I cannot believe that a chance conversation over dinner, when someone suggested we think of Adventure Camps for a safari, led to the most wonderful holiday.
We honestly did enjoy every minute - landing at the same airstrip in Selous that we had been to before (we had visited a few years ago with the Selous Safari Company) was fun and then meeting Hussain and Ali our guides from Selous Impala Camp. They had a table hidden behind the jeep at the side of the runway (we didn't get that before!) and had a very welcome drink and some cookies. And on the drive to the camp we saw so many animals it was unbelievable, but for me seeing a herd of elephants with their young, was the most brilliant start - I just love them.
The Lodge at Selous Impala Camp
The swimming pool
Our tent - on a high platform, for coolness and to see the river view better. The spacious veranda.
Impala Camp was lovely, we had a great welcome, and we had three terrific days there, not least because of Hussain and Ali whom we just loved. They were brilliant guides, their 'bush eyes' were incredible, and they were great fun to be with.
The birds in Selous are amazing. Malachite Kingfisher (lhs) and White-fronted Bee-eater (rhs)
We saw elephants, lions, jackals, buffalo, impala, giraffe, bush pigs, baboons, more impala (!), greater kudu, wart hogs, wildebeest, zebras, more impala (!), hartebeest, birds too numerous to mention and brilliantly spotted by Hussain and Ali, waterbuck, and wild dogs. On the way back to camp one evening we witnessed the wild dogs operating as a pack looking for their evening meal. It was absolutely fascinating to watch and even though we didn't see the 'kill' we saw them fan out, take the lead from the alpha male, and saw them group together as they spotted whatever it was they had decided upon - we guessed probably an impala. A great privilege to watch. We did see a 'kill'. I was not sure about it at the time I have to admit. A male baboon killed a baby impala and we witnessed both the kill and the time it took for the impala to die, with its mother making the most incredible noise a few yards away - not surprising, I would have been screaming too! It was raw but it's what happens and again something that is rare to see. It was also interesting to hear from Hussain and Ali that impala and baboons live side by side most of the time except in the dry season where the baboons will often go for some 'easy' food.
I think the saddest thing we saw was an injured baby elephant that had been left behind. It could only walk on three legs and of course will probably be dead by now but again all part of the experience of understanding how nature works and indeed brings vividly to mind the expression of 'survival of the fittest'.
Mdonya camp is set in beautiful acacia woodland on an old sand river used as a game corridor. There are no permanent structures. The lounge area is even a tent!
Dining is "communal" - under the stars in fine weather - here the tables are being laid for dinner.
All too soon we had to say goodbye to Hussain, Ali, Andrea and all the staff at Impala Camp and we made our way to Ruaha. There we were met by our guides who were very different, seemed much more shy (most of the staff at Mdonya Old River Camp belong to the rather reserved WaHehe tribe, from the Iringa region). But again they had the most incredible 'bush eyes'.
On the way back from the airstrip they had news of the sighting of a cheetah, so we went to find it, and we did and that was a first for us. Gorgeous it was, sitting in the shade and not in the least bit bothered by three tourists going ooooh and aaah and taking loads of pictures. I say three tourists because another guest going to the camp was a young Indian girl, Kaiteki, taking time out for just two days from doing research for her doctorate. She was absolutely lovely and we had a fabulous day and a half with her - one of the real joys about going on safari is meeting up with people and sharing the experiences.
Buffalo digging for water in a Ruaha sand river, and a dik dik
Male Greater Kudu, and lion feeding
Lions feeding, Ruaha
We did an all day safari out of Mdonya and again saw prides of lions, two beautiful male lions, elephants, zebras, impala and the most incredible treat, a leopard. Weren't we just so lucky. We sat and gazed adoringly for ages!! You can probably tell I like the cats and elephants, Brian and Kaiteki loved the giraffes....as well as everything else of course. We loved Mdonya, Micol was an amazing host and her knowledge and passion was moving. To eat communally, under the stars, made for three perfect nights there, even the tsetse flies and everything else that bit us didn't seem to matter. And I must tell you, somewhere our malaria tablets went missing, Micol phoned the office in Dar and further supplies were brought out on the plane the next day - incredible and we were so grateful.
