The sultry heat of Africa hit us as we stepped off the Kenya Airways flight at Dar es Salaam and it was only 8:30am, some 23 hours after leaving home in Spain, so it was with some relief that we entered the delightfully cool foyer of the Royal Palm M榘抏npick Hotel an hour later.
Our rooms were a good size, the hotel pool was clean with waiter service and a poolside restaurant so all that a weary traveller could wish for. The in-hotel Italian restaurant was excellent and we all indulged in the enormous local prawns, which could have been mistaken for small lobsters. We made the most of this meal as we had no idea what to expect on our safari to two of the largest and remotest game reserves in Tanzania.
I should explain that there were four of us – my husband, myself and two close friends – we hoped that after holidaying together that we’d still be that way! This destination was a very last minute decision as we should have been in Kenya. However, the political turmoil there dictated that we make a change so we opted for Tanzania, where our friends had safaried previously but we had not. In any event, our two camp safari took in national parks where they had not been so, happily, a new adventure for us all.
7:00am saw us en route for Jongomero Camp in Ruaha National Park by light aircraft. Despite its 23,000 square kilometres, making it larger than Wales, Ruaha is so wild and remote that it does not attract anything like the tourist numbers found at parks such as Arusha, Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater. Indeed, one cannot expect to find game in such huge numbers either, but in some ways the difficulty in locating the game makes a sighting all the more exciting. The time of year of our visit (February) being the end of the short rains meant that game spotting would be all the more challenging as the trees and undergrowth would all be in full leaf, providing ideal camouflage for those creatures not wishing to show off for visitors, but more of the animals later.
We were met at Jongomero airstrip and transported to the camp where we were welcomed by singing staff and the young South African couple who ran the place. Our tents were well spaced for privacy and followed the curve of the river bank; on the way we passed a small swimming pool and sun beds. This was not the stuff of boy scout camping, with a large double bed, dressing area, fully equipped shower room and terrace overlooking the river. But enough of the sleeping tent; a cold beer was beckoning from the open fronted makuti thatched lounge/bar area, also with a view of the river, followed by lunch of meatballs, couscous and salad.
Our afternoon game drive was delayed by an hour or so by heavy rain but soon enough we set off in a purpose built safari vehicle – a four wheel drive with two rows of tiered seats behind the driver designed so that everyone had the best view possible. We were lucky to have a vehicle visit our website built for six passengers between four of us, so plenty of room for cameras, binoculars, bird books and all the other paraphernalia without which no game drive would be complete.
After the recent rainfall, the tracks were somewhat muddy and sliding the jeep was often the only way forward. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before our first game sighting, a dik-dik, that cutest of antelopes, which even fully grown rarely stands more than knee high on the average human. After that a large batchelor group of impala then increasingly giraffes camouflaged in the trees or standing sentinel beside, or sometimes right in the middle of the track.
Our friend is particularly keen on bird watching, so there were numerous stops to identify a huge variety of bird life. Suddenly our driver, Eric, veered off the track whispering “elephant”. He wove the four wheel drive between saplings and scrubby bushes until we could see what he meant; a whole herd of elephant, probably around twenty of them, making their way through the undergrowth. As we followed at a discreet distance, they trundled down the river bank and across to the other side, eventually disappearing into the bush.
There are no other camps in this area of Ruaha but one of the other drivers radioed to say that a pack of African hunting or “painted” dogs had been sighted. Our friend had a particular ambition to see these creatures so the hunt was on; not bothering with the track, Eric rocketed us through the scrub further up the river bank. We quartered back and forth for a while but the dogs were gone; oh well, plenty of time to catch up with them.
Back at camp, cold beer was gratefully consumed as we discussed what we’d seen and consulted one of the waiters, who was something of an expert, on the birds that we had seen. Showered and changed for the cool of the evening, aperitifs were drunk, our friends’ story of the hippo which came out of the river right by their tent was told and dinner was served on the covered wooden deck, in case of rain; tuna mousse, chicken in satay sauce with chive mash and vegetables plus dessert – all delicious – not bad at all for the middle of the jungle.
Next wwe supercard hack online morning saw us up at 7:00am for breakfast before setting off for an all-day safari. Once again the giraffe and impala were much in evidence together with water buck. Eric suggested a stop for coffee and to our surprise unfolded a table, laid it with a cloth and arranged coffee things and flapjack for us to help ourselves – how incredibly civilised. This stop was by the river so we were entertained by cavorting hippos as well as birds, too numerous to mention.
For the remainder of the day we continued our drive, taking in the somewhat unpleasant sight of vultures squabbling over the remains of a giraffe, monitor lizards, warthogs, zebra, kudu, baboons, vervet monkeys and eland. Our civilized lunch stop in the middle of nowhere saw us tucking into pizza and a variety of salads, all washed down with local beer. click this site After lunch, more of everything, especially elegant giraffes, mongooses, baboons and birds galore.
Back to camp for sundowners, then dinner of Moroccan lamb by candlelight in the (at that point) dry riverbed. We were told that lions and elephant sometimes came into the camp at night and our friends saw a jackal as they were being escorted from their tent to dinner, but apart from that, all was quiet.
Up again at 7am for a nice spicy omelette and the long drive to Msembe at the far end of the park. Plenty to see en route including a tortoise about the size of a domestic one just wandering across the track. Down here, it was much drier with less vegetation and we hoped to see lions, for which the area is well known. We weren’t disappointed. Shortly after an encounter with a very angry bull elephant from which Eric raced away with all the speed that the safari truck could muster, we sighted two male lions. They just wandered along for a while then disappeared but were a majestic sight, nonetheless. After that, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a serval cat, which is rare indeed and some rock hyrax playing amongst, yes you’ve guessed it, rocks!
Lunchtime saw us once again overlooking a river, enjoying another picnic and watching a lone elephant trudging along to rejoin his herd. It was a long trek back to camp so we didn’t stop for much on the way, although we did hear an elephant trumpeting in the trees beside the track and shortly afterwards we had to stop, with some trepidation, to change a punctured tyre. The evening beer was more than welcome after a long day bouncing around in a truck but the rain prevented another dinner in the riverbank which was now by no means dry!
Next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and loaded with the packed lunch that was pressed upon us, we boarded our flight for the Selous Game Reserve for the second part of our safari.