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AfricIan
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Trip Reports from Ruaha are like buses – you wait for ages then loads turn up at once. Many thanks to @@Zim Girl, @@Africalover & @FlyTraveler for great accounts of their very different trips.
After last years trip to Madagascar we were looking for something that would get us out of a vehicle so had been toying with the idea of a “walking safari”, probably in Zambia. When we heard about Kichaka and having “experienced Moli” in a previous trip it was clear that this would be an ideal way to dip our toes as regards to proper bush walking as opposed to “bumbles around camp”.
After an overnight at the Southern Sun in Dar (absolutely fine & an excellent breakfast) and chance to get a good night’s sleep after our Emirates flights, we pitched up at Costal Aviation at the appointed hour to check-in for the flight out to Ruaha. We were allocated seats on the "Private Jet" (as Coastal described it to me) from Dar to Ruaha - it’s their Pilatus-PC12 & therefore not a jet + we had to share with 5 others so not private either but it did whisk us direct from Dar to Msembe in a very smooth, comfortable & quick 1.5 hrs which meant we arrived at a pretty much deserted airstrip!
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It wasn’t long before the vehicles from the nearer camps started arriving but Moli wasn’t far behind, giving us time to crack open a couple of Stoney Tangawizi’s and have a nice long chat with Kichaka’s outgoing guests before the "snail plane" arrived via the Selous.
Once the Selous plane had left our first visit was to the park headquarters bottle store – Moli having surreptitiously already phoned Noelle to check they’d got plenty of Stoney’s back at camp, turns out they were running a bit low so Moli bought the bottle store’s whole stock & we were on our way.
Kichaka’s “basecamp” is currently sited well to the east of the other Ruaha camps so we settled in for a long drive but it didn’t take too long before Moli spotted a few birds in the distance then got very excited as the numbers grew – it was the annual arrival of the Pelicans to gorge themselves on all the stranded fish in the rapidly shrinking Great Ruaha River.

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There seemed to be elephants everywhere we looked

 

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as we continued heading out into the much less frequented part of the park before parking up so Moli could rustle up a wonderful bush lunch on his portable griddle – no dried up sandwiches here!
This lunch set the tone for all the meals during our stay & appetites sated we continued on our way,
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arriving to an enthusiastic welcome by Noelle & the rest of the Kichaka team at “basecamp”.

 

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After a nice “vuguvugu” shower, it was time for pre-dinner drinks around the “bush-TV” and the first of all the superb meals that Noelle conjured up for us during our stay.

 

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It had been 7 years since we were at Jongomero (and Noelle had only just started there) but when I asked Moli if he had succeeded in “tubing” the Jongomero River, they both remembered the time well and it felt like only yesterday.

 

 

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Day 2
Pre-dawn wake-up, a quick breakfast and our first meeting with Moshi (from Moshi) who was to be our Park Ranger for all our walks. For our first walk we headed upstream (West) from basecamp, following the path of the (not so) Great Ruaha River. I’d assumed that the walking order would be Moli, Vicky & I, then Moshi “protecting the rear” so it came as a bit of a surprise to find Moshi right behind Moli with me as “tail-end-Charlie” but it didn’t take too long for me to stop looking back for every little noise & shadow!!
During a very pleasant walk we saw a lone elephant and the backends of numerous Bushbuck, Impala and Kudu, before the pied kingfisher that had been patrolling up & down the river settled and we also found this waterbuck who was prepared to pose for a bit.
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At one of our short breaks (time to sample Noelle’s delicious fudge) and having put my camera down I walked round a bush to see a couple of myopic (& clearly deaf or stupid, having totally ignored the oxpecker alarm calls) buffalo grazing about 30m away & it wasn’t until Moli also came out into the open did they decide that whilst 1 person wasn’t worth worrying about, 2 might present a bit more of a threat & they turned & high-tailed it away.
We continued on until ~ 11:30-midday so we’d been walking for a very enjoyable 5 or so hours before whistling up the car to take us back to camp and not wishing to overdo things on our first day, opted for a bit of a game drive for the afternoon. This yielded us another sight of the pelicans, some fabulous views from the top of the old Lunda ranger station airstrip, a bat-eared fox family and what I think is a brown snake eagle (but I’m happy to be corrected).
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I hadn't realised there were three until I'd followed the pair round
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Hola Ian ,

 

great to see you back in Africa , very good start , I look forward from the rest of your walking stories in Ruaha !!

 

By the way , tomorrow will be seven years that we met in Lebala , I am afraid that we both got infected by the "Mal d´Afrique" , what a joy !!!

 

Paco

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@@africawild

 

Hola Paco, you are absolutely right, 7 years and many wonderful trips for both of us in the years that followed. "Mal d´Afrique" has certainly got us in its grips but its a great affliction to have, its the only "Medical condition" I know of that gives great pleasure to those who have it!!

