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Ruaha & Selous - January 2018


mopsy
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Hello everyone.

 

I have been a long time lurker on this site. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading other peoples trip reports, and have used these reports to help me decide on upcoming safari itineries. I made a promise to myself that when the time came I would contribute a trip report as well, so here goes!

 

A bit of background info first. This was our 3rd safari (myself and Mrs Mopsy). Our first, in 2005, was to Botswana and Zimbabwe. This of course was meant to be the trip of a lifetime. But we were well and truly bitten by the Africa bug and knew we had to return. In 2009 we ventured to South Africa and Kenya. And that just left us wanting more. But then life got in the way (or kids to be more specific. Actually our first born son was conceived in Kenya). Two more boys came into the world over the next few years so our Africa plans were placed on the backburner. But the dream never stopped. I love to research, whether it be googling different camps I hear about or, as mentioned before, reading trip reports on here.

 

So finally the time came where we were confident enough to leave the kids with grandparents and head back to the bush again. Deciding where to go was easy, the trip had been planned in my head for the past 5 years. It was just a matter of contacting different agents with our ideas and plans and see who have us the best feel.

 

We eventually booked with Africa Travel Resource, as they gave us the best vibe and their price was very competitive as well. I also found they were very honest with their advice. So the final itinery looked like this -

 

1 night Dar Es Salaam - Southern Sun  (Jan 8th)

5 nights Ruaha NP - Mdonya River Lodge (Jan 9th - 13th)

4 nights Selous GR - Lake Manze Camp (Jan 14th - 17th)

 

Now, before I begin my report, a couple of words of warning. Firstly, I am no great wordsmith. I haven't got a way with the English language that so many others do. With me, you will get a fairly basic rundown of the happenings on our trip. Secondly, I am not a great photographer. I took with me my humble point and shoot Canon Powershot with a 20x Optical Zoom. My photos will have many faults with them. But having said that I hope that what you see and read gives you some sort of an idea of the great time we had.

 

So with the preliminaries out of the way, its time to start the report.....

 

 

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@mopsy

Looking forward to your report and photos as we went to the Selous and Ruaha in 2015.

Dont worry about how much you write, and the photos will be very much appreciated ( the camera you have has a good zoom).

Its the content and the fact that they are a  record of your safari, and you are sharing them with others that matters , not how technically good they are. 

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Day 1

 

We leave Brisbane, Australia at 22:30. Its a 13.5hr flight to Abu Dhabi. I never usually sleep well on planes, but I do manage to sleep for approx half of the flight, which I consider a bonus. A quick 1.5hr layover and we are on the 5.5hr flight to Dar.

 

We arrive in Dar in the early afternoon, organise our visa and grab our transfer to the Southern Sun. We refresh with a shower, have a rest and grab an early dinner and an early night to make sure we are in peak condition for the start of the safari.

 

Day 2

 

Our flight for Ruaha leaves at 8:30 and we depart maybe 15 mins after that. Its a direct flight which takes about 2hrs. As we approach the runway I eagerly scan the terrain to get my first look at the park. They say Ruaha has a "wild" feel about it, and it certainly looks that way from above.

 

We are met by our guide (Hassan) and driver (Sudi) at the airport. After filling out the necessary paperwork we are on our way. Joining us in the vehicle is a lovely couple from the Czech Republic, who will be our vehicle mates for the next 2 days. As it turns out, they will be the only vehicle mates we have for the rest of our trip.

 

Before we leave the airstrip there are elephants off in the distance, Impala close by, and using my binoculars I see a hippo out of the water, though it is quite some distance away.

 

Shortly after leaving the airstrip we come across some elephants eating their way through the bush.

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Next we see some Baboons grooming each other, and shortly after, walking along the side of the road, is a Turtle.

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More Elephants come to greet us to the Park

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A little while later, after passing some Kudu and Zebra, we come across a sighting I had really been hoping for. This was one of the reasons I chose Ruaha and Selous, to give us a chance to come across this elusive animal. But not in my wildest dreams did I even consider seeing them on our first drive.

