Some fantastic images taken in the last few days by Mwagusi Safari Camp! The birds drink from the water bowls scattered around the camp in the dry weather while lions are abundant in the area around camp. See more about Mwagusi on their website here: www.mwagusicamp.com
What has happened to our river?
Its 20 years since this problem started and despite the huge sums spent on research, look where we are now!
The photo below was taken on 22nd November 2012 at the bridge (Ibuguziwa). There is no flow what so ever in the river.
The photo below was taken from the same spot on January 23rd 2013. As you can see the flow is still very small despite the rains starting in early December.
The following photo was taken on the 16th of February 2013 at the same spot. The flow is even worse than it was in January, despite there being reasonable rainfall.
The next photo shows the flow of the river at this spot on 6th February LAST year Feb 2012. We were extremely concerned last year about this LOW flow…. but my goodness it is WAY BETTER than THIS YEAR! Please compare the photos before moving on to the next.
This photo below is of my marker rock at my old camp, it was taken on the 16th February 2013. WHERE IS THE RIVER? The river bed is completely choked by vegetation due to lack of flow. This is a disaster.
What can we say NOW??
The Ruaha River has died?
TANAPA are to introduce new park fees beginning July 1st 2013. These fees will be valid until June 31st 2015. They will see the current 'Park Entry Fee' changed to a 'Conservation Fee'. For non-citizens this will see the fee per 24hrs increased from $20 up to $30 ($5 up to $10 for children). For citizens the price is being increased from 1,000 up to 5,000Tshs (500 up to 2,000 for children). Night game drives are also being introduced to Ruaha and will cost $50 per person for non-citizens and 10,000Tshs for citizens. A full list of the park fee changes can be viewed on the TANAPA website here.
The rain in December and January was good. In some areas it was spectacular and in others it was about average. But all in all the Ruaha Park and Usangu area have had more than substantial rains so far this season. Now the middle of February, we have experienced a dry spell which is normal.
From the onset of the rains in early December, the Ruaha River had irregular bursts of flood waters, emanating from the various sand rivers in the Park and also in Usangu. This water flowed for several days at a time, all from local rainstorms, in different sections along its course but it was never a constant flow. The picture below shows the flood water from a rainstorm on the 27th December 2011. This flow lasted a few days only before drying up again. One can tell it is from local flooding due to its brown colour.
Then on the 17th of January 2012 the Usangu water came flowing down the river past the bridge at the old entrance gate (Ibuguziwa). This water flowed on to Lunda. We know this is the Usangu water due to its dark almost black colour. See photo below.
However, as can be seen from the photo below, taken from the same spot some 10 days later, the river level has not risen. Which it should be doing if the water was flowing without interruption or abstraction. Also the water in the photo below is slightly brown, which means that it has mixed with recent floodwater from rainstorms, which we know came from the area just South West of Jongomero. So, even more reason that the water level should be higher than it was on the 28th Jan. Finally...
The ever present marker stone at my old camp reveals all. If you look at the 2 photos below you can see how low the river actually is. It is about one third as full as it should be.
I suspect that the massive off takes in the Usangu area are greater than ever before. It is no wonder that Mtera Dam is not filling up very fast.
If the water was allow to flow naturally I feel sure that the river and hence the dam would be an awful lot higher than what we are witnessing at present.
The dry season is in full swing, but the Ruaha River is still just flowing past Msembe HQ . Many elephants were still drinking from the water in the 'river'. This indicates that the water is still palatable and fresh enough for them to drink. As soon as the quality of the water deteriorates the elephants will dig holes in the sand, preferring the filtered cleaner water to that of the trickle on the surface.
Whilst this situation is not at all helpful for Mtera Dam it is at least a trickle of water for the animals and tourists to enjoy for the moment. However, as always, October is the date when the rice farmers start flooding paddies for planting seedlings so we shall see what happens then.
An article from The Independent, Sunday 8th May 2011. To see the whole article click here.
The memsahib and I faced a dilemma. We had a week to spare after working in Nairobi and she had never seen tourist Africa. But where to go?
The agent we contacted – Expert Africa – does not offer trips to Kenya on the basis that it "does not know it well enough". There may be another reason – that Kenya has become a mass tourist destination where a game drive or a beach holiday is as predictable as a Disney ride. So we took the agent's advice and flew to Tanzania – an hour and a half to Dar es Salaam – where we caught a connection with Safari Air which runs a drop-off service to the camps in the less-visited southern half of the country (The northern parks – the famous. Ngorogoro crater and the Serengeti – have also fallen prey to mass tourism.)