 

You've also pointed out the first mistake in the TR - it was 2009 we were in Jongomero for out first meeting with Moli & Noelle so only 5 years not 7 (& that anniversary is only 4 days away!)

 

Hasta la proxima

Edited by AfricIan
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Very glad to see another Ruaha TR, especially about a walking safari. Great start, I like very much the Kichaka's basecamp. Which dates were you in Ruaha? Love the flying Pelican photos, I also have some, but still have not reached that far with my editing. Looking forward for seeing the next installment!

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@@AfricIan

 

Great start. Looking forward to reading about your exploits as you were there only a few days after us. Already you are filling in the gaps - Noelle's fudge and date balls were delicious!

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don't worry @@AfricIan we can't get too many TRs from Ruaha. It's a special place.

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A Kichaka "sequel"! Great, looking forward to this. :)

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Hi @@FlyTraveler, I've been following your TR with great interest, you've made it clear that you can have a great safari without spending a fortune. We arrived 29th Sept & spent 5 night at Kichaka so I think we were in Ruaha at very much the same time as you were. We'd have loved to have made it longer but as it was our first walking safari we didn't want to overcommit - as it turns out we needn't have worried as Kichaka only take the one booking at a time and are so flexible you could almost change your mind on a daily basis.

 

Glad you liked the flying Pelican photos - keep reading there are more to come!

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Thanks to everyone for their encouraging words, I'll continue with a little bit I meant to end the previous post on:

 

All the pelicans were settling down for the night as we headed back to camp,

 

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It’s a really incongruous sight and they look totally out-of-place up in the trees!

 

Day 3
Next morning we drove back to where we’d been picked-up the previous day then continued upstream.
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How can you look at a scene like this & not love Ruaha?
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(How many species can you spot?)
We’d been loosely following some Lion tracks most of the morning & were rewarded with the sight of a lioness & 2 cubs out in the river bed but they very quickly spotted us as well and “headed for the hills” with a male that we hadn’t seen following closely behind.
We’d been getting whiffs of something “long dead” off and on as the breeze swirled around and it didn’t take long to find the carcase of a young ele being picked over by a crowd of vultures. It still had its tusks so hadn’t been poached but it was still a sad sight.
By around midday, Moli thought it was about the time the Roans came down from the escarpment to drink so we headed for a likely spot & struck lucky before heading back to basecamp for lunch.
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Over lunch we were royally entertained by a group of elephants drinking in the river pretty much opposite camp
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Moli’s attempts to explain the map to us kept getting interrupted by the antics on the far bank! (Many thanks to Noelle for this photo)
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About 4pm, we headed out again but this time we walked downstream (East) and came across these very relaxed giraffe
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And a stunning setting sun

 

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Before arriving at the “sleep-out” and a chance for Noelle to put her feet up & let Moli do the “man-thing” with the brai.

 

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"Sleep-out" Tents

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I was in Ruaha in August and stayed for five days in Kwihala Camp, and five days in Kichaka. Yes, both Moli and Noelle live up to their incredible reputations.

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@@AfricIan

A very enjoyable start to yout report. The sleep-out tents are great.

It is very interesting tosee Ruaha from different perspectives - but they all show that it is a beautiful park!!

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@african,

 

It is so great to see Moli and Noelle doing so well-- and the wildlife out to greet youall.

 

We were with them a year ago, Sept. so changes have been made (love the sleep out tents) and Noelle has added fudge, ouch! Missed that. They are an incredible team!

 

Enjoying re-living Ruaha through your report, following Zim Girls.

 

Looking forward to more!

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Fabulous installment @Africlan ! So many great sightings and beautiful photos, I am a bit jealous :) Never seen pelicans in a tree, great shot, as well as all the others. Very nice sunset and elephants on the riverbed, just across the river from the camp. About the photo with the different species, I wish it was a bit bigger, I can spot the waterbucks, the kudus and zebras. Oh, the roan is a fabulous sighting... I am really enjoying this report and looking forward for the next installment....

Edited by FlyTraveler
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Off to a great start. I'm really falling in love with Ruaha landscapes with all the recent reports.

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Thanks for all your likes & comments everyone.

