Moments in East Africa 1: Ruaha

For the past few weeks, I have been taking some time out to re-energise, reconnect, re-new, build shared memories with my family… with no emails, internet, social media, telephone…

I have shared some highlights in the next 3 posts which I hope you will find interesting and which will serve as a reminder for when I am old (er)… 

Our trip was to East Africa (Tanzania)  to see the big animals:

  • roaming freely in their natural environment
  • do the above with no other or very few tourists about
  • to visit several parts of the country to get a feel for the place
  • to go with a responsible and expert tour operator

Following intensive research we found Nomad Tanzania which ticked all the boxes. After many email exchanges with Milly from Nomad Tanzania we eventually managed to devise an itinerary to fit the dates that we were available. This was in April, which I gather was rather late for planning such a trip!

On July 11, we left Yorkshire and headed for Heathrow Airport to catch our flight to Dubai and then unto Dar Es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania.

On arrival we were met by Samuel who took us to our hotel, Sea Cliff which overlooks the Indian Ocean.

Sitting outside for dinner, listening to the live band whilst sipping a mojito signified the start of the holiday. My chilli prawn linguine was much hotter than expected and hence the need for a few more drinks!


The following day we were up at 6 am to catch our  flight to Ruaha National Park. The Cessna landed on a strip and on disembarking, it felt like we had entered another world. There were impala, zebras and giraffes roaming nearby. We were greeted by Geofrey our guide and Vicent our driver and embarked on a leisurely drive to camp.


Along the way, my eyes feasted on a number of animals including a family of gazelles, a giraffe feeding its young, a black back jackal and a herd of elephants.

Birdlife is abundant with flashes of vivid colours darting about in the trees and skyline. I was struck by the elaborate nests hanging down from the tress which reminded me of decorations on a Christmas tree! These belong to the white headed buffalo weaver.


Another conspicuous bird was the lilac breasted roller with its green, violet and blue colours.

Tanzania roller

We came across 4 lions and another 2 around the corner asleep. They were so well camouflaged it took me a while to see them! One of the males got up and mated with the lioness – didn’t expect that!


We meandered our way down to the river where Geofrey, our guide had heard that some lions had taken down a buffalo. We arrived to find a pride of lions feeding on their kill and watched as one of them wandered down to river to drink and then flop down under the shade to rest.


On  the way there were lots of hornbills to be seen, banded mongoose, greater kudu and yellow baboons.

Iconic and magnificent baobab trees were abundant in the Park. These trees can live for several thousand years  and store up to 120000 litres of water in its large trunk! Deep gouge marks could be seen in many of the leafless trees where elephants have eaten the bark.


We were greeted by Yvonne, at Mwagusi Camp and went to join the other guests for lunch in the dining area which overlooked the river bed.

After lunch, it was time for a rest.  Our ‘banda’ (temporary shelter) was a  large spacious tent sheltered by a thatch roof and set on a polished red floor. It came complete with ensuite facilities including hot water and same day laundry service!

Each banda had a hammock, a large verandah with seats providing plenty of opportunities to watch the passing wildlife!


After tea and cakes at 4 pm we set off for an late afternoon drive, stopping along the way to discuss what we were observing, using the binoculars to get a better view and checking in with the reference books.

Geofrey’s knowledge of the animals, their behaviour and in spotting them was remarkable. Some of the creatures that we observed included white back vulture, scaly babbler singing, a family of guinea fowl, a brown snake eagle perched atop a tree, a  Bateleur eagle with its bright red face, herd of elephants, giraffes, lions….

By the time we arrived back at camp, it was dusk. Mwagusi Camp rules are that between the hours of 6.30 pm and 6.30 am, you are escorted to and from your banda with a member of staff.

We meandered down for drinks at 7.30 sharing stories with the guests around a camp fire.  Dinner was a 3 course affair and under the night sky. Magical

Day 2

We were awaken at 6 am the following morning with a tray of tea and set off for an early drive at 6.30. A pride of lions had killed a mother giraffe and its baby earlier.

By the time we got there, there were  a number of  white backed vultures gathered in the trees with some hyenas waiting patiently nearby. Most of the lions were resting with a few still feeding. Nearby there was a marabou stork and up ahead a flock of ostriches with their powerful legs striding in the blond grass.


After stopping for a picnic breakfast we headed into a more wooded area where we spotted some duikers, a group of lesser kudu, dik diks, klipspringers (antelopes), tawny eagle and a yellow collared lovebird with its bright red beak and white eye rings and belonging to the parrot family.

Day 3

Early start as we drove near to the airstrip to join the 2 park rangers who will be accompanying us on our walk along the Ruaha River. As rich in wildlife so was the knowledge of the ranger.  We learnt how to identify the prints in the sand, direction of travel, what to do when you approach animals, their behaviours….

The river was teaming with a variety of different birds…Buffalo waever, African harrier hawk, yellow bearded stork, open bill stork, saddle bill stork, three- banded plover, swallows, African fish eagle, ox peckers, purple roller,  grey heron, egret, Egyptian geese, Hadeda ibis, bushveld pipit…

There were also crocodiles and hippos. It was like a painted water colour scene …only better.


Most fascinating was the Hammer Kop. The shape of its head, long bill and crest at the back reminiscent of a hammer. These birds build huge nests with sticks held together by mud, complete with walls and a domed roof. Extraordinary

Tanzania nest

Sightings of lions were plentiful. We stopped to watch them drink and then come back up passing next to where we were – I could have put out my hand and touched them!


The river provided plenty of sighting of animals. Along many parts, it was dried up with only a small amount of water remaining. The elephants do not drink the stagnant water. They dig holes and use their trunks to syphon up clean water from under the sand. Clever.


Nearby there were  7 cubs playing whilst the 3 lionesses snoozed in the shade. Needless to say we spent a long time soaking up their cuteness!


Next camp, Kavati


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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2 Responses to Moments in East Africa 1: Ruaha

  1. Amazing, Vera! Thanks for taking the time to post and share these beautiful images and story. Makes me want to go!

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