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Ruaha ; Mwagusi, 17 years after


Bush dog
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I came through Doha, one month ago, with Qatar Airways. The service on board is excellent as it is in the airport of Doha. I choosed Qatar Airways to avoid the night in Dar. The transit time in Doha was less than 2 hours. The flight normally arrives in Dar at 7.25. In fact, it arrived 35 minutes in advance, which was nice, because the Coastal flight was leaving at 8.30. I had also taken the visa in advance.

 

The first camp was Mwagusi Safari Camp, where I stayed 7 nights, owned by Chris Fox, a pioneer in the tourism industry in the Ruaha. It was a comeback after 17 years. I had been there two times in 1997, when his camp was, beside the Ruaha River Lodge, the first one in the park. The camp is located in the area where the concentration of game is the highest one. Ruaha is one of the most beautiful park in Africa, and a great place to go, but at that time, it was greater. Going off road was tolerated, when necessary, and just a couple of cars on a sighting, it was still a real wilderness. It was not easy to see a leopard and one had just the time to glimpse the lesser kudu. Now, from what I’ve seen and heard (more camps to come), I am afraid that, in the next 10 years, it will become, like the parks of the north and Kenya, a very crowded place in high season ?

 

I found some pictures, slides that I scanned, of a sighting of 1997, the kill of a buffalo by lions. It took them 4 hours to kill it. We did not stay continuously during the whole progress, but came back twice, and each time, we were the only car !!!

 

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The buffalo was still alive, when the cub, totally oblivious of the potential danger, was chewing its internal organs.

 

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Chris Fox was there but he left after 3 days to Mufindi. He is actually very busy trying to save, in fact what is still possible to save, the Mufindi forest (south of the Uduzungwa mountains) from continuous deforestation and heavy poaching.

 

The level of guiding at Mwagusi is very good. Simon, the manager, is training the guides. During the game drives, the guide is helped by his driver.

The bandas are very comfortable, without excessive luxury.

 

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Elephants, giraffes, warthogs, vervet monkeys and baboons were seen on every game drives, and in great number, as well as, what a surprise, impalas. Lions and greater kudus were seen on almost every game drives. I saw less zebras and buffaloes than expected.

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@@Soukous

 

Thanks. Here is the beginning of more.

 

1st DAY

Only afternoon game drive

 

I saw 2 groups of resting lions. The second one was interesting because of 4 young ones, 2 still suckling and 2 very active older ones. There was also 2 females and one young male.

 

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On the way to the second lions' sighting, the driver had to suddenly brake, a family of black-faced sandgrouses was on the road. The chicks have a different plumage. Indeed, when threatened, they regroup and look like the head of a puff adder.

 

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Sunset sky to finish the day

 

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I'd better get there quick before it becomes a Seronera ....... Thanks for writing this up, Mike .... Great introduction and look forward to the rest of the report.

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Beautiful shots; I always like to be taken back to Ruaha. It is indeed a beautiful park and if you head away from the "main drag" where the camp vehicles drive, it is very wild; you'd have the park to yourself, and it is even more beautiful. You can do that through Moli (of Kichaka) or a couple of other guides that I've seen advertise on various sights for mobiles in Ruaha. Probably a google would bring them up.

 

I'd like to go back and follow Pennyanne's route!

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Those sandgrouse look amazing...

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@@Bush dog thanks for taking the time to put together this retrospective TR.

 

Looks like the lion population was healthy back in the mid-90s, the red-headed cub is both shocking and intriguing. Those sandgrouse are amazing, I can see how they could be mistaken for a puff adder.

 

Mwagusi looks an inviting camp, I had wondered about staying there sometime...

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@@graceland

 

Thank you for your comments. Having a look at the other topics concerning the Ruaha, I noticed that it has, fairly, all your favours.

I am not surprised that Moli choosed a real wilderness to be the surroundings of his walking safaris. Before that, he was managing Jongomero, in the west of the park that is also a remote and still pristine area.

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Thanks Geoff, Thanks Pol

 

I am happy to see that small creatures can also have some attention!

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2nd DAY

 

Morning game drive

 

We left the camp, like we did every following mornings, at 6.30.

 

We stopped near a baobab to watch the vervet monkeys eating the heart, with the nectar, of its flowers, that bloom before the development of the leaves. It’s said that it’s to allow the bats to pollinate the flowers more easily, without coming across obstacles. The vervet monkeys, then, drop the flowers on the ground, where the impalas wait to eat them.

 

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Superb starling

 

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After we stopped, our driver being also a mechanic, to repair the starter of another Land Rover of the camp, we decided to have our breakfast along a hippo pool. My eye was caught, in the distance, by a hippo walking on the dry river bed with a young one behind it. It was born, in my opinion, during the night, in or ouside the water, I don’t know. Its mother was leaving the pod to try to find a smaller, but quieter pool for the 2 first months of life of its new-born. Its skin was still worn and its walk , clumsy.

 

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On the way back to the camp, we saw

 

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This zebra came up against something unpleasant, probably a lion. The 2 scratches were recent and serious.

 

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No, this is not a crocodile.

 

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There was, no doubt, no fishes anymore in this pond.

 

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@@Bush dog : Enjoying very much this great report and excellent photos, as well as the retrospective to your safaris in 1997. It looks to me that Ruaha has been the most popular Tanzanian park here on ST for the last two months or so. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the report...

