We had a good close view of the elusive eland on the way to camp but could not get a good photo as they soon ran away, as we went along Zach explained to us about the park, stopping to view the interesting birds/mammals on the way before arriving at camp for lunch.
Evening game drive was organised mainly for birds as this was the wet season and we needed to travel further to see animals, we did however get a good sight of two Eagle Owls and also Zach found us both the red billed hornbill and the local Ruaha red-billed hornbill explaining the difference between the two.
Mdonya Old River Camp tents are simpler than Nomad and although they have a shower and flush toilet these were in the open air, as with the Nomad camp animals could be heard around the camp after dark, we were escorted by Masai after dark. Evenings were drinks around the fire and communal dining. Nichole proved to be a good hostess often translating between English and Italian for the guests.
17th February 2010
Going out on full day game drive to reach the further parts of the camp, however it has decided to rain, it is the wet season, we are given rain coats but get wet as the vehicles are open sided, Zach and Francis do their best to keep us and everything dry. After about 1 ½ hours we get to a drier area of the park, finding a pride of 7 lionesses, then while trying to get closer to some eagles in a tree we come across 3 male lions, one who looks very evil.
Lunch is taken by the lake as we watch and hear hippos, also a further pride of lions is seen by the lake, we manage 60+ birds in the day, the rain seemed to freshen up the park and the birds became more evident. We also see waterbuck and one of the parks specialities the Greater Kudu, 4 together who do a bit of jousting for us. Herds of elephants are good as are the baboons we get to see. Also a good sighting of a Pale chanting Goshawk is made perched in a tree.
18th February 2010
Another full day to enable us to go to the Great Ruaha River and also where it meets another major river as the wildlife here is usually good. Weather is sunnier today and the wildlife is less evident although birding is still good as we reach over 100 species for the park.
Leopard steals Cheetah kill
After what seemed a quiet day on the way back to camp a big cat is spotted, it is a leopard in the low bushes, we follow it off road, Zach then spots a cheetah also in the area and a couple of pairs of ears that turn out to be jackals. The impala are barking out a warning, the zebra and giraffe are watching with interest, eventually Zach says follow the leopard or cheetah, we choose leopard. He then proceed to walk around and steals the kill the cheetah has already been eating and we watch him carry it off, we had nearly 45 minutes with the leopard moving around, unfortunately he did not carry the prey up the tree we were hoping for.
See the vultures coming in to clean up and also had sightings of two types of hyrax and an agama rock chameleon.
19th February 2010
Depart Mdonya Old River Camp for the airstrip on a game drive, we find three lionesses on the side of the road resting, our bird list for the park grows to 119 in total.
Francis was an excellent driver reading the roads well and assisting Zach in spotting the wildlife and birds. Zach’s knowledge was great informing us on the fauna and flora of the park and giving us an insight into the behaviour of the some of the birds and mammals we saw during the 3 days.
Although in the green season game viewing in Ruaha is more difficult the amazing scenery of the park more than makes up for this it was wonderful driving along the paths with the elephant grass over our heads on each side in places, but also from some of the park you could see mountains all around and the baobaob trees and cactus trees were wonderful.
We depart for Selous with several stops on the way making for an exciting flight, met at Selous airstrip by Gerard from the Selous Impala Camp and as a way of changes had a boat transfer to the camp with bird watching on way seeing red-rumped swallows close up and also white throated and white fronted bee-eaters close up. His knowledge of how to navigate the river was great along with his knowledge of the birds we saw along the way. Met at the camp by Matteo who gives us our introductions to the camp facilities and procedures which are important as animals wander around the camp after dark and in some cases in the daytime.
We go out on an afternoon boat safari with Gerard showing us crocodiles of all ages, we get good close ups of bee-eaters and kingfishers and also a distant sighting of a bushbuck. On our return we moor the boat before the camp and sit up on the elevated riverbank and have nibbles and sparkling wine.
Accommodation at Selous Impala is the best we have had, excellent bathroom facilities, a much needed fan as the humidity is high, good sized bed and all overlooking the river. Food and service is also excellent.
Mohammed our waiter for the three days introduces us to some simple Swaheli and also provides good conversation over dinner as in Impala guests dine at their own tables.
20th February 2010
Depart on an early morning game drive with a bush breakfast. We start near the camp identifying more birds but are made aware that the local pack of wild hunting dogs has been spotted, these are a park speciality and we go off to watch them at rest, until a hyena comes into view and we see them all get up and warn it off.
Following the good breakfast by the lake Esra our guide tells us about a small lion pride with young cubs, and soon the bush radio says they have been located and we leave to go see them at rest in a bush, two lionesses, a male and tow six week old cubs.
We also get our first sight of carmine bee-eaters close up, also seeing water buck and baboons at play.
We have requested to go back to see the lion family on the afternoon game drive and they arrange for us to leave earlier on the game drive, however a sudden downpour makes the driving difficult but Rajabu our driver proves even the wettest and slipperiest conditions are no problem and we arrive to see the cubs at play out in the open before the rain starts again.
After a short beer break the rain stops and we return to the lion family, the male is now out and we see the cubs jump over him to his annoyance and also interaction between the females in the group. Drive back is slippery as more rain falls but Rajabu’s driving is excellent even through the huge puddles that have formed and they still manage to spot a greater kudu for us.
21st February 2010
We were due for a walk but weather is against us so we opt for a boat safari instead after breakfast in camp. We get excellent close ups of a malachite kingfisher, good views of masked weavers nesting on an island. Gerard manages to get the boat between a hippo and the rest of the family and we get great views as is charges along trying to get in front of us, the hippo eventually gets tired of this and turns to face the boat, Gerard starts the engine and races away from him.
Great White Egret
We stop at Bird Island to see the Great white Egrets displaying, there are darters, night herons also, and we also see a flock of black herons fishing together Gerard says he has not seen this before in six years. Photographic opportunities on the boat for the birds are great; we also get close to a bush buck and see two herds of elephants.
Afternoon game drive finds more new birds for us, some good greater kudu sightings and also our first view of the local wildebeest.
22nd February 2010
Our final game drive, they take us by land to Bird Island and we have a final bush breakfast. Good sightings of water buck, greater kudu, a herd of elephants and buffalo. Good views of a spoonbill and yellow billed stork fishing.
We find a flock of carmine bee-eaters, Rajabu drives up and down past them and they flock around the vehicle catching the insects the photographic opportunity is great and this swarm of beautiful bee-eaters pick off the insects.
Depart for the airstrip and Gerard takes us on one last boat safari on the way to try to find the elusive African Jacana but we fail, views of osprey on the way to the airstrip are great.
Malachite Kingfisher and a pair of Fish Eagles, Selous
However we still have managed to record 95 species of bird in Selous making our overall total 230. We also identified 34 mammals and 7 reptiles.
Say goodbye to Selous and return to Dar Es Salaam to connect to our flight home via Dubai.