Reviews of Mdonya Old River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mdonya - frendly camp with excellent guiding
We had 4 nights at Mdonya Old River Camp in the September dry season. The staff are enthusiastic, efficient and friendly and the manager (Nicole) was a bundle of energy and seemingly ubiquitous - I don't know when she ever slept. The camp is comfortable but simple, with large well-spaced tents overlooking the long dry river. We were well aware before travelling that (apart from the office) there was no electricity in the camp but found this more of an inconvenience than we expected. The use of log fires and kerosene lamps works well in the communal areas but we feel that the combination of kerosene lamps, candles and a wind-up torch was hard work in the tents for dressing and washing. We accidentally knocked a kerosene lamp over in outr tent - luckily it did not break but it did make us think about fire risks.
Small solar panels that could provide lighting in the tents are now available (we are associated with a charity in Uganda which is supplying personal panel and lights to schools for under £15 each) and we feel that these would be a significant improvement. We did discuss this with Nicole who replied that they wanted to retain the "traditional safari" atmosphere: we think this is right for the communal areas but that some change is needed within the tents. At the very least, we suggest that you stress to your clients that they should take head torches!
Food at Mdonya was always substantial and hearty, if not "haute cuisine" - bush breakfasts and lunches were particularly welcome and varied. During our stay, the camp varied between half-full and full, with a range of nationalities which made for some interesting conversations.
Our guide Zak was excellent - he has been at Mdonya for over 6 years and during our stay had 2 returning couples who had asked for him again. There is wildlife close to Mdonya: there was an elephant virtually in the camp when we arrived, there were usually impalas or giraffes wandering past, and Zak could usually find groups of 20+ elephants within 15 minutes, not to mention the occasional lions and a leopard - but at this time of year, it is necessary to drive some distance to find the bigger numbers (which we certainly did). Half- and full-day safaris from Mdonya are therefore particularly attractive and "good value" (we had a "half" day of 7 hours, and day trips were about 11 hours). Zak was always keen to find out what we were hoping to see but also careful to manage our expectations (for example, there had been no wild dogs in the area for some time). Being a National Park, Ruaha is crossed by public roads and has some local tourism - however, although we did see a number of other vehicles including small coaches, it never felt crowded or intrusive.
As previous reviews have mentioned, there is a band of tsetse flies near the camp. However use of high-Deet repellents and avoidance of blue/black clothes (combined with the burning of elephant dung on the backs of the vehicles) seemed effective whilst driving through this area - we actually suffered more in Selous.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed Ruaha and Mdonya and had some great wildlife viewing in terms of both variety and quantity. Judging by comments from other travellers we met, Kwihala or perhaps Mwagusi may be closer to permanent or semi-permanent water and therefore to the bigger game numbers during the dry season (it would be interesting to visit Mdonya in the green season). We have expressed above our thoughts about lighting in the tents. However despite these reservations, and thanks to the enthusiastic and professional camp staff and guides, we had a great time.
Great 'out in the wild' feeling!
Had great time here! Loved the tents, which were well spaced out and the fact that wildlife could just wander through! (the camp not the tents!!) Dinners taken communally outside, which was great to hear about who'd seen what that day and then continued round the camp fire... Still amazed that when someone shone a torch into the darkness there might be an elephant no distance away happily having a munch! Wonderful going to sleep to the sound of impalas and elephants feeding nearby and all sorts of cries coming through the air.
Ruaha is perfect for getting close up to the animals, giraffe and elephants in particular. We saw a cheetah with cubs and a leopard as well as lions and numerous deer! The animals do not seem too worried about the vehicles and we didn't experience any problem with having lots of other vehicles around either. The guiding is geared to what you want when so we didn't feel pushed into starting too early.
Good guides and good game viewing
The guides at Mdonya were amongst the best I have come across, very knowledgable and very good at spotting the wildlife. The number of lions was incredible (around 30 different lions in 4 days) and the highlight was seeing a female cheetah with cubs. It was possible to get close to a number of different species without disturbing them including bushbuck and dik-dik. The elephants and giraffes were particularly relaxed and I would highly recommend this National Park for both these species.
The only downside of the game drives were the occassions when cheetah and leopard (to some extent lions as well) were sighted. Some vehicles (most often from other camps) seemed to disturb the natural activity of the animals - for example, we watched the cheetah hunt some impala but the impala were disturbed by a racing vehicle despite our driver telling other vehicles to approach carefully to avoid disturbing the wildlife.
The camp's location was good although it felt a little away from the more habitat diverse part of the National Park. That said some interesting wildlife such as dik-dik and bushbuck as well as a number of raptors could be found near camps. I also heard lion and jackal on a number of nights.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Generally we had a great time there.