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Unbelievable! They were resting on a dry river bed, having killed and eaten a female Kudu earlier in the day. The remaining carcass was about 30 metres away from them, now being devoured by vultures and the like. Unfortunately they were a fair distance away, probably about 60-80 metres or so, which put them right at the end of my cameras zoom capabilities. And being a national park we couldn't go off roading to try and get closer, which would have been a challenge even if we could. So we took a few photos and watched them through our binoculars for a good hour or so.

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After reluctantly leaving the Wild Dogs we came across some flighty male Kudu, but did manage to get a quick shot of them.

 

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Our first, of what would prove to be many, Giraffe now made himself available.

 

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Next to appear a little down the road was a small group of Buffalo.

 

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It was at about this time that we noticed the skies starting to turn quite threatening. It had been overcast since we arrived, but had been gradually getting darker. and now, off in the distance, in the direction we had to go to get to camp, it was really looking dark. So we rolled down the canvas sides to the 4x4, zipped them up and put on rain coats. Off we sped but it was to no avail. The rain came about 20 mins before reaching camp, and it was seriously heavy. Despite our best efforts, we got quite wet, although I fared best being up the back of the truck.

 

Once we had arrived at camp the rain had subsided but not yet stopped. We were met by the also damp camp managers Andreas and Rebecca, who escorted us to the dining tent for a late lunch. Despite us all being wet we were in high spirits, partly because it was fun driving through the rain, but mostly I suspect because of the great start to our safari experience.

 

Day 2 afternoon drive

 

The rain had cleared by the time we headed out at 16:30. But before we left, as I was sitting outside our tent, a visitor dropped by.

 

Our home for the next 5 nights

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A most welcome guest.

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Our tent was the furthest from camp HQ, and proved to be a great spot. We often had Elephants, Zebra, Baboons and Impala wandering around at close proximity. There was one encounter with an Elephant that stood out, but more on that later.

 

Due to the rain earlier in the day the wildlife became a little scarce this afternoon. We did however manage to find Zebra, Giraffe, Vervet Monkeys, a pair of Dik Dik and a Tree Hyrax.IMG_5900.thumb.JPG.58d0e82c934360d9f57998314745c519.JPG

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And thus concluded our first day in the bush. it had been a very rewarding one full of great game viewing.

 

We had dinner tonight at 8pm and were in bed by 9:30pm, ready for an all day game drive the next day that was to deliver another sighting at the top of my wish list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Julian said:

@mopsy

Looking forward to your report and photos as we went to the Selous and Ruaha in 2015.

Dont worry about how much you write, and the photos will be very much appreciated ( the camera you have has a good zoom).

Its the content and the fact that they are a  record of your safari, and you are sharing them with others that matters , not how technically good they are. 

 

Thanks for your encouragement Julian. I have read your report on Ruaha and Selous on multiple occasions, and enjoyed it very much.

 

Hopefully my trip will bring back some wonderful memories for you.

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Fantastic TR thus far... Southern Circuit is on my “within the next 5 yrs” list... Lol. 

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6 minutes ago, Amylovescritters said:

Fantastic TR thus far... Southern Circuit is on my “within the next 5 yrs” list... Lol. 

@Amylovescritters

Go as soon as you can - Selous and Ruaha are still very wild places with relatively low tourism - that may change.

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Wild dogs right off the bat!  Hard to beat that. Everything looks so lush and green. Great start. Can't wait for more.

 

Oh, and welcome to Safaritalk.  

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Day 3

 

After breakfast in camp consisting of toast, fruit, cereal, pancakes, bacon, eggs and sausages we headed out for a full day game drive.

 

We departed at 8am, our first sighting of the morning was Zebra and Giraffe grazing together in the morning sunshine.

 

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Next up we come across some Saddle Billed Stork with a herd of Buffalo making their way through the bush.

 

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We continued on our way, and arrived just in time to see a herd of Elephants crossing from one side of the river to the other. Unfortunately they crossed to the opposite side to us, and melted into the thick bush. I only had time for one photo, which wasn't very good. However some of the herd were not impressed with our presence, and one returned to let their displeasure be known.

