Reviews of Mdonya Old River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
After two very different camps in Selous, we went to Ruhaha National Park. This camp is the sister camp to Lake Manze, run along very similiar lines, but with a totally different feel.
The Camp Manager was away, and Alex was standing in, we felt that the camp was "running itself" and as she spoke no Swahali the staff had little guidance. Having said that the tents were great, we were back to no electricity, which was lovely, our guide and driver Kahimba and Nicholas were excellent and again very knowledgable, and very interesting to talk to over bush breakfast and bush lunch, we understood a lot more about ordinary life in Tanzania.
We had amazing sightings of lion, including a "Lion Honeymoon" and leopard, a large herd of buffallo and the wonderful elephants, all great. We were visited each night by a giraffe eating from the bushes three feet from our tent, as it was a full moon it was a wonderful experience.
The food was poor, and sausage casserole was perhaps not the correct meal for bush lunch, sitting in the jeep for six hours in the heat, both of us had upset stomachs after that day.
We enjoyed Mydona, but I'm very glad that it wasn't our first camp, by the time we got to Ruhaha we were acclimatised to camp life.
Magical stay at Mdonya
This was an amazing place and a perfect start to our safari holiday.
Having had a wonderful game drive from the airport to the camp, including a lovely lunch and impromptu dash to see our first two leopards, we were quite late arriving at the camp, but were welcomed so warmly by Alex and Nicole and made to feel at home immediately. This was the feeling throughout our stay, nothing was too much trouble, the atmosphere was delightfully informal and friendly. Drinks around the campfire, and suppers all together created a lovely ambience to exchange views on our days experiences. Everyone was so flexible and we never felt there were any time constraints on our drives.
Our guide, Zac, and driver were excellent and put themselves out to find wonderful sightings for us. The tents were lovely and comfortable and private, food was excellent, Alex and Nicole fantastic hosts and always ready with any information we needed.
Living with eles at Mdonya
We were greeted at the camp by cool drinks, cold towels and the charming and friendly Australian Alex who explained the 'camp rules' . However she mistakenly told us that all drinks on activities were included which they turned out not to be; this was quickly sorted to everybody's satisfaction but future guests should be aware that if they accept the offer of a drink when arriving at the airstrip they will be charged.
The camp is Italian-dominated and English-speakers were definitely in the minority. On one evening there would have been 22 Italians plus us for dinner so Alex offered us a private dinner on our deck (private from the other guests, that is, not the elephants and buffalo!)
Food was good, with particularly excellent breakfasts, both in camp and in the bush. Tea and coffee is always available in the lounge area and included in the price. Drinks prices were reasonable – cheapest all trip. Service in camp was consistently excellent and provided with smiles all round. Ask politely and they will even provide room service for sundowner drinks. Alternatively the bar made from a tree destroyed by termites is great fun.
Tents are comfortable but with no frills, with the best designed bathroom area we had all trip – the only one where privacy was possible on the loo – from humans if not the occasional curious elephant. The game really does live in camp, with the eles, buffalo and impalas virtually permanent residents and giraffes, jackals and lions visiting on occasion. Because of this, the camp staff are extremely security conscious and there are plenty of Maasai around to ensure you move safely from your tent to the public areas and back again. It's strange how safe you feel when protected by a small tree and an even smaller man with a stick! We really liked this feeling of wildness to the place and the camp rates among our favourites.
We were less enthralled with the guiding. We had a guide, driver and trainee guide with us and we always felt they had their own agenda. They seemed keener on travelling huge distances rather than allowing us time to watch the animals in peace. Kahimba was an excellent spotter of animals and birds but we'd have liked a bit less rushing about. They were much keener on chatting to one another in Swahili than interacting with us.
This is epitomised by the fact that we were 'Sir' and 'Madam' for the whole time – everything else about Mdonya is so laid back this seemed very strange. It's perfectly possible this was a one – off but we don't think so – other guests who moved on to Mwagusi also commented on the contrast in quality and attitude of guides at the two camps.
To be fair, however, we also met other travellers who were delighted with their guide at Mdonya, so perhaps we should return and give it another go. In fact we'd be delighted to do so; the excellence of the camp outweighed our reservations about the guiding experience!!
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Mdonya is very similar to Lake Manze and just as good. If anything the camp management was even more friendly, and the food just as excellent.
Again, the game spotting and driving and the knowledge and courtesy of our guides was 5 star
Alex was excellent, welcoming us back from every game drive.
Kerosene lamps did not last the night which meant that getting up in the dark was interesting. Also the electric battery lamp supplied was about equivalent to 2 unfit glowworms. The blankets supplied for the cold nights were rather small.
