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Tbrad87

Ruaha - Ikuka or Mwagusi

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Hello Everyone! This is my first post in preparation for my first safari. I have done quite extensive research with the help of this forum and other websites and have narrowed my camp choice down to two, both in Ruaha. Although I was leaning towards the Mara/Serengeti originally, I ultimately decided on Ruaha based on the incredible reviews, low vehicle traffic, and animals. All that said, I have narrowed my decision down to either Ikuka Safari Camp or Mwagus camp. This will be for a total of 5 nights in early November. I am torn between the two so was hoping for some advice/suggestions as far as animals go. I know that Ikuka is more upscale and that does not necessarily matter to me, nor is it influencing my decision.

 

Being my first safari, number one on my list is the amount and types of animals I will see. From everything I have read, both camps have great guiding and are in prime locations in the Ruaha. However, It is my understanding that Mwagusi is next to the Mwagusi river which tends to draw a significant number of animals in the dry season. Should this be a big deciding factor as to which camp to go to? The fact that more animals will be close by, that they may walk right through my camp, or be able to view them from my tent? I know that Ikuka has incredible views and that game drives for both camps are in the same general area, but I'm slightly concerned that I may not see the same abundance of game. is this an accurate assumption? any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Hi - I don't have any insight, haven't been to that area. I know @madaboutcheetah went to Ikuka and loved it and he has a report on here from it.

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Stayed at neither place but.....

 

There probably won't be a lot of difference to the amount of animals you see over 5 nights since, as you say, game drives will cover the same general area. The animals do tend to use the dry river beds for travel and Mwagusi probably has more animals that are used to the camp and feed therre, as it has been there much longer.... and likewise there will be more traffic in that area as it is a popular game-drive route. I doubt either should be big factors. November will likely be very hot - you may want to factor that into your decision too, although I don't know how. Also, unless you are going to pay for a private vehicle you should look at how they do their game drives typically. More time out will result in more wildlife - although with the heat it gets pretty quiet in Ruaha by midday, until it cools a bit in the early evening. 

 

Your gut knows I bet.

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You are right that Mwagusi is right on the river bed .....

 that said, you will likely have a brilliant experience with a fantastic guide. See if you can be guided by Mark Sheridan or Paul Tickner and they both can guide you from IKUKA 

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Thanks for the insight everyone! It sounds like I really can't go wrong with either camp. I am well aware of the November head but luckily (or unluckily) for me, I am somewhat used to it. I live in Texas in the United states so have had nothing but 100+ degree days for the past month. I think I've been getting hung up on the fact that at Mwagusi, you have the opportunity to have animals right in your camp area which sounds super cool especially for someone who has never been on safari. But from the sounds of what has been said, it seems like I will get a similar animal viewing experience at either camp.

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@Tbrad87 - Whilst the Serengeti can be crowded especially in months like August/September in Kogatende (or) Jan to March in Ndutu; Seronera could be more crowded year round due to the volume of accommodations in that area ........  I'm thinking you can easily have a great time in November without too much vehicle traffic (depending on where in the park you are!) ......... 

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I have been to Mwagusi several times and loved each stay, sitting on the verandah and watching the wildlife in the river bed is not to be missed especially when you get elephant walking slowly past your banda at night. Sundowners and dinner in the Mwagusi river bed is something very special.

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Thanks for all the insight everyone! We ended up deciding on 6 nights in Ikuka. They both sound like phenomenal camps so if I ever get the opportunity to go back. perhaps I'll give Mwagusi a try.

 

I did have another question as far as Tanzanian safaris go. I am super interested in going to Mahale National Park but don't think it is quite within the budget at this point with the two available camps I am seeing (Kugwe Beach, and Greystroke Mahale) However, I've heard that there was, at least at one point, another camp under Flycatchers ownership that is a little more affordable. Does anyone know if this camp is still there?

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Flycatchers don't operate there any more. There might still be park bandas and resthouse... not sure about anything else.

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@Tbrad87 - Hope you report back after your experiences ....... Look forward to hearing from you!

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@Tbrad87 

 

I would say that I know Ruaha very well having been there a few times, however while I'm familiar with the stunning views from the escarpment near to where Ikuka Camp is, this camp was put up since my last visit so I've not been there. I have been to Mwagusi and it is a great place, if you hadn't decided on Ikuka I might have suggested that you could do both and stay 3 nights at each, but as they are not that far apart I assume you’d be spending your time in much the same area of the park anyway, so you might not necessarily gain much from doing this. However I assume it wouldn't be a big deal to transfer from one to the other, so if you just wanted a change of scene and to experience both camps you could do perhaps still do this.

