Reviews of Mwagusi Safari Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mwagusi Safari Camp review
Mwagusi is a lovely camp with good facilities and a spectacular location - we visited early in the wet season when occcasional rain storms would see the river in front of camp rise and fall dramatically. With the river generally impassable by vehicle at this time of year we had to be "winched" across in a bosun's chair whenever we left or returned to camp - great fun but possibly not for everyone!
However, a new bridge was almost complete as we left, implying that this particular aspect of Mwagusi life will no longer be required.
The landscape around the camp is truly beautiful, with hills and plains covered with varied vegetation, including thousands of baobabs. Our animal viewing was also excellent, with cheetah, leopard and many lion, including a pack with 9 cubs.
Guiding was very good, with our man Zawadi having amongst the sharpest eyes of any guide we've ever had. This is a camp where the guides keep themselves to themselves away from the game drives, so you don't get to know them as well as at some other camps - this isn't a criticism, by the way, just an observation.
The camp itself was run wonderfully by the marvellously serene Libby (who also did sterling work as a medic treating an infected insect bite which I had picked up). Food was very good, with the vegetable dishes being particularly memorable for their variety. The closest I would come to a criticism of the camp would be to say that the lighting in the banda bathrooms could do with being beefed up a bit, but this is scarcely a big deal.
Owner Chris Fox is regularly around camp, and very interesting company, with very forthright views on the politics of Tanzania's safari industry - well worth hearing, if a little sobering.
Mwagusi Safari Camp review
Game viewing in the Ruaha was more productive than in the Selous. The animals are less skittish and more approachable. We saw many different groups of lions and once saw some cheetahs as well as an excellent variety of other game including less frequently seen creatures like lesser kudu, Kirk's dikdik and bat-eared fox. Birdlife was prolific.
The roads are better maintained (apparently the difference between this being a National Park and Selous a Game Reserve). The weather was also much less humid and a bit cooler but it still rained a lot.
Mwagusi Camp we found to be a bit formal - the African staff work hard but do not interact with you, which we felt a pity. Meals are taken with all the other guests together. Depending on who you are thrown in with this could be an absolute horror, but we were lucky and had a very convivial group on this occasion.
Safari activities were all game drives - we were usually with two other guests on each drive. Private safaris cost extra. Our guide was excellent, and unusually knowledgeable on birds (including little brown jobs). Unusually they had field guides in the vehicles and our guide and driver were frequently referring to them when we stopped; continually building up their knowledge.
It rained a lot, especially overnight, and this brought forth one of the notable features of this camp. When the river rises, vehicles cannot cross, so the camp is marooned on the far bank. To get across there is a wooden seat suspended from a rope and pulley system spanning the river. It is great fun and adds to the adventure but is time consuming and on such days it is best to organise all day drives - especially as at this time of year the wildlife is active throughout the day.
The food was probably the best of all the camps we visited on this trip. We especially liked that it was self-serve from a buffet so we could choose what and how much. All camps did well for vegetarian food but this one excelled.
The thatched bandas with a tent inside were fine but we did not really do anything but sleep in them.
Once again the lack of local maps and geography/ecology information was disappointing.
Most reviews go on about Chris Fox - he was absent when we were there so no comment.
Mwagusi Camp and its elephants
When we left Beho we were told that Mwagusi was 30 Kms from the airstrip over bad roads but this would be disguised by treating the four hour journey as a game drive complete with packed lunch. In practice it took about twenty minutes on good roads arriving in time for lunch. We were the victims of a wind-up. (This was typical of the atmosphere at Beho and added to the fun).
The camp is situated on a river bank. The river was dry whilst we were there but it must be a very special during the wet seasons. The dry river bed attracts wild elephants digging for water and they take no notice of the existence of the camp or indeed its inhabitants. We had them in many places: two next to our tent (within inches in fact) and in the camp. One almost joined us for afternoon tea.
Our guide, Daniel, had fantastic eyesight and this coupled with his knowledge meant that we had some spectacular sightings. The best of these was without doubt three cheetahs with a kill that, whilst we watched, were visited by two leopards.
The food was excellent as was the laundry service. Our only cause for concern was with the vehicles used for the game drives. These were badly in need of attention and maintenance. Twice we truly believed that we were about to be stranded. Once was a loose rear wheel hub, the other a non functioning starter motor.
Expert Africa comments
It is great to hear that our travellers’ experience of Mwagusi was so good. That said, we were naturally concerned about the comments on vehicles, so we contacted Chris Fox, the camp’s owner and manager.
He assured us that they take vehicle maintenance very seriously. The camp’s own garage is well-stocked with spare parts, and has several experienced mechanics who service all the vehicles regularly. If a problem did occur, a recovery vehicle with a mechanic would be dispatched immediately – although this situation is rare because of high levels of routine maintenance throughout the year.
In this particular case, the ‘loose hub’ was removed after this drive, and sent off to Dar es Salaam to be re-drilled.
Chris highlighted that diesel Land Cruisers can sound as if the starter-motor is playing up. The key is first clicked, but not fully turned as a period of heating is required before the car can start. Thus, in fact, this vehicle’s engine was in good order, even if it didn’t sound that way.
a wonderful experience
Our familytrip to Mwagusi was brilliant. We loved the bandas, theway they were built so cleverly using local materials and that everyone helped to build them. Our host, Chris Fox, and his team, looked after us extremely well.
We felt we were living right among the animals - quite a worry the first night with lions prowling round and then we got blase when the elephant came right up to our front door at 3 pm - so no siesta that afternoon - we were too busy watching him.
I don't think we ever thought we would be quite so close to a wild animal ever. None of us will forget the sound of the lions roaring at night. Our guides, Tom and Danny, were very informative and brilliant spotters. They gave us so much time with drives lasting up to five hours.
The evening meals were magic - different venus every night and lanterns everywhere - a real treat for us English to eat out let alone in such romantic places.
Mwagusi is slightly wild & real Africa
The camp is largely built from natural materials (wood, thatch) and tenting, and so has a more rustic, authentic feel. Chris Fox will happily share his views on park management, conservation and tourism - which adds to the feel that this is real Tanzania.
The highlight for us was the elephants which visited our banda each night. He was just a few metres away and we could lie in bed watching through the mesh window in the canvas.
The local guides are very good at finding the animal & bird sightings, but are less good at giving detailed explanations of animal behaviour. For this reason, we would recommend Mwagusi in combination with another camp too.
Dinner is held outdoors, maybe in the sandy river bed - lit by lanterns. The food is fairly basic and would be our one key improvement area for Mwagusi