The meat at the evening meal was sometimes very salty. Bush breakfasts were good.
On the game drives the tsetse flies were biting in August.
Mdonya Old River Camp
Excellent start to our African adventure.
Although the camp is basic the atmosphere created by the kerosene lamps and simple style tents immerses you in the safari experience. And a shower under the stars is one of the many memories we will never forget! Meals are taken together which provided a good opportunity to share your days experience with other guests.
The setting of the camp was superb - we saw Impala, Elephant, Buffalo and more from our tent! The staff were really friendly and helpful and make you feel welcome the second you land on the airstrip - our transfer to the camp turned into a full safari and by the time we reached the camp we had seen a wide variety of wildlife already.
Overall an excellent place for those with a sense of adventure!
very good place to stay in Mdonya
Aomodation is quite expensive in Ruaha and to me Mdonya Old River Camp is the best place to stay when you cannot afford an expensive camp in Ruaha.
They did their best to make sure I was in best conditions to take nice pictures. Most of the time I was the one guest in the car . I have really appreciated that . I enjoy sharing the car with other guests as long as we are not packed like sardines in tins. The guide and the drivers did their best to find animals. Micole and the staff have been very friendly and professional.
I have been very fortunate as we saw leopard twice in two days. The first sighting was the dream of any wildlife photograher. A very relaxed leopard laying on the branch of a sausage tree. Thas was the best moment of my trip.
Also Ruaha is a very beautiful place. It is remote and wild. Lots of baobabs. Tse Tse Flies annoyed me a little bit but that's part of the game. The place is not crowded of tourists which is great.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
This camp and Ruaha far exceeded our expectations. We were made to feel very welcome. They had modified a tent for the four of us which worked well. The tents were comfortable, well furnished with flush toilets and a solar powered shower. We did have a problem with bees coming to drink at the shower and the water in the morning was warm rather than hot.
We loved the open nature of the camp. We were visited by an elephant in the early hours 2 nights and to watch him feed on a bush less than a metre from our bed was amazing. Food was good and we really enjoyed having communal drinks around a fire and eating with all being watched by buffalo and impala. We had 3 full day safaris and saw more of the park than many other visitors. Our bush lunches were out of this world.
The wildlife was fantastic - lions and leopard and even a cheetah, elephants and giraffe everywhere, antelope, 3 species of mongoose, 100 species of birds and even a puff adder. Our guides were amazing.
We loved the experience, but others who had come from more luxurious camps were less than impressed and found the rustic nature not to their taste.
quite different to Manze but equally supeb
# we were met by RAMADAMI who introduced himself as a newly qualified guide with only 3 months experience. His honesty was appreciated but any doubts quickly evaporated and he is clearly star material. Our driver was KNIGHT, clearly a very experienced driver and spotter / guide - great team and very good company.
# the very good National Park infrastructure was in complete contrast to Selous, with well graded tracks, viewing points, toilets at the picnic areas and Msembe airstrip ..... but still a wild and wonderful landscape and a long way short of the the tarmac roads in the Kruger.
# clearly Manze & Mdonya are different in detail but G&T's around the Mdonya log fire and superb food under the stars while overlooking lions stalking the 3 resident buffalo could not be equalled. Micol and Alex are excellant hosts.
# tips - we followed the sensible guidance in the Expert Africa and both camps literature to use the tip box so that all the camp team benefit. So we were surprised to find that some guests at Mdonya were only tipping their guides and drivers. We suggest that this point is covered in Micol's / Alex's welcome briefing, with the aim of consistency and to avoid embarrassing clients. In the event RAMADAMI received some hurried additional cash at the airstrip in addition to the intended present of my copy of Jonathan Kingdom's 'Pocket Guide to African Mammals'; similarly Colin gave KNIGHT some additional cash and his bird book as a present.
Green Season Safari in Ruaha
Again this camp was selected because of it's style, it is of a similar setup to Lale Manze but I would say that Mdonya Camp does have the edge on Lake Manze in terms of how it was run, this camp is more 'Polished' and the reason is Nicole who is an excellent host and camp manager.
The down side was it's distance from the main game areas, at this time of year the best viewing is around the Ruaha River
where the grass is shorter and the game more frequent. Therefore the routine for the day would be an early start on an all day safari
with breakfast and lunch in the bush which suited us fine. The other drawback is of course the abundance of Tetse flies at this time of year.
The food was a touch better than Lake Manze and Nicole made a very good host each evening and was always about early to see you off.
Would I go back ? - Yes (but at a different time of year.)