Our first encounter with Africa's wildlife happened sooner than we anticipated. Coming into land on the tiny, undulating airstrip at the first camp we surprised a small herd of elephants that harrumphed off into the bushes. But an impala – a small, delicate antelope – was less lucky. Running beside the plane as it touched down it suddenly cut across in front and was caught a glancing blow by the propeller. Result – one dead impala and one unflyable plane. We pushed the plane under the trees, sat on our bags and waited. In the blinding light, the air shimmered. Giraffes emerged from the bush, curiously examined the corpse, and passed silently on. Vultures circled lazily and we dozed in the sweltering heat – until the drone of our replacement aircraft disturbed our reverie.
Only a couple of hours late at Mwagusi Camp in Ruaha park – 22,000 square kilometres of savannah – we were greeted with cool, lavender-scented flannels, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and, possibly, the most spectacular bedroom I have stretched out in anywhere.
Our banda was an enormous thatched affair with low stone walls, dividing screens made from reeds, and a huge terrace overlooking the dried-up river bed. At the terrace's far end was a separate reading area with hammock and sofa set among the boulders. Inside was an enormous bathroom, dressing area and separate bedroom in a zipped mosquito-proof tent containing the biggest bed I have ever seen. There was easily room for six – and it was all ours.
There has been a sharp rise in luxury game lodges in the past decade as holiday companies have discovered an untapped appetite for five-star living in hard-to-reach locations. The appeal of Mwagusi, we soon discovered, lay in its determination to provide an authentic wilderness experience without compromising on comfort.
Outside the banda, animals wander freely through the camp – at night guests are escorted everywhere – and we watched elephants digging for water in the river bed below our terrace, troops of baboons ambling past. An Agama lizard, with luminous orange head and turquoise tail, hunted dragonflies on the boulders in front of us.
Inside, it was the details that caught the eye – towel rails fashioned from driftwood, stone water baths for the birds, bunches of dried grasses, animal skulls, woven baskets, arched recesses in the reed screens for clothes, a big wooden trunk for our bags. You could almost define Mwagusi by what it is not – not mass tourism, not over-protected (tents are so much better than walls), not hedged about by the health and safety police.
Dinner on our first night was served down in the river bed, next to a roaring log fire, the riverbank hung with enough oil lanterns to light a small town. With toes in the sand, we ate tender beef in ginger, roast vegetables spiced with chilli and rosemary, fried aubergine, puréed pumpkin and new potatoes – indeed, there were never fewer than half a dozen delicately flavoured dishes cooked by the chef Meru at every meal.
We had been chatting noisily for perhaps an hour when there was a rustling by the bank and someone swung a torchbeam to reveal a bull elephant browsing the leaves not 30 yards away – having his dinner, too. He was a regular in camp and quite unfazed by the commotion. As the memsahib said later, intoxicated by the scents and sounds of the night: "It is the mixture of extreme peace and extreme danger that I find so compelling." Twice during our four-night stayelephants blocked our way to the dining room and we had to be led on a wide detour to avoid them – which helped remind us, if it were necessary, who were the visitors in the park and who the hosts.
Next morning we were woken at 6am with tea, stepped out into the milky dawn, climbed into the open Land Cruiser and set off into the park. It was late January; the first rain had fallen and the thirsty earth had pushed up tender leaves and grasses of vivid green, which glowed against the murram tracks of burnt orange.
Some game parks are flat and featureless. Not Ruaha. Its boulder-strewn hills and tree-lined gullies yield magnificent vistas. We stopped the Land Cruiser on the lip of a valley and sat in silence watching the herds of elephant, giraffe and zebra drifting soundlessly across the landscape under the giant, bull-necked baobab trees. This is the greatest pleasure – to gaze on a scene unchanged for millennia, as if on the origins of life.
There were animals everywhere – families of elephants with young no more than a month old, jiggling their trunks uselessly as they struggled to master the 55,000 muscles that control it, giraffes regurgitating their cud from their four stomachs, the pin-tailed wydah birds which, uniquely, take four males to each female – to the memsahib's unconscionable delight.
Our guide, Jofre, could spot a whisker at 200 yards. He also had that other essential quality, a good parkside manner – knowing what information to deliver, and how to gauge it for his audience. Mwagusi is one of the few owner-operated camps in Tanzania (by the charismatic Chris Fox, a native Tanzanian) and has established an apprenticeship scheme for staff which sees them working as water carriers, waiters, plumbers and stone masons before being identified as potential future guides.
