Reviews of Mdonya Old River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Great Safari at Mdonya Old River Camp
We adored the camp as it was so remote. Our tent was a fair way from anyone else and we had loads of animals walking past as we were on the ede of the old river bed.
The staff were excellent and we particularly enjoyed evenings round the camp fire and early morning breakfast.
Our safari guide, Giovanni, was incredible - there didn't seem to be anythiing he didn't know about the animal/ bird population. We had some great drives, with Giovanni and Roland, which all included picnic meals at some fantastic locations.
Mdonya Old River review
Came here after an excellent experience in Selous and wondered how anything would stand up to that but Mdonya did. A different environment both in Ruaha and in the camp meant that you didnt feel you could compare. Though a little cooler in the evenings and early mornings this was offset by being able to have drinks around a campfire and eat dinner under the stars with your feet being warmed by a bowl of coals. The open camp meant we had animals (elephant, buffalo, jackals, dikdik and giraffe in our stay) wandering into the camp but never felt unsafe.
Showering under the bright stars of an African night is an experience not to be underestimated.
Nick and Mikol couldnt have been more friendly and helpful to us and our children and again the food was excellent - a real achievement when that isolated. The staff were extremely friendly and always helpful whether serving drinks or charging up batteries.
Moses our driver was informative friendly and enhanced the experience greatly for us but was especially good with the children spending alot of time answering a myriad of questions and making sure they saw everything.
The game was plentiful and we saw two large pride of lions, two leopards and the most fantastic elephants as well as everyhting else you would expect - only downside were the Tsetse flieswhich meant you didnt linger in overgrown areas or kept wrapped in the masai blankets.
Sad not to see cheetah but otherwise a flawless stay and a great contrast to Selous - a pairing I would recommend to anyone considering Southern Tanzania.
Mdonya Old River review
Fantastic location alongside the dry river bed. Great staff and good leadership from Manager, Nick. Good food. We thought some of the previous comments on this camp were unfair. It is clearly described (and priced) as a simple camp with tented accommodation. Its simplicity is refreshing and its strength.
Animals (particularly elephants) really DO come into camp. This puts the guests in their proper place. You have to drive a long way to see a big variety of game. The guiding is enthusiastic but there is not the training infrastructure that you find in other camps. We preferred the shorter local drives and spending time in camp itself where things come to you. The tetse flies are a problem here - although thankfully not in the camp itself.
Mdonya - the best!
We spent 3 nights at Mdonya and wished we had spent longer there. Everything was 'second to none'. The fact that there was no electricity enhanced the experience. We really felt that we were on safari. Before we even went on a game drive an elephant and his pals came into camp and walked around eating the foliage whilst we finished our lunch.
The camp is managed by a very capable man, Nick who was available at all times to help us and arrange our drives & walks and was always there to welcome us 'home'. The two guides that were assigned to us from the beginning were Vincent and Moses. Moses (a plain clothes Maasai) was the driver but was just as knowledgeable as our guide Vincent. Vincent was charming. He was initially a little shy about his english but soon got over it and his knowledge was incredible about the animals, birds and plants we saw giving us the common name, Swahili, Latin and explaining their habits. If Vincent didn't understand our english then Moses who had a better command of the language helped out, but over the period Moses just joined in and we benefitted from both.
Moses and Vincent took us on our sundowner drive and a full game drive the next day serving our meals and educating us along the way. We were very spoilt and very well looked after.
On the third day we decided to take a walking safari which meant we lost Vincent and Moses. The other couple in our truck were lucky enough to keep them and we gained another two friends, Zach and Alex. We couldn't believe our luck! Another two members of staff that made our safari special. Zach was the guide and Alex the driver. Zach improved our Swahili, giving us a list of names for the game and some simple sentences. Over the three days we saw so much game and many birds and learnt about Tanzania.
We were unlucky with Lion, Cheetah and Leopard but we were enthralled by the abundance of the other species and we were not there just to tick boxes! We were very sorry to move on. The kindness we were shown was exemplary.
Well done Mdonya - full marks
A beautiful wild experience in comfort
We enjoyed so much the wildness and remoteness of Mdonya. We felt the camp well managed and the food and service good considering just where we were in the depths of the bush. The setting of the camp was very beautiful and our one regret was that we didn't have time just to relax for a day in camp as it was quite common for the game to wander through.
