Reviews of Kwihala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Kwihala Camp review
Kwihla is is located right in the prime game viewing area of Ruaha. My guide Lorenzo was excellent and the camp and the game viewing was prolific and varied - apart from the usual lion, leopard and cheetah etc there were also two serval and two honey badger sightings thrown in for good measure.
The camp was pretty flexible with the game drive times which was good to see within park rules - you could head out as early as you liked and come back for brunch, lunch or whenever was convenient depending on what was seen. There was no heading back for set meal times as can often be the case in some camps. The food was also excellent.
The camp has a very relaxed atmosphere and is superbly run by Sara, the camp manageress, who was a very charming host and a great deal of fun. Out of the 30+ camps I've been to in Africa over the years, Kwilhala is up there in the top three.
Kwihala camp 2012
This was our second visit to Kwihala and we enjoyed our stay as much as the first trip. We returned because of the location and guiding and the camp remains exactly as it was in 2010. It still has more of a bush camp 'feel' than many camps although it is nonetheless well equiped and comfortable. We experienced elephant browsing around our tent on the first night and awoke to find him asleep some 50 metres away- some start to the trip. On our last night a pair of jackal were roaming around camp yapping at each other in a lacivious manner!
The guiding remains excellent. Steve led for us last time and Marc was undertaking his first 'session' this time. You need to experience poor guiding to appreciate excellent guiding - touches such as placing the vehicle so all guests get good views or placing for photographs; making the effort to find just remembered places and enthusing about the smaller animals and birds. Marc was as good as Steve and we saw as much if not more game as on our last trip including excellent views of the usual Lion and so on but also bat-eared fox, honey badger in daylight and a multitude of birds.
The food was good and ample with different dining locations each night out under the stars. Excellent salads and kebabs.
Kwihala Camp Review
Location - This is very much a bush camp and therefore you do not benefit from any real outlook or view, which we might have appreciated. Nevertheless in terms of its situation in relation to game viewing it was very well positioned.
Rooms - The tents were well spaced out giving a pleasant sense of privacy. They were well equipped, clean and everything worked as we were told it would. The bucket shower was extremely easy to use and there was plenty of hot water. In short the room had everything in it that we required.
Service - The camp staff were excellent and could not have done more to make our stay enjoyable. There was always someone there to meet us when we arrived or left camp. The service was unobtrusive and yet always there with the sense that nothing was too much trouble.
We did pick up on some tension between the self employed guides and their interaction with the camp schedule. (We were unaccompanied by our guide on the last game drive as this was determined to be an airport transfer which "was not in his contract" despite the fact that to us it was a normal morning game drive starting at 6.30am and finishing at the airstrip at 11.00am) A disappointing aspect of this was that we were only told of this arrangement at 10pm on the night prior to departure which meant it was difficult for us to thank our guide as we would have wished to do so. As things worked out we had a fantastic last drive with Saidie who was an excellent guide.
Food - The food was excellent. If anything we were slightly overwhelmed by the quantity but that was probably just us adjusting to the heat! The change of location for dinner each evening added another dimension to the experience and one which we greatly enjoyed.
Activities - The game drives that we did were exceptional - we asked if we could explore different areas of the park, which was always accommodated and allowed us to get a better perspective of the area. However, although we mentioned doing night drives and walking safaris as soon as we arrived, and whilst there was a reasonably positive response they were never organized. This was a shame as we had wanted to do both night drives and walking whilst at the camp. Our rating remains excellent on the basis of the drives that we had and the quality of the guiding. We had the same two guides all the time we were there. Mark, who arrived at the camp on the same day we did and Saidie who had worked at the camp for some time. Both Mark and Saidie could not have been more helpful. They asked what we wanted to see, went at the pace we wanted to and ensured that our first trip to Africa was an experience we would remember for ever.
Facilities - All that we wanted and required to make our stay comfortable and enjoyable was present, we neither needed or wanted any more.
Kwihala Camp review
Guides brilliant, food good.
No water safari and we missed having a fan. It was cooler at night than Selous and this was most welcome, however we would have aappreciated a fan in the middle of the day and really needed one. It was really good having everything included, including drinks and laundry.
Great guiding and game viewing at Kwihala
After a slightly confusing arrival we enjoyed our stay at Kwihala camp.
We enjoyed being out with the guides, Petro, Festo, Lorenzo and Tony (Tonio). We were very lucky and saw numerous leopard and cheetah. Numerous other animals and birds were seen including being up close to three separate lots of elephants during a walking safari.
The food was very good and one night when we were only guests in the camp we enjoyed a romantic dinner for two in the open by the log fire.
The tents were good but got hot during the day but pleasantly cool at night.
Luxurious lodging and superb tracking
Kwihala was a very different experience from Manze in terms of luxury. To call their accommodation tents is something of a misnomer! Being half the size in terms of guests, it was a very different atmosphere too and dinners were much more intimate and friendly. Sara was a wonderful manager and hostess. The food was good but sometimes a little too fancy in the evenings for our taste. The brunch and the lunch (depending on when you return to camp) were wonderful though.