 

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On we continued, and came across more Zebra and a female kudu doing her best to keep cool in the shade.

 

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Next came a sighting I had been really hoping for. We located 2 Cheetah brothers hiding in the bush together. They were probably 50-60 metres away. They were really quite shy, and didn't seem one bit interested in letting themselves be clearly seen.

 

Our persistence paid off when they both got up but headed in opposite directions. We were sharing the sighting with 2 other vehicles, we decided to track one of the cats, the other 2 vehicles followed the other. As an aside, this would be one of only 2 shared sightings for the entire trip.

 

Our Cheetah walked through the bush, constantly calling out and checking on the whereabouts of his brother. He clearly wasn't comfortable around our vehicle, so we took some photos, then allowed him to cross the road we were on. He  met up with his brother and disappeared from sight into the thick green bush. despite the shyness of the cheetah it was a wonderful sighting.

 

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It was now time so stop for a bush lunch, so we found a shady spot next to a dried up riverbed and enjoyed a feed of beef, pasta and green salad. It was nice to sit and talk with our guides and vehicle mates about our lives back home and different experiences out in the bush.

 

Soon enough it was time to move on. We crossed the riverbed, and not 3 minutes later came across a pride of Lions. 2 were resting under the shade of a small bush while another 4 had positioned themselves under a large tree some 20 metres away.

 

This was not an exciting siting, but it was still nice to see Lions again after so long. The 2 Lions under the small bush came to join the others eventually, so at least they got up. Once they had settled down again we knew there wouldn't be much going on during the heat of the day, so we let them be.

 

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We were quite a distance from camp, so slowly began making our way back to base. We saw a lot of game along the way, including Elephants (one with a collar around its neck) Giraffe, Kudu, Zebra, Dik Dik and a large group of Eland which were very shy and wouldn't let us photograph them. I estimate there were somewhere between 30-40 in the herd. We also saw a couple of Impala along the way (heh heh, my attempt at humour!)

 

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It was a good day out, very happy to have seen Cheetah and Lions.

 

Dinner at 8pm again and then off to bed at around 10pm. Ready for another morning and afternoon game drive tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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Great start @mopsy, the green makes a beautiful backdrop to your photos. Our first Safari was in the dry season as will our second, will be sometime before I see the African bush in these colours.

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14 hours ago, Amylovescritters said:

Fantastic TR thus far... Southern Circuit is on my “within the next 5 yrs” list... Lol. 

 

I second Julian's advice ALC. Selous and Ruaha are great places to visit, feel truly wild and have low visitor numbers at this stage. 

 

We rarely saw other safari vehicles on this trip. It may be different in dry season though.

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7 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Wild dogs right off the bat!  Hard to beat that. Everything looks so lush and green. Great start. Can't wait for more.

 

Oh, and welcome to Safaritalk.  

 

Thank you Alexander33. Wild dogs was indeed a treat on day 1 in the bush.

 

The bush was indeed very green and pretty. In certain areas of Ruaha it made game viewing more challenging, but Selous being slightly more open there were no such issues.

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50 minutes ago, Ratdcoops said:

Great start @mopsy, the green makes a beautiful backdrop to your photos. Our first Safari was in the dry season as will our second, will be sometime before I see the African bush in these colours.

 

Thanks Ratdcoops. Our previous visits had been in dry season as well.

 

Its great to see the bush in a different light, and you won't regret it when you do eventually do the green scene thing.

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@mopsy

What fantastic viewing you had in the first two days, and Ruaha looks so beautiful and green- so very different to the dry season. 

Wild dogs before you even arrived at camp and cheetahs - we didn’t see either of those in Ruaha in September 2015, and your photos are great- the wildlife looks so good seeing all the landscape setting it’s in.

we are thinking of going back to Rusha when we go to see the Mountain Gorillas ( Uganda as Rwanda permits are now an insane price), and we were thinking of going in February ( 2020).

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Welcome to Safaritalk, very glad you decided to delurk. Wow, Wild Dogs straight away - that's what I call an awesome start. Really enjoying this, I had never thought of Ruaha as a Green Season destination, your report is quickly changing that. Looking forward to more!