Our days were busy and long and our guide Giovanni was attentive and knowledgable and ensured that we got the best out of our stay in Ruaha.
One of our most memorable experiences was the walking safari with ranger Edwin along the banks of the river. We loved just sitting by the hippo pool and quietly watching.
The tents were very comfotable and and the hot solar showers very efficient. The evening drinks arround the fire and siitting together under the stars to eat were memorable experiences. Staff were ever helpful and friendly.
Just outside the camp the Tsetse Fly were a nuisance but the advice Expert Africa gave us about Avon Skin so Soft was excellent as it worked a treat when most other repellents were useless.
Mdonya could be good!
I stayed at Mdonya Old River at a time when the heavy rains had restricted access to many parts of Ruaha and so some game drive activities were restricted. This was unlucky but not a showstopper. So perhaps I did not get the best of Mdonya ......... but there are aspects of this Camp which don't capitalise on its attractions or potential. But in any event the location in the river bed does not have a great outlook. It may have animals wandering through from time to time but sitting on my front verandah was not attractive when compared to the views of other camps I have been in.
It is a tented camp and I was expecting tented camp facilities. And as a permanent tented camp it does have good bathroom facilities - plenty of hot water and flushing toilet. But, it does appear a little tired. Little things don't happen, such as having a lantern outside your tent, having insect spray available. But these were minor because it is a camp that is more "basic".
What was more important was the lack of presence or leadership to help us work out the best way to see Ruaha in the difficult wet conditions. Our Manager (Nick) brought a pleasant manner and was cooperative. But there did seem to be a lack of direction and standard compared to other "basic" camps that I have experienced. Service was there if you asked. But there seemed little anticipation. I felt sorry for the staff who tried hard but seemed to lack confidence to be forthcoming in their dealings with clients.
The meals were average. Surely toast at breakfast can be warm ...... not made 30 minutes before and left to sit. And for the price the lunches were mediocore. The boiled rice with traces of capsicum? and a banana may have suited the "basic" theme but really did not reach the required standard. And being asked to pay for bottled water on game drives was over the top ........ after all, this was not a "cheap" camp!
However, do not be discouraged from Ruaha. There is plenty to see and the drivers/spotters from Mdonya were good, but it is difficult to describe them as "guides" because the latter need to provide "leadership" or "guidance" rather than just finding animals.
Mdonya Old River Camp
Oh dear! The management - Nick - was so poor that the whole camp lost any sense of cohesion. He was rarely seen by the guests - maybe once or twice each day for a few seconds. He did not join us for meals except for the first evening.
Luckily the 'lads' coped really well under the circumstances. However, maybe because of lack of leadership, everything had to be asked for and was not automatically provided.
This could be an excellent camp, but new management is needed. We would not suggest that you recommend it to any clients until this happens.
To add insult to injury: we knew we had to pay for drinks at this camp BUT we were charged for water on all game drives!!
Expert Africa comments
Unfortunately these travellers arrived at Mdonya having already stayed at Beho Beho in the Selous. This is undoubtedly the best lodge we feature in southern Tanzania and this is reflected in the difference in the cost between these two properties.
We are now recommending very strongly that travellers end their trip with Beho Beho rather than starting there – even if they have visited there before!
Mdonya Old River review
Lovely location, plenty of game viewing despite visiting during wet season - hence lots of vegetaion.
Food limited and feel there should be gas backup to solar heating water for showers.
Roads, guides, drivers are very good.
Nick, Manager was understress as camp was busy and he was managing alone. Seemed unusual that he was not able to stay with guests during dinner or present during departures.
Expert Africa comments
Despite the issues comented on here, it's perhaps worth noting that in the review of this whole trip, this traveller commented:
"Despite limitations of the Mdonya Old River Camp, this site had more atmosphere and is probably the one we would chose to visit again, if we went back to Tanzania. The hills, river valleys and varied vegetation made game/bird viewing here pleasurable and very interesting."
Mdonya Old River review
The charm of this camp lies in its simplicity. All your needs (bed, shower, food) are met perfectly adequately, without being luxurious. This was the place where I felt least separated from nature. I agree with your brochure description about the simplicity of the camp. As for appealing to “a slightly younger clientele”, at the age of 61 I am glad to be included in that category. (The comment about younger clientele might be misinterpreted as appealing to those wanting all night raves and wild parties)
I have put "No comment" for location, but I do have comments. Unfortunately, this camp was in the wrong place for the time of my visit. Due possibly to (a) drought and (b) a fire started by poachers, most of the animals had shifted to the area of the Ruaha and Mwagusi rivers. This meant that game drives and walks really started on arrival in these areas. The magical couple of hours in the early morning and late evening were generally taken up driving to/from the Ruaha river area (through a tsetse belt where I provided a banquet for the flies). Game viewing took place mostly in the heat of the mid-day sun.