Then they get a chance to track the big cats. On our second day we came upon a solitary lioness, seeking the rest of her pride. She uttered an impressive roar, sauntered a couple of hundred yards and lay down again to wait. Then Jofre took a call on his radio – cheetahs had been spotted on a kill. We drove swiftly to the spot where four sleek, long bodies were lying in a perfect cross, their heads bobbing as they pulled violently at a carcass. It was a mother and her three full grown cubs. Every few minutes one would sit up, its jaws smeared with blood, and look around warily for rival predators. Cheetahs are fast but not strong and must eat quickly before they are challenged for their kill.
We shared that scene with two other vehicles, the only time we encountered other tourists in four days. A key part of what draws people to Ruaha is its isolation. Being distant from the coast (and expensive to get to), it has a fraction of the visitors of the northern parks. When a queue of vans is passing through it feels less like a wilderness and more like a zoo.
On our final night we came upon a pride of six lions with their cubs waiting to ambush a group of approaching zebras. While the cubs frolicked and the adults prepared to pounce, a back-up vehicle delivered our drinks. As dusk fell, white wine in hand, we raised our glasses and toasted our extraordinary luck.
The situation in the Ruaha Park has changed slightly over the last 4 days. To my relief some water has miraculously arrived from the Usangu swamp (Ihefu). It is not much but it will clear out the very dirty water that has been stuck in the few remaining Hippo pools, however, I do not think that this water will reach the Mtera Dam. I don't expect this new flow wil last more than a month or if we are lucky, two.
The photo above is the river in February 2010, how the river SHOULD look at this time. The photo below is the CURRENT situation, on April 18th 2011.
The water is extremely dark brown almost black which indicates that it has been sitting in the swamp for a very long time with no movement, or fresh inflow of new water. Therefore, the flow into Ihefu Is so far, very small, we will know if the flow increases if the colour of the water becomes
If anyone has any info that could be added to our website www.ruahanationalpark.weebly.com that they feel could improve it please send it to our email at firstname.lastname@example.org Also if you have any photos or reviews from your visits to Ruaha we would very much appreciate them to add to the website.. credit will be given to the photographer! Lastly, if you have any connections with the park or the camps and hear of any news stories concerning Ruaha National Park or the surrounding area please feel free to send them on to us and we'll publish them in our news section along with a credit to the sender.. every little bit helps! We still have plans for the Ruaha Newsletter mentioned a few months back although this project has had to be put on hold for a couple of months.. You should see the first one this Summer (June-July)! Meanwhile if there are any other recommendations you may have please contact us..
For the epitome of great game viewing in Tanzania, there’s nothing like the thrill of a guided walking safari.
Get up close and personal to animals great and small and watch unseen as they go about their daily business, some hunting their next prey, others off in search of water. To be sure of the best possible experience, stay with The Selous Safari Company who offer not just luxury tented accommodation but also the only qualified walking guide in the Ruaha National Park.
Licensed by the Tanzania National Parks to conduct bush walks, Andrew ‘Molly’ Molinaro is the camp manager and one of the safari guides at the boutique Jongomero Camp. Molly lives and breathes the African bush and on guided bush walks he entertains, teaches and enthrals guests. One of his greatest abilities as a guide is to teach not show and by the end of the guests’ stay they are able to spot the tracks and markings, know what the trees around them are used for and how the life of the bush works from Baobab trees to water pans.
With the safari season in Tanzania starting on 1 June, visitors to the luxurious Jongomero Camp are offered guided walking safaris in the Ruaha National Park as one of the activities available during their stay. Walks concentrate primarily on the smaller, unseen yet no-less-interesting parts of nature however there is always the feeling of wondering if something big might be around the next bush. Lion are sometimes seen as well as occasional cheetah and jackal, while elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, warthog and impala are plentiful.
Vast and untouched, Ruaha is the largest National Park in Tanzania and stands at 23,000 sq km - substantially larger than Wales – and boasts an extraordinary large population of elephant and antelope. While lesser known, to safari connoisseurs Ruaha is one of the most spectacular national parks in Africa offering a landscape that is rugged and harsh. No other park epitomises the definition of "wild Africa" quite like Ruaha.
Jongomero, the only camp situated in the remote central south-western sector of the Ruaha National Park, offers the ultimate off-the-beaten-track experience. A hidden gem with just eight luxury tents, a swimming pool and fabulous food, it promises a great vantage point from which to take in the sights and sounds of the African bush.
(expertafrica.com) is offering five nights on a full-board basis at Jongomero Camp in Tanzania from just £2,525 per person (a saving of up to £537). Available for travel in June, September and October, the price includes scheduled flights from Heathrow (via Nairobi), internal transfers, game viewing drives in open sided 4x4 vehicles, concession and park entrance fees.
Ruaha National Park News