The tents at Mdonya Old River Camp are set wide apart under shady acacias.
Mdonya Old River Camp: Our full report
Set in acacia woodland in the heart of Ruaha National Park, Mdonya Old River Camp was designed with a conscious desire to remain simple, and in keeping with their surroundings. It makes no apologies for sticking to safari basics – in fact it rather revels in the idea – and this results in a camp with a clear focus where you always know you're on safari and in the wilds .
In fact Mdonya is a sister property to both Selous Impala and Lake Manze Camp in the Selous Game Reserve – and shares its ethos with Lake Manze, which is very like it in feel and style.
Accommodation at Mdonya Old River Camp is in 11 walk-in Meru-style tents. Each is spacious, airy and cool, with an en-suite bathroom, including a hot shower – yet with none of the frills of a luxury camp. There is no electricity, no fan, and no air-con (but batteries can be charged in the main office). The furniture – including large double or twin beds, and a writing desk and chair – is simple and practical. Brightly coloured throws add character, and woven makuti mats cover the floor. There is hanging space for clothes, a lockable large wooden trunk for valuables, and plenty of candles as well as a torch.
At the back of each tent is a functional rather than stylish en-suite bathroom: the floor of polished stone, the walls of strong canvas, and the ceiling … open sky. A cleverly crafted steel bowl set into a wooden surface serves as a sink; just lift it up to tip the contents into a bucket underneath. Behind a dividing wall are a flush toilet and hot-and-cold shower.
Each tent has a large, private veranda with deck chairs – a great place to sit and listen to the sounds of the bush.
Mdonya's main lounge and dining areas are open-sided tents, which are decorated with gnarled wood, flowers and feathers from the bush. In the lounge, comfortable sofas and chairs covered in brightly coloured fabrics are set out around coffee tables dotted with wildlife books and interesting artefacts from the bush. There is plenty of space, a shelf of wildlife books, and quiet corners studded with canvas directors' chairs. The dining area is furnished with long wooden tables and directors' chairs which, in the evening, are set out under the stars, by the light of candles and storm lanterns.
In front of the lounge is Mdonya's 'bar', or campfire, surrounded by directors' chairs, where guests gather for a pre-dinner drink and to swap stories of the day.
Mdonya Old River Camp also has a very small curio shop selling traditional Tanzanian material, jewellery and a few postcards. It is run entirely by members of the staff who share out the profits. If only to support the enterprise, it is worth buying a necklace or two to take home.
Safari activities at Mdonya focus largely on game drives in open-topped 4x4 vehicles. Game drives here usually go out with two guides, one as a driver and the more experienced standing up to spot wildlife; this maximises your chances of great game sightings, and frees up the guide to chat with you without having to concentrate on the driving. Mdonya's guides have a good level of knowledge and know the park very well; if you have a particular interest, we'd expect them to do their best to take it into account.
To conclude, many camps which offer high levels of luxury can feel quite detached from the bush, but the simple Mdonya Old River Camp feels closely connected with its surroundings – and the game that walks through seems to feel the same! This natural theme that is key to its charm and character, augmented by a fun and attentive team who, on our last visit in 2012 ,did their best to ensure that every guest enjoyed their stay.
Ideal length of stay: Spend at least three nights here to explore the area.
Directions: It takes around two-and-a-half hours to fly to Ruaha National Park, then a further hour or two to drive to Mdonya Old River Camp depending on what you see along the way.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The menu at Mdonya Old River Camp reflects the different cultures in Tanzania: Indian, Mediterranean, Swahili and Arab. Expect pasta, fresh salads, home-baked breads, fish casseroles and stuffed vegetables. During our last visit, our meals were tasty, wholesome and full of flavour. Although many dishes were cooked with lots of herbs and spices, the food was simply prepared – and there was plenty to satisfy diners after a long day in the bush.
Breakfast usually consists of fresh bread, pancakes, toast and fruit. There is also a hot breakfast available – with eggs cooked to order.
Lunch is a selection of light choices such as crispy salads and vegetable kebabs followed by a dessert.
Dinner is a relaxed, convivial affair when guests join together at one table under the stars, and storm lanterns and candles provide atmospheric lighting. Three tasty courses are served to the table – as is hot fresh bread.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included at Mdonya Old River Camp. Approximately US$3 a beer, US$20 for a bottle of wine
Birdwatching: Ruaha's unique position at the centre of Tanzania, north of Selous but south of most of Tanzania's other parks, gives it an interested cross section of birds; a fascinating park for the bird-watcher.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: You';ll find all of the usual big game species in Ruaha, including elephant, large herds of buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, lion, leopard, particularly good cheetah and even wild dog. Ruaha also has a few species associated with the parks further north, including Grant's gazelle and lesser kudu; it's an excellent park for wildlife.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Mdonya Old River Camp welcomes mature children aged six years and over.
Equipment: There is no special equipment for children.
Generally recommended for children: As with all safari camps, we would recommend Mdonya for mature children with an interest in wildlife– though parents must note that this is a very wild camp and children are their responsibility at all times. Also note that there is no pool or activity area to occupy children between game drives.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is a satellite phone and email for the camp's use, and these can be used in cases of emergency. There is also a sporadic cellphone signal.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is a medical box in each game-drive vehicle and a full first-aid kit in camp. Mdonya is linked to the flying-doctor service in case of a medical emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Two Maasai guards escort guests to and from their rooms at night.
Fire safety: There is a fire break outside the camp in case of a bush fire and a fire extinguisher in each tent.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry at Mdonya Old River Camp is an extra charge of around US$1–2 per item. As is common, underwear cannot be accepted by the laundry team.
Money: Mdonya Old River Camp is not able to offer any form of currency exchange