Excellent guiding again and even fewer vehicles in the Ruaha. Lions on every drive, two separate Cheetah and a Leopard, big herds of elephant and buffalo - and my first Lesser Kudu made it another superb game experience. What was so evident here was the quality of the tracking, rather than reliance on radio contact although the two, sometimes three Kwihala vehicles were in constant touch for the big sightings.
Kwihala Camp review
Whilst it is difficult to compare camps, this was our favourite. The guides Pietro, Festo and Lorenzo were superb, you could not praise them too much. As a result of their skills we had a great time, seeing some extraordinary wildlife. The camp was very well managed by Sarah, and we loved the informal way in which everyone ate together in the evening.
The guides 'forced' you out of bed at the crack of dawn, but we were rewarded with seeing some amazing sights.
In the main the food was good, but on a couple of occasions the meat was almost impossible to eat - this is not a complaint.
So a great site, fantastic people, with some unbelievable wildlife - superb.
Kwihala Camp review
Guides were excellent, especially Lorenzo. Staff & management were very helpful.
Generally a great experience.
I partly chose Kwihala for an 8 night stay based on the based on the comments of Expert Africa's previous guests and I can now say that all the praise of the guiding is completely justified. I have been on many safaris and spent 6 months working in safari camps, and I don't think guiding gets any better than the guiding at Kwihala.
Festo had an answer for every question about any bird or animal, as well as an in depth knowledge of the particular individual animals and prides of lions in Ruaha and their histories. Pietro is extremely passionate, not only about wildlife and conservation but also about his involvement in contributing to the guiding profession by the training of guides. The camaradarie within the team also makes for a fun atmosphere in camp and at mealtimes. I was the first guest of the season and their only guest for the first 5 nights of my stay and their enthusiasm was apparent when I found myself accompanied on a number of my early drives by the entire guiding team of 2 guides and 2 trainees who couldn't wait to get out there and see what had been going on in the 2 months of camp closure (or in Pietro's case, since he left last October).
The game viewing exceeded my expectations for what is, allegedly, not the best time of year . For only the beginning of the dry season I found it already looking very dry with no particularly high grass or thick vegetation. We saw a big male lion on the way from the airstrip followed by leopard and cheetah on my first afternoon drive, and continued with countless lion sightings, glimpses of serval and honey badger, not to mention Ruaha's herds of elephant and buffalo. There was plenty to see and, thanks to Festo, Pietro, Lorenzo and Tony my bird knowledge has improved significantly. Three lion cubs in particular provided numerous highlights including playing in the Mwagusi river bed and climbing a tree, and we also saw lions feeding on buffalo and giraffe. The piece de resistance was on my final morning, when I awoke to sounds of lions killing a warthog about 100 yards from my tent. We were quickly rounded up by Pietro and taken to watch two males (one of which was the aptly named Grumpy) feeding for 2 hours from darkness through sunrise, with the three cubs (Grumpy's offspring) arriving to beg for scraps.
Ruaha is a superb park with a lot to offer and can easily justify a stay the length of mine. It is huge with many different areas and Kwihala has a prime location close to the most productive game viewing area. I asked Festo what different lion prides they saw on a regular basis and I lost count at 10. In my stay we saw lions from 4 of them, as well as a shaky coallition of 4 new young males. The scenery is also very diverse, from the granite kopjes, boulder strewn river beds, to the open spaces of the "small Serengeti" to the wide sand rivers and the shady woodland along the Rufiji River. Best of all, I hardly had to share it with another vehicle.
I think Kwihala is definitely a camp which would be appreciated by experienced safari goers as the guiding is outstanding. Having said that, such enthusiasm is infectious and the three honeymoon couples who arrived during my stay (mostly first timers on safari) seemed to be loving it as much as me.
I would love to come back and see what Kwihala has to offer in "peak" season!
Kwihala Camp: an experience
Kwihala is not "just another" Camp, but has a special substance. It was perfectly managed by Steve, who was also one of the two guides.
Our tent was large and very comfortable, but had no view though. In this time of the year the grass was high and the trees had leaves. We didn´t miss the view, because we scarcely had time to sit on the veranda. We didn´t "spoil" time for relaxing.
The service was excellent. All of the staff took very good care of us. After one day I didn´t recognise my own drawer anymore: I found my clothes folded in neat piles.
The food was being served outside and very good, considering the facilities "in the middle of nowhere".
We especially enjoyed the camaraderie at the dinnertables with lots of jokes and laughter. The different nationalities mixed very well.
Steve was the most knowledgeable guide we ever had. He is very enthusiast and exploring, and eager to share everything he knows and sees. In the vehicle we often landed in the middle of detailled discussions about specifications of birds everybody spotted exept us, which is a very special experience for "non-birders".
The morning drives in Kwihala usually turned out to be long though - up to 8 hours-, which ,we thought, was very heavy. Steve couldn´t stop looking for another lion: maybe around the next corner? As we are not keen birders, Steve suggested that we changed vehicles (and guides) to the more relaxed Festo.
I´m sorry not having written in the guestbook, when we left for our last drive on the way to the airport. 6 AM is not my favorite time of the day. We should have been reminded to write the book the evening before, I think.
Kwihala was a wonderfull and special experience. We wouldn´t have missed it.