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That is probably the smallest hippo I've yet seen a photo of. That is an interesting fact about the sandgrouse plumage. Your "vintage" photos (perhaps not the best term for something from as recent as 97) are also excellent.

 

@@FlyTraveler I've also noticed the number of Ruaha reports lately...It looks fantastic, and I hope to get there someday soon!

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@@Bush dog great shot of the mother and baby hippo - I am surprised at the difference in scale between the 2. I've always regarded baby hippos as large animals!

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Great start - some really nice sightings. Coincidentally, we saw a pair of sandgrouse chicks somewhere near Mwagusi.

 

Baobab flowers? When were you there?

 

It's true that you'd think Ruaha was more popular than Serengeti from reading Safaritalk. Certainly busier than 1997 (but not that much busier than 2008). However, based on vehicle traffic at the beginning of September there is some way to go before there are consistently more than 100 tourists in the park at the same time.

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@FlyTraveler@Marks@Treepol@pault

 

Thank you very much for your support and comments!

 

 

Baobab flowers? When were you there?

I was there during the first week of this month. Blooming only last a pair of weeks. On some trees, it already came to an end.

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2nd DAY (Continued)

 

During nap time, I made some pictures of the agamas on the rocks in front of the banda.

 

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Afternoon game drive

 

Coming out of the camp, we could see that there was thunder in the air.

 

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A bit further, we stopped on the bridge over the Mwagusi. There was a troup of baboons in the sandy river bed.

This one must have been an ostrich in another life ???

 

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More seriously, they are digging for water.

 

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We crossed the bridge and went up the slope on the other side. On top of it, an elephant herd was crossing the road.

 

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Going down to the plain, we saw one oribi, an egytian mongoose and 2 slender mongooses (1 golden & 1 black)

 

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and also

 

White-bellied Bustard

 

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Black-chested Snake Eagle

 

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Down in the plain, there was a herd of about 200 buffaloes, going down to the river.

 

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On the other side of the river, we found more buffaloes, with 6 lions close to them. But it was time to go back to the camp. On the way back, we spotted some more lions on a hill

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3rd DAY

 

Morning game drive

 

We were just out of the camp when we saw , in the early morning light, a dik-dik.

 

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A bit further, still in the early morning light, a juvenile Verreaux’s eagle owl.

 

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It was raptor’s day. After we saw an african cuckoo-hawk, a steppe eagle and a pygmy falcon.

Later in the morning, our eyes were caught by vultures, in great number, on several trees. We also heard hyenas quarreling. But it was too far off road, to see something. No doubt, there was a kill somewhere there. While this was going on, I had a look on the other side of the road and saw a leopard, obviously, also concerned by all those sounds.

 

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On the way back to the camp, my wife spotted a pearl spotted owlet and we saw our first lesser kudus.

 

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Back at the camp, we heard that another car had seen 3 cheetahs.

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Nice sightings on the morning of Day 3. Lovely Dik-dik. Did you see a pair of Verraux's Eagle Owls fairly close to Mwagusi too (can't remember exactly where but it couldn't have been far away from you).

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beautiful pearl spotted owl. ruaha is coming into its own, especially this year with a number of STers showing off the park.

 

that baby hippo is so so tiny! i've not seen one so tiny before too.

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Nice sightings on the morning of Day 3. Lovely Dik-dik. Did you see a pair of Verraux's Eagle Owls fairly close to Mwagusi too (can't remember exactly where but it couldn't have been far away from you).

Thank you for your comments. I did not see a pair of eagle owls but the juvenile was not that far from te camp.

 

@@Kitsafari

 

Thanks a lot for your appreciation!

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Afternoon game drive

 

Coming out of the camp, the telephone told us that there was a leopard on a tree with a prey, in a bushy area along the river. So there was no need to rush.

On our way to the leopard tree,

 

A little bee-eater

 

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A green sandpiper

 

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A « modern art » praying mantis

 

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Close to the river and the leopard tree, we saw elephants coming from the hills, down to the river, to drink. So, we anticipated their route and decided to wait near a small pool in the river bed. We did not have to wait a long time. We enjoyed seeing them quench their thirst, in the beautiful afternoon’s end’s light.

 

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We should have stayed a few minutes more. Indeed, when we left the place, we came, unexpectedly, upon a male lion that was coming, we assumed, to drink at the same pool. It was so surprised, that it ran away and disappeared in the thick bushes, as if it was chased by the devil.

 

We came to the tree, the leopard was, of course, still there, with its prey, a bushbuck.

 

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Another batch of beautiful and very sharp photos, love them all, can not point just a single one. The elephants photos make me remember how beautiful the area around Mwagusi river is.

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Very beautiful, very much enjoying this. Love the second Mantis pic and the Eles especially. Lovely Bird shots as well - I´ve pretty much given up on trying to identifying Sandpipers, so kudos to you for that too. :)

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@@michael-ibk

 

I'm glad you are enjoying this, and thank you for your appreciation. There are so many different praying mantis. This one is the most beautiful one that I have ever seen. Concerning the sandpiper it was said to me that it is a common, but for me, after a close look in the books, it's a green one. But, perhaps, I'm wrong?

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