 

Day 4
It was very special dropping off to sleep with the moon & stars above and the sounds of lion & hyena in the distance. After a very comfortable night, I woke with the first signs of dawn and it was even prettier than sunset - The first two photos were taken only 2 minutes apart whilst the third was ~15mins after that showing how quickly it gets light - “If you snooze you lose” is never more applicable than to early mornings in Ruaha!
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We continued walking downstream and soon came across this giraffe, then evidence that the elephants had been enjoying their breakfast of acacia bark.
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It wasn’t long before we came across the culprits. It was a wonderful experience and huge tribute to Moli’s skills that we were able to get closer than I’d thought possible to the herd without them being aware of our presence, right down to being able to watch one of the youngsters suckling.
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At one stage I thought we had been spotted but we hadn’t & continued to watch as the whole family moved slowly through ahead of us - Absolutely marvellous.
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Before we continued on our way to the “flycamp”
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Clearly, the big difference between the “flycamp” & the “sleep-out” is the tents – indeed as “the punter” that is the only difference, both have the same bucket shower & toilets as “basecamp” and you still get a proper table to eat dinner off & chairs to relax on so by no stretch of the imagination can it be described as roughing-it. The “flycamp” has tall (2m+) canvas tents with camp beds in whereas the “sleep-out” has you sleeping on the ground (albeit on a mattress) under not much more than a mosquito net stretched over some glass-fibre poles! Both are very comfortable but like @@Zim Girl, I preferred the “sleep-out”s, not only do you really get the sense of being out-in-the-open but I found the “flat bed” more comfortable than the “cradling” the camp beds gave (how picky can you get?) – Whether I’d have the same feelings if the “mozzie net” was surrounded by large/dangerous wildlife is another matter!
That afternoon we jumped in the car, heading for the eastern boundary although we didn’t quite make it. Very soon the river no longer had any surface water & this was reflected in a noticeable reduction in wildlife but it did pickup a bit as we got closer to the boundary so we peeled off the road to look for where they were getting their water from. The almost total absence of visitors to this extremity of the park meant that wildlife was extremely skittish here and the first sign of even the vehicle had them disappearing at a great rate of knots, hence no photos - I’m not including any of my “arses of Africa” photos so I’ll step back a couple of days for another photo of the pelicans.
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How delightful to get so close the the mother and child of the elephant herd. Moli did not have the "sleep-out" tents back in 2013; at that time I may not have been enthusiastic about sleeping without shelter :wacko: but now a year later I think I'd love it.

 

Very enjoyable TR - love your sunrise as well. I have become quite a sunrise addict after our times in Africa. Thankfully I have one daily here on the river with watermen --not immense elies though, chugging along on about their business at hand.

 

Looking forward to more adventures with you and Moli.

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Your photos are all so pretty @Africlan , a real joy for the eye and the soul! Liked very much the dawn photos with the mosquito net tents. Did you discuss with Molly the safety aspects of using this type of tents?

 

The acacia tree shot is very beautiful (with the palm trees in the background) and the flying pelicans photo, of course. Amazing sighting of breeding herd of elephants on foot! Looking forward for more.

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@@AfricIan

 

I too found the 'sleep-out' tents more comfortable being on a flat base, but it is that sense of being out in the open that is the real draw.

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The tents do look like a chance to have the feeling of being totally enveloped in the bush. Did you find that the usual nighttime noises took on any extra dimension?

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The camp and its locations look great. Idyllic stuff. And I love your "how many species" shot.

 

I actually think you should share some of the more "artisitic" African bum shots with us. All grown-ups here.... ;)

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Thanks all,

 

@@FlyTraveler - "Did you discuss with Molly the safety aspects of using this type of tents?" - Not specifically but the camp location(s) are carefully chosen to avoid potential high traffic routes so there are steep banks without easy paths up & down to the river and definitely no pools that might encourage hippo or crocs. That's not to say the wildlife can't get there, you can see the elephant poo in the sleep-out tent photos but the potential is much reduced. What doesn't show on the photos (a little creative camera angles!) is that Moli & Noelle's tents were also on the river bank so my thinking was "if it's good enough for them....."

 

@@Marks - "Did you find that the usual nighttime noises took on any extra dimension?" - Not really, we heard lion & hyena in the distance, the lion were much much closer on our last night back at basecamp but there was about a 1/3 moon so the real buzz was being able to drop off to sleep looking up at the moon & stars. Magical!

 

@@pault - Nothing "artistic" in my bum photos I'm afraid!!

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Going back to the “How many species can you spot?” from Post #10. @FlyTraveler found the waterbuck, the kudu and zebra, the others take a good bit more finding:

1) If you look about halfway up on the left hand side, to the right of the gap between the trees you can see an impala.

2) There is a troop of baboon on the “island”, amidst the herd of waterbuck.

3) On the far left hand side of the island, about halfway between the waterbuck & the edge of the photo is a stork.

4) On the far bank, about 1/3 across from the left, there are a couple of birds.

5) On the far right hand side of the island, opposite the rightmost kudu, there is another bird.


So I make that 8 species, not bad for one scene. Unfortunately, I was trying to be a bit “artistic” with this shot and had opened up the aperture to f9 to get a nice “out of focus” effect on the branches/leaves in the upper left corner. f9 was a bit too much though as everything on or past the far bank of the island is in “soft focus” so even if I had some good bird knowledge (which I haven’t), the birds aren’t clear enough to ID. It still shows the beauty of Ruaha though.


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