Breakfast and other delights on the banks of the Ruaha River
Our Africa specialist, Anton, embarked on an exciting adventure in Ruaha, Tanzania. He describes his thrilling and unique experience on the banks of the Ruaha River during which he witnessed true life in the wild and the fights for survival that take place.
As a seasoned traveller, I never imagined the beauty that this incredible reserve would offer. The unspoilt wilderness leaves you yearning for the next game drive and sighting. Ruaha is Africa's second biggest national park at 20,226 km2 and has a few great little statistics like; 10% of Africa's lion population, as many visitors a year as the Serengeti has in a day in peak season and a bird list close to 600 species. The allure already appeals.
Flying into the reserve, one is immediately in awe of the harsh nature. A landscape littered with giant baobabs, elephant trails, dry riverbeds and boulder strewn hills. Little did I know what hidden gems this stunning reserve would offer. The diversity is so great within the reserve that a minimum of 4 nights is needed. During our time, we explored palm filled valleys, dense riverbeds that hide everything from mice to elephants and open plains in which journeys of giraffe and vast herds of buffalo sought sanctuary from the ever present threat of lions.
One of the many experiences we had in the reserve, and possibly the most exciting, was on the second last night staying in Kigelia Camp, a rustic bush camp over looking a dry river bed. During our dinner under the full moon, we heard lions roaring in the distance. The lions continued intermittently throughout the night to update us as to their location.
The goal was to find them as soon as it was light enough and so we headed out to their last heard location...the car park. Within 10 minutes of starting the search we had found a lioness that was being followed by an unfortunate looking young male who had overstayed his welcome with the ladies and had the scars to show for it. The scene was surreal. With an orange dawn sky and ancient baobab silhouettes, the birdsong was silenced by the soft contact call of a lioness who built up into a crescendo of deep roars. So loud was the lioness that one startled baboon fell out of the tree! This then caused the entire troop to burst out with alarms and screams, we too added to the noise with guffaws of laughter as this poor baboon scrambled back to safety.
The bush returned to normal and we left the lioness as she searched for the rest of her pride.
The region in the north has two main rivers; the Ruaha and the Mwagusi, our guide, Joel, took us to the confluence for a bush breakfast. The goal was to find a large herd of buffalo coming to drink. The experience and knowledge of our guide put us in the perfect place as a herd was fast approaching the river. We were sat on the opposite bank as they approached. Halfway through the first bite of breakfast, a pride of 7 lions started stalking the herd - breakfast forgotten - we witnessed the mayhem of these enemies of old. Through the haze of dust, it was impossible to tell which side was going to emerge victorious. The lions skulked around the edges with the buffalo charigng at any lion that dared show its face. Slowly, over time, the herd, through persistently harassing the lions, forced them to retire into the shade of the riverbank and await a different meal.
At that moment, a pair of African Skimmers with their slow wing beats glided along the waters surface, drawing a hypothetical line under an incredible breakfast experience.
Ruaha offers accommodation options ranging in various levels of luxury from purely bush focused, like Old Mondoro or Kigelia, to the camps which offer more luxury, like Ikuka, Jongomero, or the very exciting new camp, Jubali Ridge, which will be completed later this year.
One thing that all of the camps have in common is the ability to allow you to experience one of Africa's greatest and unspoilt or least over crowded reserves - I had more sightings of lions than I did of vehicles over the 4 days that we explored the reserve. If you are looking for fantastic game viewing, stunning scenery and avoiding the crowds, then Ruaha is a must add to bucket list destination.