one was blowing us raspberrys.




Until mum stepped in!




Birds are not my speciality by any stretch, but I tried to catch one or two over the holiday and I think this is a martial eagle.



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Kichaka's main camp is located in the Lunda area of the Park to the east of the main game viewing section.




This is the main camp tent and toilet/shower facilities.





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Zim Girl

So happy to see this trip report. Moli and Noelle are amazing and I am glad you immediately knew that the expedition would be a hit.


After all those long walks, coming back to Noelle's fabulous meals was a real treat.


Loved the small elie blowing kisses!


Look forward to more - this was the beginning as you probably remember of our walking fascination!

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Great start! Ele calves always seem to have so much spunk.

Do you have a bigger version of the map photo handy? No problem if you don't; I just love poring over the details.

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I just know this will be a great trip report - really looking forward to what you experienced in tourist terra incognita! Camp looks perfect, and just love the youngster ele pic. :)

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@@Zim Girl beautiful landscapes in Ruaha.


I love the baby ele blowing kisses as well.


the report is shaping up to be an exciting one given all those unexplored areas! hoping to read more soon.


so many good TRs to read over the next few weeks. Yippee...

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Really looking forward to this with an excellent start.

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Thanks for all the nice comments, really!!

I wasn't sure whether to do this TR as there are so many really good ones on the go at the moment, and they aren't my strongest suit, so thanks a lot.




That is the only picture I have I am afraid. In fact, at the moment it is pretty much the only map of the Park there is. Moli is working on a much better one, but it is going to take him some time.

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Out in the much less frequented areas of the Park, the wildlife is more skittish and we had to work hard for encounters with them on foot, but we still managed quite a few and when you did it felt really special.


We were able to get quite close to several groups of elephants and it was lovely to watch them interacting with each other while blissfully unaware of us.





Another group.






And another.





However, the minute the wind changed, their trunks were up and away they went.




This was the location of our first fly camp. It was set amongst the trees and had a really magical feel to it.






Much of the Ruaha in the immediate area was very dry.




We surprised these Kudu on our afternoon walk.






We had our first “Don’t run” moment quite early on. We were walking along the riverbed when we heard a loud growl. A female lion was lying hidden in the grass on the river bank above us. So we stopped and waited and after a couple of minutes (felt like a lot longer) she got up and walked off. Breathe again!

I didn’t know until I was sorting through the photos, but my OH had taken a quick shot with his little p&s, so not great quality but shows how close she was. We were standing on the sand below.





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This section of river had some very pretty boulders in it.







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Another Ruaha trip report , this is fantastic!! I just want to go back , but i am afraid is not possible jet .


Look forward for the rest of your walking trip report.



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What an adventure! Enjoying this report and the great photography very much. Just came back from quite an ordinary 6 days budget trip to Ruaha, so I guess we'll be running several Ruaha trip reports at the same time. Looking forward to seeing your next installment!

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Love this @@Zim Girl. having fond memories. We saw lots of elies but no lions of foot. good capture by your OH!

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Wonderful start and so very exciting to be exploring parts unknown on foot - there is such a thrill to that, isn't there? Did you walk mostly in the river bed, Zimgirl or along the banks and in the woodlands too? Did you get into some sort of routine or was the schedule different each day? Really looking forward to more so keep going!

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Hi @@Sangeeta


It was a total thrill to walk in places virtually untouched by tourists, especially in the Mpululu area which I will get to later.


We mainly followed the line of the Ruaha, dropping down into the riverbed and back up along the bank and through the palm trees.

We covered ground by walking in the mornings and in the afternoons, we didn't do any game drives in the vehicle.

The fly camp moved a couple of times on our way to the Eastern Boundary.

The next camp where we used the sleep-out tents is up next.

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@@Zim Girl wonderful start to your Ruaha adventure.


Moli's camp looks very comfortable and inviting. Lots of ele action and such cute babies.

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@@Zim Girl

You really capture the excitement of of seeing elephant while on foot - and the lion!

The main camp looks great - and the fly-camp looks wonderful.

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Hi @@Zim Girl, we're also just back from a wonderful time with Moli & Noelle. Unfortunately we'd only booked for 5 nights and as we got on the plane back to Dar we both said "we should have booked for longer".


My TR is going to take a while to get started but hopefully you'll leave me something to write about - Moli & Noelle said that you'd worked them hard over your 12 days!

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Great stuff.

While I were in Ruaha I often wondered how the eastern side of Ruaha river would be.

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During our walk this morning Moli spotted a bull elephant disappearing into a wooded area near the riverbank. We followed him in, but he must have been on a mission as he didn’t stop or slow down. However, we then came across a group of elephants feeding in the bushes in front of us. The wind was in our favour and we managed to edge a little closer and stood and watched. There was a young one who kept trying to grab the branch in front of him which was so cute.

They all looked so peaceful and at ease and after a while we carefully backed away so not to disturb them.






Trying to find the right position to photograph through the branches.






We carried on walking along the river and stopped to watch these baboons playing on the other side.




We spotted a grey kestral, which then went to join its mate.




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For those of you who want to see what the Eastern Boundary looks like, this is it. The boundary marker post.




Looking down towards the river




And looking the other way




We then walked to our camp site for that night.

And what a campsite location!




It was a simply stunning location with the chairs all set up in the river ready for sundowners.


Our tents were now the mosquito net dome tents which we were really excited about and became our favoured tents for fly camping for the rest of the holiday.




The next picture was courtesy of Noelle.




I apologise for the number of sunset pictures coming up but I couldn't decide which one I liked best.







And just to complete the set, this is sunrise the next morning.




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What a place to spend the night! Really loving your report, Zimgirl. What camera did you use? (I expect you won´t be running around with heavy lenses all day long?)

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@@Zim Girl No worries about the map, I'm happy enough following the thread. :) I like the heavy focus on elephants, and it really does look like an artist had a go at those boulders.

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Absolutely amazing place for camping and I love those mosquito net dome tents, it must be great to watch the stars when falling asleep. Just wandering - do they offer the same protection from predators as the regular canvas tents? Beautiful photos of the sunset and the river.

Edited by FlyTraveler
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