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@mopsy Ruaha is so beautiful during the green season and thank you for sharing your trip. Great start with the wild dogs and cheetahs.

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Excellent sightings from the start @mopsy and fascinating to see Ruaha in the green season - so different from my two visits in the dry season.

 

What sort of daytime temperatures were you experiencing and was humidity a problem?

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34 minutes ago, Caracal said:

Excellent sightings from the start @mopsy and fascinating to see Ruaha in the green season - so different from my two visits in the dry season.

 

What sort of daytime temperatures were you experiencing and was humidity a problem?

 

Also, @mopsy , what about tsetse flies ( my wife has a bad reaction to their bites) ?

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Caracal said:

Excellent sightings from the start @mopsy and fascinating to see Ruaha in the green season - so different from my two visits in the dry season.

 

What sort of daytime temperatures were you experiencing and was humidity a problem?

 

Hi Caracal.

 

Temperatures were really pleasant during our stay. Daytime temp would have been around 26 degrees I reckon. There was a distinct lack of humidity in Ruaha. We did have a good storm on our first day and again on day 4 which no doubt contributed to the nice comfort levels. Night time temps were perfect for sleeping, not at all warm but not at all cold either.

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8 hours ago, Julian said:

 

Also, @mopsy , what about tsetse flies ( my wife has a bad reaction to their bites) ?

 

 

 

 

Hi Julian

 

I was concerned about the tsetse flies, we put on bug spray before every drive. It may have had a little impact but not much I suspect.

 

As you would know they are only in certain areas of the park. We managed to dodge them most of the time, but there was one drive in particular that they were really bad.

 

To combat this, the driver and guide got some dry elephant dung, put it in a tin can attached to the back of the vehicle, and lit it with a match.

 

The result was amazing. Almost instantly the tsetse all disappeared and didn't bother us again. The only downside was that when you stopped for game viewing the smoke could hinder your photography. Not that it was terribly thick, just noticeable.

 

Apparently Mdonya and Jongemero (sp?) are the only camps to do this, which surprises me given the effectiveness.

 

 

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@mopsy thanks for this Ruaha green season report. I will be there in early July  so the colours will be very different but I hope we have your luck with the cheetah. The zebras look as though they are almost grazing on lawn! 

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Day 4

 

Today we were to farewell our vehicle mates. Their flight was departing at 12pm, so we opted to start our safari at 6:30am and take a bush breakfast with us. Our goal was to find for them the elusive Leopard.

 

As it turned out there was to be no Leopard, or any other predator for that matter. What we did find, or confirm I probably should say, is that there is an unbelievable number of elephants and giraffe in this park. They are everywhere. You find yourself photographing the first couple of sightings of each in the morning, then driving straight by them after that unless there is something remarkable or out of the ordinary about the siting. They are just everywhere.

 

We also saw Zebra, Kudu and Dik Dik. When we got closer to the airport we stopped at a picnic spot to have our bush breakfast. It was on the banks of the Ruaha river, so we spent our time here watching hippos and crocs. Unfortunately we were unable to get photos of either out of the water.

 

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We bid farewell to our new friends from the Czech Republic, and departed the airstrip heading for camp. Once again the weather started to look quite ominous, so we rolled down the canvas sides to the vehicle and put on raincoats. Sure enough it absolutely belted down again but this time we didn't really get wet at all. In fact by the time we got back to camp the rain had stopped and the skies were beginning to clear.

 

After lunch I was sitting on our veranda reading a book, watching the passing parade of animals as they came and went. There are always Impala, and the Zebra are quite common too. Guinea Fowl are about as well as other birds.

 

I glance up from my book and spot 2 elephants grazing on the grass and trees about 50 metres to the left of our tent. I watch them for a while then get back to my book. Not too much time has passed before I catch movement on my left again. One of the elephants is walking straight towards me and is now about 25 metres away. Now 20. I start to wonder if I should get up and seek the safety of the tent, but I am sitting statue still so assume I should be ok. He's now 15 metres away.....now 10. What am I still doing sitting here?? He now seems aware of my presence. His trunk is up and he is sniffing the air, not sure if he can see me but I'm certain he now has my scent. He keeps coming, now just 5 metres away. I remain statue still. Suddenly he stops, it seems as if he eye balls me, then he begins to urinate. I breathe a little easier as I sense he is aware of me being there but doesn't consider me a threat at all. Nerves settled, I prepare to watch and see what happens next.

