Sleeping with elephants Ruaha National park and beyond

Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania was our next destination. It’s one of the understated parks of Tanzania and probably East Africa – wild and untamed, just getting there took longer than we anticipated. Once there we camped at the public campsite on the great Ruaha River, which we had heard lions frequently visited! Coming in we saw many elephants, little imagining that some of them would visit us that night. We cooked supper and whilst we ate we could hear elephants breaking branches as they munched their way along the river bank and into the camp site. When we settled into the tent we realized that they were coming closer and watched in fascination as the one huge elephant walked onto the ground sheet in front of our tent. He was way taller than the tent! He was about 2 m away from us as we lay on our mattress as he helped himself to the tree above us whilst another munched the bushes on our side. We’d left the chairs out and thought the large elephant in front would trample them but he didn’t! The two then disappeared down the river bank as silently as they had arrived. Next morning they were still lingering around the camp, quite relaxed. We met the only other people in the campsite. Richard comes here regularly and told us to always drive through the campsite when arriving as a pride of lions were often in residence. The other night visitor was a genet who shyly hung around. What an introduction to Ruaha!
The game viewing was superb, herds of elephant, buffalo, impala, kudu, giraffe, eland, Dik Dik, mongooses/ geese and more lions than we have ever seen in one place. We came across a pride of 11 lions and enjoyed watching them chill. The terrain is beautiful, thousands of baobab trees, savannah woodland and forests close to the river and lots of birds too. We even got ourselves stuck crossing a dry river bed and watched a herd of elephant digging for water and subsequently crossing near us while we tried to dig ourselves out. It was interesting how the bulls of the herd placed themselves on our side and kept a wary eye on us. They also dropped back as the herd moved away to ensure we weren’t up to no good! Our second night was relatively quiet with the exception of our old sleeping companions – the hippo’s, who munched for some time on the bushes to the side of our tent. On our last night there we heard the lions roaring very close to us and discovered the next morning that they must have been in the riverbed right in front of our tent as Richard had a webcam set up so that he could see what happens in camp when no one’s around and he had seen them come through in the night! It was hard to leave this special wilderness.
However we needed to move on and arrived at our next destination just 50km south of Iringa – an old farmhouse called Kisolenza. It belongs to an old east African family and is a mix between Africa and England. Beautiful campsite in the bush and a beauty salon!!!! – with a person who was a trained hairdresser. So the next day I had a proper haircut and a pedicure by a lady called Leila with whom I spent a couple of hours chatting about life in Tanzania. Leila is a colorful character so we laughed a lot together. Al also had a haircut but I was his hairdresser. We relaxed there for two nights before heading to Mbeya. In chatting to Nicky the owner of Kisolenza about our trip she exclaimed that even the residents of Tanzania are afraid to visit Kigoma in western Tanzania, confirming our impression that it’s a wild and raw place! Eastern Tanzania has been much more civilized. In Mbeya we camped on the helipad of a coffee farm and lodge called Ulengulu. This was our last night in Tanzania before crossing over into Malawi.

2 Replies to “Sleeping with elephants Ruaha National park and beyond”

  1. We had the same 2 elephants visit us for the seed pods every night a few weeks ago. Ruaha was very special. If you get a chance book a camp site (only 2) at Makuzi Lodge just south of Nkhata Bay ( ). We could have stayed a week.

Leave a Reply