October 2011

Posts Tagged ‘ Mwagusi

J Johnston

TANZANIA – September 2011

Going on safari has been a dream of mine for some time, and it was with great excitement that my friend Laura and I set off for Tanzania in September 2011 for a safari trip, with three days on the romantic-sounding island of Zanzibar afterwards to recover.

We had chosen two adventure camps, both in the south of Tanzania, and the first was at Lake Manze in the Selous area. We got there in a small aeroplane from Dar-es-Salaam and it was exciting to look at the countryside from the air, knowing that we would be enjoying being in the bush very shortly.

We arrived at 9.30 am and set out straight away on a game drive on our way to the camp. We immediately saw impala, giraffe and elephants. We marvelled at the many birds and animals which seemed so plentiful. The beautiful spinosa terminalia trees decorated the bush with bright green foliage spreading out in a flattish form like so many umbrellas.

Arriving at the camp we were greeted by Sally and the other staff, and taken to our tent, which although basic and without electricity, had the luxury of a flush toilet and shower (with water heated by solar power) in open air underneath the sky – wonderful!

Lake Manze camp is near Lake Zerrakerra, so we saw a lot of hippos on our boat trips on the lake and nearby channel. At night they came out of the water and we could hear them chomping away on the grass very close to our tent, which was very exciting.

Having breakfast the next morning in the open sided covered area, we were thrilled to see an elephant amble by just a few yards away. There were no fences round the camp and when we walked between our tent and the main covered area we were always escorted by a Maasai guard, who made sure we came to no harm, especially when it was dark – lots of animals about!

We saw so many animals and birds that I have made a list of these at the end of this little account.

One morning early in our visit we went on a nature walk. This was really interesting – we learnt a lot about animal tracks, and especially the dung that was lying about, which could tell the experienced guides what had been about, and how long ago. Various trees were pointed out to us for example the ‘toothbrush tree’ which had flowers which looked just like red toothbrushes, and apparently the fresh light branches could be chewed to use as a toothbrush. The fruit of a desert date tree (an acacia) could be used to cure intestinal worms. The long pod cassia trees had beautiful yellow blossoms, and pods that were about 20 cm long. The greater kudu eat the leaves and flowers, and the roots and bark were boiled and used to cure malaria. Weaver bird nests abounded – built on the downwind side for shelter; different weaver birds using different kinds of architecture, so again the experienced guides could say which variety was nesting in which tree.

We learnt that the ‘big five’ of game animals have their counterpart in the ’small five’: elephant shrew, lion ant, leopard tortoise, red billed buffalo weaver and rhino beetle.

Our trips on the water were very special – we saw so many crocodiles and hippo that it was tempting to become blase, but it was wonderful to see all the animals in their natural habitat, just going about their ordinary business.

On our first trip on the lake we quickly saw a malachite kingfisher, a beautiful bird with bright blue plumage and a red beak. Soon afterwards we were joined by three pied kingfishers which followed our boat for several minutes. As a brilliant finish, we also saw a giant kingfisher sitting on a branch in a tree with a monitor lizard close by.

Another day we were driving past a large baobab tree with a hole in the trunk – the guide excitedly pointed out a porcupine in the hole. Laura and I looked and looked but could see nothing. In the end we got out of the truck and approached to just a few feet away, and in the end conceded that we could see a few white stripes moving in the darkness of the hole. To say we saw a porcupine is perhaps stretching the facts a bit!

One of the highlights of the trip for me was when we were parked up near the lake for one of our ‘bush breakfasts’ when two hippos were squaring up for a fight. Their massive jaws were wide open and they were each trying to overcome the other. We were too far away to take a photo on our somewhat limited equipment, but it was super just to watch through the binoculars. It went on for some 20 minutes, which our guide assured us meant a serious fight.

We wanted to make the most of our trip, so we were up every morning before 6 am – in the dark – and usually went out for a long morning drive, and then an afternoon drive, but the best days were when we went for a full day, involving bush breakfasts, and bush lunches, when wonderful hot food was produced like magic by our guide and driver. The ability to drive far away from anywhere, and just soak up the isolation, the heat, and the silence, especially in the heat of the day, was thrilling.

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 their attention to detail and for their friendly and knowledgeable help which was so invaluable at the planning stage.

Animals we saw:

Baboons
Blue wildebeest
Bush buck
Cape buffalo
Cheetah
Crocodiles
Duiker
Dykdyk
Elephants
Eland
Giraffe
Grant’s gazelle
Greater kudu
Ground squirrel
Hartebeest
Hippo
Hyena
Impala
Jackal
Leopard
Lions
Mongeese
Monitor lizard
Python
Rock hyrax
Slender mongoose
Velvet monkeys
Warthogs
Waterbuck
Water buffalo
Wild dogs
Wildebeest (common, and blue (the ‘gnu’)
Zebra

A selection of Birds we saw (so many, and some which were indistinguishable or unidentifiable. We were told by birding visitors to the camp that they had seen over 60 different birds, including four they had never spotted before – great excitement!)