The food was unimaginative. For example, on a full-day drive packed breakfast consisted to 2 hard-boiled eggs, 2 hot dog sausages, one bread roll and an apple. Lunch was the same, except a deep-fried bun replaced the roll. There was little or no provision of veggie food. This is not a complaint. Merely at statement of fact that at this camp veg. is difficult to obtain - understandable when one bears in mind the circumstances under which the camp is supplied.
I was in this park about 11 years ago and I noticed a marked decrease in the number of some animals. My first visit was when the Ruaha river had just started drying up at this time of the year. I was taken to a pool on the Ruaha where crocodiles were packed in like sardines. Also large concentrations of hippo. This year at the same place I could count only half a dozen of each animal. Nick, the manager at Mdonya, said this is entirely due to the cumulative effects of these annual dryings up of the Ruaha river. The animals just cannot survive in the dry season. He said there has been a similar, huge reduction in the numbers of buffalo. Further downstream the Ruaha provides hydroelectric power and Dar has suffered power cuts because the river dries up. There is some hope that the government may take action to restore the flow of the river in order to safeguard Dar's electricity. The side effect may be to benefit the animals in Ruaha. The problem is that the headwaters are used to irrigate rice farms and water large numbers of cattle. It will not be easy to persuade the people concerned to reduce their water consumption.
In the interests of accuracy, would it be a good idea to state that the Ruaha River does dry up completely at certain times of the year?
Mdonya River Camp review
This really was wild Africa as I had imagined it since childhood; the general impression at Mdonya was that the human element was just one other species in the local ecosystem (and there was just the faintest impression of what life is like as a medium-sized prey animal). We only had one big, potentially dangerous animal in the camp at the same time as us during the day, an elephant that brushed against our tent, but impala were constant in the camp and other species regular visitors.
There were also several species of small mammal and reptiles that I found equally, if not more, fascinating. The bird life here is impressive, perhaps not quite as many species as Selous but most of them different to there so that the combined total would have been huge, were I expert enough to have identified them all.
The food was excellent especially considering that this is as close to the middle of nowhere as anywhere can be and there was always more than you could eat. The staff were very friendly and the management helpful. The guides seemed to vary a little in their knowledge but the best of them were excellent ecologists, not just wildlife spotters; on the subject of wildlife spotting I am used to watching wildlife yet I was amazed how the guides would be able to pick out animals hidden in the landscape that I would have completely missed.
A slight drawback with Mdonya was that activities were largely confined to game drives. This gets a bit repetitive and as vehicles are, quite properly, not allowed off road anywhere you take your chance as to what you see but then that is part of the experience, this most definitely wasn't a zoo.
There was an opportunity to do a walk near the air strip with a park ranger but, while there is nothing like having your feet on the ground for making you feel part of the surroundings, I felt that more could have been made of the experience. I understand that Mdonya will be allowed to do their own guided walks next year from the camp itself which should improve this aspect and be an experience not to be missed.
Mdonya is so much part of its surroundings that part of the experience is just to sit in the camp and watch the wildlife around you; I don't think I've ever felt so much a part of nature as there.
Expert Africa comments
Yet another glowing review for this camp! This camp is living up to people’s expectations, and in many cases exceeding them.
This traveller’s comments on the walking (‘I felt that more could have been made of the experience’) were intriguing, and we ask him to elaborate to us. He commented that after walking at Impala Camp, where they ‘stopped a lot more and looked at tracks and signs in some detail’ – he felt Mdonya’s walks had room for improvement.
We put these comments to Mdonya’s team, who confirmed that the walks do start near the airstrip – but they are usually quite substantial bush walks, taking two or three hours. On this occasion, the guide who accompanied this traveller had started to feel unwell just before the walk – and this was the reason that the walk was not up to the camp’s usual high standard.
The team at the camp thought that our traveller was aware that the guide was feeling unwell. They had not understood that he was disappointed with the walk – or they assure us that they would have done something to make it up.