The food was the best of all the camps we stayed at. The Guides were very good and we liked the location. The tsetse flies were a bit of a nuisance at times but not enough to spoil our enjoyment. The only negative was that the staff didn't appear to be allowed to interact with guests, even though they were more than happy to do so.
Secluded tented camp provides great experienc
A really lovely place.
The managers (Nicol and Fabia; regrettably now rotated to different assignments) did a great job of creating a welcoming and friendly, but also extremely professional, atmosphere. Guiding was also excellent. The location has lots of animals, thought thicker brush than some other locations in Ruaha.
My stay here was one of the highlights of the trip.
Green season at Mdonya
Like Manze, Mdonya is a very well run camp and we were really well looked after. There was a very real sense that all the staff were interesting and interested - nothing was too much trouble and they really wanted us tio have great stay.
Enoch and Chele were a great team in the jeep. Great breakfasts and lunches in the bush. The only niggle was that on day 2 we did 2 half day game drives and we were afflicted by the tsetse fllies which are far worse in the area surrounding the camp and were not a problem on full day game drives. In camp they weren't a problem and we appreciate that the park authorities are at fault for not keeping the tseste traps properly treated but they are a real nuisance - everyone was totally distracted by them. So we wouldn't recommend half day trips whem the tstetse flies are active.
That said everything else was wonderful and we had some amazing wildlife sightings
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Wonderful! We were late arriving due to snow in London and still all arrangements were delt with as though we had arrived on time. Very nice.
The camp manager, Alex, met us upon arrival to explain how things worked, always met us (with a cool drink) upon return from our daily outings and was always available just to keep things running smoothly. Made us feel very welcome.
Our guide, Chumbo, and driver, Good Luck, were excellent and had a passionate understanding of the role of conservation and the wildlife we came to see. We had been informed when booking that, at this time of year, the wildlife may be harder to find as water was more plentiful, however we saw more than I could have imagined everyday!
Tsetse flies were a bit annoying but not a big problem and surprisingly mosquitos were minimal.
Meals were delicious and service excellent. We particularily liked meeting with other travellers at the end of the day. We formed a very cohesive group in just a few days as we all sat together to enjoy the evening meal. It was an unexpected pleasure.
The tents themselves were very clean, comfortable and private with a daily parade of widlife, particularly at night. I didn't want to sleep for fear of missing something. It was all just easy to enjoy.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Overall we enjoyed the camp - the staff were exceptionally helpful. the land rovers were excellent, the tents were very good and clean, and the food was excellent. Game viewing was also excellent. However, we became conscious that the camp was located in or close to a tetse infected area. We accept that this can be part of a safari but we had no warning of this and a number of our party were badly bitten. This did detract from our enjotment somewhat even though we saw plenty of game including lots of elephant, giraffe, and lion and also saw leopard and cheetah.
I had expected walking safaris to be available but on arrival was told that this wasn't an option at Mdonya because they didn't have a permit. This was a disappointment. I believe other camps in Ruaha do have walking safaris available.
A particularly good feature at the camp was the option of short, half day or full day game drives where breakfast and lunch was well served in the bush.
Expert Africa comments
We’re sorry these travellers experienced the nasty bite of the tsetse. Unfortunately, tsetse flies exist in most of the reserves in Tanzania and Zambia, and their bites are always a painful irritation to travellers. Their presence varies with the area, the time of year and the particular conditions. Tsetse traps are scatted through the Ruaha bush, and there is a concentration of them around Mdonya Old River Camp – which should largely protect travellers whilst they’re in the camp.
Unfortunately, walking across Ruaha was stopped during the first half of 2011 after the competency of the National Park rangers (who led all walks) came under question. Only recently a few camps have been granted permits so that their own guides can lead walks; Mdonya hasn’t yet re-started walking safaris. We’re sorry that we didn’t point this out clearly to these travellers.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Fabulous 3 night trip to Ruaha. Mdonya Old River Camp was excellent.
Our guides were outstanding, with the highlight being a "cat-trick" (lions, leopards and a cheetah) all on the same game-drive. The camp itself whilst not luxurious was comfortable, sociable and Sara, the manager was friendly, and quite determined that we should enjoy our stay.
We would certainly return - Perhaps in a "wet" season to see the contrasts.
Alex runs the camp so well that it is hard to fault any aspect. Her welcome is genuine and makes you feel very much at ease from the moment you arrive. Her surprise of cake and champagne for my birthday was much appreciated as was the opportunity for Richard and I go out for a bush breakfast and whole day safari on our own. Tents comfortable and well spread out.
Game viewing wonderful, guides and drivers knowledgeable and experienced. Saw a cheetah kill and two leopards along with lots of other game. Sitting round the camp fire for sundowners followed by dinner under the stars each evening was magical.
Food excellent - markedly better than Lake Manze. Overall, I cannot rate this place highly enough.