African harrier hawk
African sea eagle (fish eagle)
African spoonbill
American black crake
Eagle (Bateleur, Brown snake)
Bee-eater (carmine)
Blacksmith lapwing
Black winged stilt
Brown necked parrot
Bustard
Egret (Great white)
Egyptian geese
Heron (grey, and goliath)
Hoopoe
Hornbills
Ibis (Haddad)
Jacana (often known as Jesus birds, as they appear to walk on water!)
Kingfishers (Malachite, Pied and Giant)
Lapwing (spur winged)
Mariqua sunbirds
Marsh sandpipers
Namaqua Dove
Owls (eagle) (Verreaux)
Oxpeckers (who take the fleas off the buffalo)
Pelicans
Pied kingfisher
Starling (Greater blue-eared)
Swallows
Weaver birds, (white, sparrow, red billed buffalo,Africa golden)
Woodpeckers, cardinal
Vultures (White backed, palm nut, hooded
Stork (Yellow billed, open-billed, maribou)

And to finish the lists, the Trees:

Acacia (including desert date tree, whistling white, and many others)
Balanite tree
Baobabs
Cassia, long pod
Crocodile tree
Ebony
Euphorbia (candlelabrum)
Fig
Ladywood tree
Mangrove
Milk berry tree
Tamarind
Terminalia spinosa

and many others

J Johnston 2011

C Davis

Dear Ed,

The four of us had a great trip to Tanzania in July and have some wonderful photographs from all the camps.

We had good food (& too much of it) at all the camps. All guides were knowledgeable,  with the guiding being excellent at Katavi (we had the camp manager, Richard, since another small group had arrived a day earlier and had the regular guide); the guiding was equally fine at Beho Beho for the two of us who went on to Selous; and for the two returning home through Arusha the Arusha Park day guide went out of his way to provide them with a wonderful final experience, including an orphanage visit and meeting some of his family.

The guiding at Serian and at Mwagusi in Ruaha was almost on a par with these top three, and was certainly good at Lake Manze.  At Ruaha where we had the “Village Visit” we were pleased with our time with the Masai villagers and at our brief school visit. Chris Fox, Mwagusi’s owner and our host,    was very interested in our input since this visit had not been done before. We made some suggestions for minor changes. He is a most interesting man; I had briefly met two of his brothers on a trip in 2009, and had hoped he would be at Mwagusi while were there. He is very attentive to all the guests, which makes his camp especially inviting.

We saw more lions & cubs at these five camps than in all my previous African trips combined…just phenomenal…a few in trees, plus an actual chase & kill by one at Beho. Had a couple of exciting up close elephant encounters by “resident” elephants in Mwagusi (I came around a bend in the path & there he was…with hands shaking a bit I got some pix as “Rudi” posed for me); and in Katavi their “Fred” shook a marula tree outside the dining room. At Lake Manze we had elephants who came around our tent just off the deck each morning and ignored my snapping camera.

Would  rate Beho, of course, as the must comfortable with outstanding staff…which I expected.

However, Ruaha being my favorite place in all of Africa, I believe Mwagusi is the most “atmospheric”.

Katavi is superb and worth the effort to get there.

Would give these three 5 stars all things considered. Serian would score 4, and Lake Manze 3+.

My daughters, granddaughter and I thank you for arranging such a fabulous Tanzanian Trek for us.

Sincerely,

C Davis 2011

J Hales

I’d have to say it would be difficult to pick one specific highlight.
From day one on Zanzibar it was beautiful just what we needed after the wedding,
even down to the flower arrangements on the bed.
The staff/guides and management everywhere we went were more than helpful.
We especially liked the Riverbed meals at night at Mwagusi, truly amazing to eat under such a beautiful sky with such good company.

I guess ultimately the animals are the stars of the show. The Lions though lazy have so much character, I could have taken photo’s all day, and the Elephants are so much more protective and graceful than you could ever imagine compared to seeing them in a zoo.
The Hyena’s crunching through a buffalo carcass was quite a sight and the African hunting dogs too with their 7 pups.
But each and everything we saw was amazing in its own way.

The one other outstanding thing to draw from the trip was the land itself, it’s difficult to explain to people when we tell them.
It’s just a place you have to see for yourself, the miles and miles of dried yellow grass and dusty earth with splashes of green and brown of the trees and bushes. Yet there’s so much beauty in the landscape and its inhabitants.
It is vast and we saw just a fraction of it.

And finally Ras Kutani could not have ended the trip better… relaxing and massage’s, eating and drinking.

Rambled on a bit there but take it from me you and everyone involved did a fantastic job, hope to travel with you again.

Wishing you all the very best.
Cheers
J Hales 2009

K Moon

Hi Nick
Well, what can I say? Thank-you so much for arranging our trip, we have had the most amazing time, everything exceeded our expectations and we wouldn’t have altered anything.
We had fabulous rooms at all places and I am sure that is all down to you, and as for our anniversary surprises – wow! I have never felt so spoilt.
Selous and Mwagusi are each unique and it made our trip so enjoyable to be at two such different camps, both superb but both so incredibly different.
We saw and learned so much and after our walking trips are now both experts on poo – I’m sure it will all be useful for pub quizzes!
Please feel free to pass on my e-mail address to any customers who are making up their minds about their own trips, I will be glad to chat to them.
Once more, thanks a million for making our trip of a lifetime just that (the only trouble is we both want to return……..)

K Moon 2008

D Edderai

Dear Nick,

It’s been now a few weeks since the end of our safari in Mwagusi & Sand River last october, and I’ve been quite busy at work since. But Bertrand and I really wanted to let you know that we found your services simply perfect in the preparation and the booking of that trip. We notably appreciated your promptness in email responding. And once in Tanzania, everything ran smooth, without a glitch, and the program was exactly as scheduled and expected. So thanks for everything!

Best regards,
D Edderai 2007

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