The hotel rooms are right near the beach, you can hear the waves coming in during the night
And then on to Mbweni and we had no idea what was awaiting us there. Not only a beautiful room overlooking the sea, but again the most wonderful welcome from Caesare and his team of staff. And we had the most wonderful seafood meal one night. They laid a table on the balcony, under the stars, and it was magical and we felt very honoured. But perhaps most special for us, was when we explored the gardens and the ruins and it made the stay at Mbweni even more special hearing and learning about the history of the place.
We did venture into Stone Town one morning - I had never experienced an African market and it did take some getting used to, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Organised, but wonderful, chaos! Sainsburys will never be the same again! We explored ourselves until it just got too hot but loved the experience.
The food everywhere was fantastic, how the chefs prepare and cook in the heat and bring to the table the most beautifully presented food, well I shall never complain again about getting hot in our kitchen!
Sunset at Mbweni, with the two hotel dhows
And so the holiday came to an end, but one we shall never forget. I am sure there is loads I have forgotten to tell but hopefully from this you get a sense of just how much we really did enjoy every aspect of it and how much we appreciated what was done for us everywhere.
Helena and Brian Taylor
West Midlands, UK
Delayed in Dar
by The Reverend Brian Taylor
Delayed in Dar, Dubai bound,
I daydream of what we’d seen and done.
How my senses, thrilled by a change so profound,
reeled from the noise and African sun,
and sensed the pulse, the heat
of African life, lived to a different beat.
Skyward to Selous, an hour’s flight
And our camp shimmers in a seam
of warm smiles and afternoon light.
Time itself is lost, in a hazy gleam
and an hour’s brief span takes us
deep into Africa’s dream.
Three days pass in a sunlit rush
of Zebra, fox, and lions’ grunting:
of kudu starting at a sudden rush
of Impala, Hyena and wild dogs hunting.
The sights demanding our attention
Beyond our hopes or comprehension.
A river trip and in bright afternoon light
the bee-eater burrows alive with rainbows hue
and filled with avian gossip, then a bright
kingfisher flash of electric blue
brilliantly contrasts the waters steely gray
as the setting sun seals the dying day.
The sunset glows, and Temba drinks
while waders feed, and hippos graze,
the crocodiles wait in rows for those
whose steps are watched by death’s hard gaze.
And we sit sipping by the darkling river,
while Africa’s night flows past forever.
Then morning’s walk, by cool dawn beckoned.
Under the gaze of giraffes’ curiosity
they stare as we pass, but we’re reckoned
to be no threat, and carry no animosity.
A jackal bolts, his hunting foiled
By foot-falls tread bush scent spoiled.
To Ruaha then, and deeper still we push
into Africa’s heart, our landing place
is elephant-lined, scarred into the bush.
Blue-gray hills show its volcanic base
And we see a land painted so vast and well
Our human conceit shrinks back to its shell
We drive for arid, bush-dry miles,
blurred by heat’s hazing shimmer,
before being welcomed by more warm smiles.
On the way we catch a glimpse, the merest glimmer
of Africa's soul, our wonder laid bare,
our hearts raced by Cheetah's languid stare,
We journeyed on, in Mdonya’s care,
into the mystery of what we were seeing.
though we barely understood, we became aware
of the profundity of truth, the root of our being
that which calls us from our daily duty
and bids us answer the call of beauty.
Africa’s stars wheeled to the west,
And fire-gathered, we told our tales.
And though weary, eager for peace and rest,
we heard Micol’s passion for the profound
wildness that enfolded and wrapped us round,
a passion birthed in her deepest knowing
of the best of Ruaha.
We left it all, as leave we must
when time’s firm call makes us listen.
We left it all, the smiles and the dust,
The cool night air and starlight’s glisten
It’s still all there, though we have gone,
it’s still all there, the starkness
and the beauty of Ruaha;
For the lions still roam and the dik-dik hide,
And leopards still stretch on branches hanging;
The Kudu lurk, and monkeys chide
as banded mongoose, ganging
through the bush under baobab tree,
crowd the warthog platoons who flee
with tails alert, in Ruaha.