 

Mrs Mopsy, who was in the tent reading her book was unaware of all this going on. Upon hearing the elephant urinating, she rolled over to look out the window to see what the noise was. Her first reaction was to say, a lot louder than she would have intended "Ewww its urinating* right outside our tent!"

The elephant didn't like this sudden noise breaking the silence, so it beat a hasty retreat. That is one elephant encounter I wont forget in a hurry.

 

* denotes not actual word used.

 

 

This afternoon we head out again at 16:30. The predators are scarce again, but we come across our first waterbuck and bushbuck of the trip. Other encounters included zebra, warthog, baboon, giraffe and kudu.

 

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We returned to camp around 18:30. We had dinner a bit later then went for an early night.

 

Tomorrow we are doing an all day game drive, and heading for the small Serengeti which is quite some distance away.

 

 

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Loving your TR thanks @mopsy.

The parks looks so lush and green. Wild dogs first up is pretty special.

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Day 5

 

Because we are heading out all day we decide to have a little sleep in. We have breakfast in camp at 7:30 and head off on our drive at 8am. Its not long before we come across a small herd of buffalo.

 

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We continue on our way, passing zebra, giraffe and elephant. We then come across a species I have not seen before.

 

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The Bat Eared Fox family is resting under a tree. They are a fair way off the road, but it appears to be a family of 2 parents and 2 infants. The young ones quickly scatter into the bush, whilst the elder 2 hang around for a few minutes. They play and groom each other. They soon head off looking for the others, leaving us to continue on our way.

 

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Next up is a giraffe posing beautifully between 2 Boabab's.

 

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Next we see a family of 3 Dik Diks, then more giraffe.

 

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We push on, and come across some kudu, babboons and Zebra

 

Next we see a herd of elephants grazing their way through the bush.

 

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Just a little further up the road we come across another herd. This group is not so happy to see us. they have a very young baby amongst them and they do their best to keep her out of sight. its wonderful to watch how they shield the youngster from any possible danger.

 

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Its now time for lunch. While we are searching for a good spot our guide Hassan and Mrs Mopsy spot a Leopard sprinting between 2 bushes some 30 metres away. We get to the spot it was last seen but we cant find it. We are at the base of a small rocky hill with plenty of trees and small bushes to hind behind. From where we are we can see a rock hyrax staring intently at something, but we cant see anything. We drive to the other side of the hill for a different view, and theres a tree squirrel sending out alarm calls every 10 seconds or so. But still we cant see where the leopard has gone. We go back and forth a couple more times but to no avail. It has given us the slip. While disappointed at such a close call we know we still have time on our side to find the elusive cat.

 

we have lunch then keep going. we find another giraffe and a hippo on the other side of the river.

 

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We finally make it to Small Serengeti. I must admit I under estimated just how far it was. But it was worth the effort. Its very wide open here, you can see for miles. its a great contrast to the rest of the park. I am planning to put up some images of Ruaha at the end of this section so keep an eye out for those.

 

There are many Impala here, as you would expect in wide open spaces. There are also plenty of giraffe. There is also no shortage of elephants.

 

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A zebra, just for something different.

 

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We depart the Small Serengeti and start the long journey back to camp. We have seen so much today and are running a bit behind schedule, so only stop for a few things on the return trip.

 

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I cannot resist a kudu!

 

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The day finishes as it begun. Close to camp we come across a herd of about 200 buffalo.

 

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Not 2 minutes down the road another herd of at least 200 Buffalo, Being so close together you would assume they are part of the same super herd.

 

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Its been a big day. We gladly roll into camp and refresh with a shower and a nice cold Kilimanjaro. Its our last full day in Ruaha tomorrow so we look forward to what that day will bring.

 

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I love the photo of the Giraffe between the baobab tree's.

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