Mdonya camp was the perfect way to immerse us all into the safari holiday. We enjoyed the day- long game drives, starting with coffee and cake brought to the tent, colourful Masai blankets to keep us warm until the sun came up and packed breakfast and lunch in the bush. We saw all the animals we wanted to see and were amazed at the knowledgable guides.
Mdonya in Ruaha we have visited before in 2011 and was again excellent, although there seemed to be far fewer elephant this time. Our guide, Christian, was very knowledgeable but lacked good interpersonal skills, a situation that camp manager Mary was aware of
Mdonya Old River was a nice enough camp, definitely “rustic” but perfectly comfortable. We had an issue on our arrival day where we had no hot water for a shower and as they were fully booked we couldn’t be moved to another tent until the morning. The staff were very apologetic and did everything they could to make good on this hiccup but it did make our first evening there less enjoyable. It was quite chilly at night when we were there in July so showering in cold water wasn’t pleasant! The food at the camp isn’t wonderful, but adequate, although we had arrived from Selous Safari Camp so had been spoilt a little. My wife, being a vegetarian, found the food choice a bit limiting. Eating at a big long table instead of individual tables isn’t to everyone’s taste either. I realise this is personal preference though – no doubt some people love the communal camp-fire experience that Mdonya offers and being able to chat to their fellow travellers. We were on honeymoon so generally felt like being antisocial and this wasn’t really the place for that. It is also a tse-tse fly area which concerned me a little before going but we stocked up on Jungle Formula and the flies were only evident in a few specific locations that we drove through pretty quickly.
However the safari itself was excellent. And that’s what you are there for. The location near the river means anything and everything comes nearby. We were extremely lucky with 3 different leopard sightings in just 3 days; one of which was a hunt. More lions and elephants than I can remember, including elephants having a mud bath which was a great sight. By the third day (the sixth day of our first ever safari trip) we did get a bit tired of spending all day in the jeep though. For us, that was enough. We found the combination with Selous good – one group at Mdonya did a 3 hour drive in each direction to see some small hippos from a distance whereas at Selous Safari Camp you can see hundreds of hippo from fairly close range on a boat safari.
I would recommend this camp, but if you are going on honeymoon treat yourself to somewhere more luxurious too as part of your trip.
After four nights at Lake Manze, we took the short flight to Mdonya Camp in the Ruaha area. A similar camp, but perhaps even more basic as even the main areas for eating were just tented canopies. Each night we would all sit round a big camp fire, enjoying our drinks and swapping stories of the day with the other guests before gathering round a big table underneath the stars, to eat the delicious food that was provided.
There had hardly been any mosquitos or flies at Lake Manze, although there were tiny little midges which had a vicious bite, to which Laura can attest. Although there were no mosquitos at Mdonya either, there were many flies, including the notorious tse-tse fly. All these flies could bite. To try and keep them away from the truck when we were out in the bush, the guides had an old tin can on the back of the truck, in which they burnt elephant dung. I have to say it was a most aromatic smell, which the guides said was because the elephant eat acacia trees and other trees used for medicinal purposes by the Africans, and as the elephants only digest 44% of the food they eat, the end result was far more pleasant than we would have imagined.
The Ruaha region was much more arid than the Selous, but that meant that all the game collected round the waterholes. We were able each evening, at sunset, to watch baboons, impala and elephants enjoying themselves in the water, except for the one night when three thirsty lionesses gathered to drink, and all the other animals were extremely wary. Sitting there with our ‘sundowner’ drinks, and nibbling at the popcorn which appeared as if by magic, somebody remarked that it was just like being at the movies!!
We had the excitement of being shown a python which had swallowed an impala three months ago, and had been sleeping up a tree ever since to digest the enormous meal.
We saw many lion, mostly asleep under the trees in the middle of the day, but on one occasion when the evening was approaching, there were four lionesses prowling about, with a prey obviously in mind, but after spending a little while somewhat desultorily wandering around, they gave it up and turned in the opposite direction.
Among the many giraffe we saw, once there was a mother giraffe suckling a very young foal, and also a zebra which was really close to giving birth - we stayed a while but nothing happened.
One day just as the light was getting stronger, we saw five
carmine bee-eaters sitting on a branch, taking turns to fly off to catch insects. The low sunlight caught the reddish-bronze of their plumage. The guide said it was unusual to see these birds in the dry season.
There were so many birds we saw, some exceptionally beautiful. My own favourite was the lilac crested roller, which when flying was a flash of bright turquoise. We saw it fairly often but not so much that it ever failed to be an excitement. I also liked the starlings, so much more attractive than the British variety. These were also bright blue and were especially attractive in flight.
On one of our long days out we had just seen a pride of lion asleep, and then another single lion watching the world from a rock, when our truck developed a puncture, which was slightly alarming. Our driver limped down the road until we were out of sight, and we three in the back of the truck had to get out while they jacked the truck up. Fortunately there was another truck from our camp fairly near, and they came to help and we watched from the safety of the other truck while the wheel was changed in double quick time, and we were off again.
Naturally we were particularly keen to see leopard and cheetah, which are much more difficult to find, but we were lucky enough to see both: a leopard sleeping up a tree, and another one just disappearing into the bush, and the cheetah we came across was walking across a clearing and we got a very good and close view of that.
When our magical time came to an end we flew off to Zanzibar, where we stayed in a comfortable but laid-back hotel right on the beach. The safari viewing is exciting, and we made the very most of our time, but we were tired after seven very full days, and were glad to relax on the beach before the long flight home.
Ed and the team at Tanzanian Odyssey created a wonderful trip for us that lived up to all the expectations, and we can’t thank them enough for it