 

As far as Mahale is concerned I've just had a look at the Africa Travel Resource website and the only camps that come up are Mahale Zoe’s Camp which was originally known as Greystoke Camp and then Kungwe Beach Lodge, of the two the latter is the cheaper option. Otherwise there’s just TANAPA’s Mango Tree Bandas, there’s no other accommodation in the park. On the ATR website a third place did come up Lupita Island, but when I looked at the details I see it’s 150kms away from Mahale to the south, so obviously not somewhere to stay if you’re wanting to go and see the chimps and I would imagine it must be pretty expensive.

 

ATR website

 

Mahale as much because it’s simply a stunningly beautiful place is probably the best place to see wild chimps, however as you've discovered it isn't cheap. The other factor which adds to the cost is that to include Mahale on a normal safari, really the only way to get there is to fly in. If you are up for an adventure it is possible to travel there using the ferry the M.V. Liemba that travels up and down Lake Tanganyika, but you've got to get yourself to and from either end of the lake to catch the ferry, so while it might cut the cost a fair bit, it’s not really a practical alternative to flying on a normal short 2 week safari. Going by boat also wouldn't really work very well if you’re trying to combine Mahale with Ruaha or other parks. If you do particularly want to see chimps on another future trip, then you might want to look at other options. Such as Kibale Forest NP, Kyambura Gorge (nr QENP) and Budongo Forest in Uganda or possibly Nyungwe Forest NP in Rwanda, all of which would be a good deal cheaper in terms of accommodation options and the fact that they are all accessible by road.

 

 ATR don’t recommend Gombe Stream in Tanz anymore for chimps because Mahale is so much better but it’s also an option, but I don’t how the lodge there compares in terms of price to those in Mahale, and you have to take a boat from Kigoma to get there.

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While not either Ikuka (which I know you loved @madaboutcheetah) nor Mwagusi, does anyone know about Mdonya Old River Camp?  I was checking that out, looked interesting.  Rustic and less expensive than some options.  I have not been to Ruaha, so no advice from me.

 

Sorry Flycatchers no longer is operating for Mahale.  I went there and it worked well. The Mango Tree Bandas require you to bring your own food and do all your own food prep.  But here is something you might consider if you'd rather not have meal prep face you after a long day trekking in the mountains.  You could see if it was possible to bring along your own chef.  I know this might seem extravagant, but I have done that in Kenya while staying in Kenya Wildlife Service bandas and it worked well and the overall cost of vehicle-driver/guide-chef-banda was less than staying at some of the fancier accommodations.  But I was on an driving safari with a guide and you'd be flying your chef in and out.  Staff might get special rates for flights, though. Or maybe a chef could be hired from across the river.   Anyway, just a thought.

 

There is a nice opportunity in Kibale that is not available in Mahale and it is the "habituation" trip or it may have a different name by now.  But you go to where the chimps were the day before and watch them wake up, then stay with them all day and finally watch them make their nests in the evening. 

 

Good luck with your first safari.

 

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I think I remember seeing a vehicle or two of theirs on the odd game drive or two, @Atravelynn ........ So, I'm guessing location wise - they can't be far off from the other camps near the Mwagusi river ...... Their exact location, I'm not familiar with.

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Posted (edited)

@Atravelynn @madaboutcheetah

 

I stayed at Mdonya on my last visit, assuming it hasn’t changed at all and I don't think it has, it’s a nice camp with 12 tents, there were a couple of camp elephants wandering around and always other wildlife visible from camp like giraffes, zebras and impalas and of course vervets. It’s not too far from the Mwagusi River so you can certainly game drive in that area and I did so. I also had excellent views of a male leopard close to the camp. The one drawback which I assume is still the case is that the Tsetse flies in certain places on the Mdonya River were absolutely terrible, one evening we simply weren’t able to stop for our sundowner and had to just return to camp they were so bad. Otherwise if you don’t mind the fact that it’s quite basic, for example there’s no electricity around the camp so you have to hand in batteries for recharging in their office, it is a great camp if you want somewhere cheaper than the competition. In many ways I prefer somewhere somewhere that's still just a little bit basic as long as everything works and the food is good, so I am quite pleased that the place appears not to have changed from what I can see online, I don't really want to have to pay a whole lot extra for unnecessary luxuries that I can live without.

 

I'm interested looking at the ATR website that there is another new Asilia camp opening next month called Jabali Ridge that is so new they only have an artist's computer illustration of what it will look like but it promises to be the most luxurious camp in the park. a quick Google image search just produces more artists impressions, if it opens on time then maybe there will be some actual photos appearing quite soon. If it is as luxurious as they state then I would guess it will have a hefty price tag, unless TANAPA decide to extend the tourist area of the park, I hope there won't be any more new camps appearing in Ruaha, remembering what it was like when it only had one lodge and some TANAPA Bandas and nothing else except campsites.    

 

Asilia Jabali Ridge

 

 

Edited by inyathi

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