Our favourite places to stay in the north of Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
There really is somewhere for all types of safari-goer to stay in Ruaha National Park. In the north, there is a smattering of authentic bush camps, each one set in a quiet spot close to the Mwagusi River. During the dry season (June to October), this is where you will find the greatest density of game.
But if creature comforts are important to you, then Jabali Ridge could be the answer. It might seem a little odd to build a luxurious lodge in one of Tanzania’s more remote national parks. However, with just eight spacious suites and a fantastic two-bedroom family villa, Jabali has opened Ruaha up to another level of client.
This bush retreat is perfect for those who are looking for something modern and unique – less of the bucket showers and more of the 24/7 running rain showers. Surprisingly, they have not gone for air conditioning or even the ever popular ‘evening breeze’, as their sister property in the Selous Game Reserve has; instead, they are relying on good old Mother Nature’s refreshing breeze through the slatted, wooden windows and fans to keep the rooms and main areas cool during the hottest months – a reminder that you are, after all, in the African bush.
The setting is an undeniable selling point: a rugged kopje (small hill) dotted with spiky palms and healthy baobabs, which commands incredible views across the park. Everywhere you look, you can see magnificent boulders jutting out that have quickly become home to rock hyraxes and rather shy leopards.
There is a maze of steps and walkways to get you from A to B, which was a welcome form of exercise for me but perhaps not as well suited to those who have difficulty walking. What impressed me most was the fact that so much care has been taken to ensure that everything blends seamlessly with its surroundings. From a distance, you wouldn't have a clue that there is anything non-endemic there.
Another gem in the north is Ikuka Safari Camp, set on the edge of the Mwagusi escarpment with breathtaking views across the Ruaha Valley. I was blown away by Ikuka’s location. Walking through the entrance, you are immediately struck by the camp’s elevated position. It felt as if I were floating over the entire park. There is not one of the six tented rooms that does not have the most jaw-dropping vistas across this vast wilderness area.
The camp is owner run and managed by the Sheridan Johnsons. Mark is based here and is the most enthusiastic walking guide I have come across in a long time – the highlight for me was trekking downhill (which is always a plus!) towards the great Ruaha River. We followed in the footprints of the animals that had already passed by on their daily commute to the valley floor in search of water and food. Mark was a fountain of knowledge, pointing out the smallest of things – from medicinal plants to tiny insects, explaining their worth in this fragile ecosystem. He was also a true and calm professional when we stumbled upon a herd of some 20 elephants! Through his interpretation of their behaviour we had a glorious time watching them take dust baths, with little ones playing under the close watch of their mothers and the matriarch.
Suffice to say, I am a huge fan of both of these wonderful camps. They make fabulous, comfortable homes from home for your time in Ruaha.
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