Day 14: Mwagusi Safari Camp

Kaleidoscope of Tanzania, East Africa (October/November 2006) : a safari holiday through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro highlands, Tarangire and Ruaha

Day 14: Mwagusi Safari Camp (Thursday 09 November 2006)

 

We were up at 6.00 again this morning and finished packing before breakfast. The camp staff were already waiting to take our luggage as we left our tent, and we went for a light breakfast before signing the guest book and saying goodbye to everyone.

We were on the road by 7.00 and went straight to the location where we had seen the lions yesterday. On the way we saw a black-shouldered kite, a black-chested snake eagle, some hartebeest and grants gazelle and a lilac breasted roller. Then we came to the same two lions we saw yesterday and they had eaten even more of the buffalo. They were very relaxed so we were able to go quite close to them again. The male was lying in the middle of the road while the female was lay on her back, paws in the air, in the shade of a tree close to the road. Neither of them moved as we approached.

Nathoo told us that if their tail is still, they are relaxed and you can go closer, if their tail is moving side to side you should keep a distance, if their tail moving and their ears are forward with a low growl, then they are very likely to charge and you should move away. We didn’t stay too long because we had to get to Kuro airstrip for our 9.30 flight. Not far from the lions we saw a black-backed jackal – perhaps interested in the lion’s buffalo kill, but we saw no other lions.

On the way to the airstrip we saw a kori bustard, three warthogs ran across the road ahead of us, we saw a tiny bearded woodpecker digging into the ground, and a steppe eagle. Heiko saw a long-tailed shrike doing its tail dance, Heiko also spotted a male and female Van der Decken’s Hornbill; they were sharing fruit by passing it to each other in their beaks. We also saw waterbuck, a fish eagle, lots of dik diks. Nathoo stopped to show us two bat-eared foxes (we hadn’t seen those before), a little dik dik ran alongside our vehicle (it darted along for a short time not exactly sure of how to get away from us, then ran off into the bush). At the airstrip we saw a large male kori bustard as we waited for our plane to arrive.

The flight took just over one and a half hours to reach Ruaha and didn’t stop at Dodoma (as scheduled) so we arrived a little bit early. From the air the landscape looked amazing, lots of hills instead of open plains, and rocky outcrops (kopjes)…

IMG: Views of Ruaha from the air

As well as Yona from Mwagusi safari camp we were greeted by a number of zebra at the airstrip. It is so hot here, and so dry. It hit us the second we stepped off the plane – we were still wearing our windproof jackets that we had been wearing the entire time we were in Tarangire (temp avg 20°C) but here there is really no need for jackets. It’s much hotter then the Serengeti I think.

As we stepped off the plane we could see a large number of people stood in the shade under the wing of another plane – it made so much sense now that we also felt the heat.

Yona brought us to the Mwagusi Safari Camp where we were met by Maddie and shown to our banda (6b) and we rested a little before lunch. Heiko spent most of the time relaxing in the hammock!

IMG: Relaxing in the hammock (Mwagusi Safari Camp, Ruaha)

* * * *

At 13.00 we went to the dining banda for lunch and we got a little lost on the way and met up with a small male elephant. There were staff around to show us the way to the dining banda though. We met Libby (the other camp manager) and the four other guests that are staying here. Chris Fox was coming to camp later in the day.

For eight years there was a “resident” bull elephant that stayed around the camp and recognised Chris, he would allow Chris to come close to him and Chris fed him nuts from his hands and they would go walking together. Once, when out walking, they met a female herd of elephants and the females were upset at seeing Chris. The bull elephant, named Constantine, did what elephants do to protect their calves and used his trunk to move Chris behind him and then charged the aggressive female into the bank. Ever since then Chris has also been accepted by the female herd and they have brought their young calves to meet him.

On a game drive with clients one day, a female recognised Chris’ smell and brought her calf up to the vehicle. Chris put a nut on the calf’s head and the calf stepped back and retrieved the nut with its trunk – fascinating! The bull elephant – Constantine – has now moved away from Mwagusi to a new camp that has a swimming pool. In fact a whole herd of elephants have moved in and can be seen with their trunks in the water. The pool (which has had to be shut down) is on a raised platform but their trunks could just about reach over – you could even touch them and feel the suction.

IMG: Heiko snoozing in the hammock
Mwagusi Safari Camp, Ruaha

After lunch Heiko was back in the Hammock to pass away most of the afternoon. Not far away we could see the small male elephant in the riverbed in front of our banda. It wasn’t too long before he reached our banda and we watched him from only a few metres away eating and bathing in the muddy water along the sandbank. He was there for some time and we could hear him sucking up the water in his trunk, flapping his ears to cool down and spraying the muddy water over his back.

* * * *

At 16.00 we went back to the dining banda for tea and coffee and then headed out for our afternoon game drive with the other guests. We briefly met Chris as we reached the vehicle. We had a driver and a guide (Samson). As we were leaving camp we saw the male elephant again – he must be lonely as he’s quite young so has probably only just left his herd.

We saw a bachelor herd of impala and red-billed hornbills. We saw a lot of giraffe, the first one we saw was scratching its front leg on a tall bush. Our guide spotted a pair of giant eagle owls camouflaged amongst the trees. They hunt using sound and have one ear higher then the other so they can hear higher and lower positioned sounds.

We saw lots of zebra, vervet monkeys, tree hyraxes, yellow-coloured lovebirds, more giraffe (one was very old and his knees looked very worn), a breeding herd of impala, ground hornbills in flight, male warthog (they normally travel separately from the family group), greater kudu (females because they had no horns), a lesser kudu which looked like its eyes were bleeding, we saw a bushbuck, more warthogs, yellow baboons, and black-backed jackal.

Across the riverbed we could just about make out a pride of lions lazing about. As the light faded and the dark clouds moved in we saw dik dik, a hippo running towards the riverbed, hooded vulture, lots of ostrich, and a tawny eagle. As the thunder and lighting started we saw several families of elephants. It was too dark by then to take good photos so I filmed some elephants that were eating close to us.

IMG: Sunset in Ruaha

We also saw a family of bat-eared foxes, the adults were chasing off a black-backed jackal – which is twice their size – in order to protect their three puppies. The puppies kept poking their heads out of the den, so tiny and so cute but unfortunately it was too dark to take photos, though I took some of the babies anyway – for a memory shot. Bat-eared foxes have an excellent sense of hearing and can even hear the termites in the ground.

As we were nearing the camp we could see the hyenas were out and scavenging for food, for a short time we could see them using the headlights of our vehicle. They can walk up to 70 km per night, returning in the morning.

We arrived back at Mwagusi just after the sun had gone down and were escorted back to our tent with just half an hour to get ready for drinks by the fire. We had a lovely warm shower but the temperature was still so hot so we were all hot and sticky afterwards in our rush to get ready and could have done with another shower then!

We first had drinks by the fire in the riverbed and then moved to the nearby table for dinner which was jacket potato and moussaka – delicious!

Early to bed tonight, and awaiting the adventures of tomorrow…

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