Ruaha River Lodge is set in the heart of the Ruaha National Park...
Ruaha River Lodge: Our full report
Situated in a fantastic location right on the river, Ruaha River Lodge is the oldest lodge in Ruaha National Park. Unpretentious and relaxed, it is owned and run by the Fox family, and is well suited for those on a tighter budget. Although the lodge is relatively large, guests are divided between two different dining and lounge areas when it is full, so the atmosphere is slightly more personal than you might expect, and the service generally friendly.
Sandy, stone-lined pathways lead to Ruaha River Lodge's bedrooms, 26 detached cottages, or 'bandas', built of solid stone along the river. Each is incredibly spacious (quite vast!) and very comfortable, with a large veranda equipped with a couple of directors' chairs – a peaceful place to watch animals coming down to the river to drink.
Large double doors lead from the veranda into the bedroom and lounge area, subdivided by a low wooden counter which also acts as an area to store clothes. In front of this a comfortable sofa and chair are set around a coffee table.
Behind the counter, are two comfortable beds – a double and a single – and bedside tables. Cool stone floors and walls help to keep the room at an even temperature, further helped by gauze over the windows to allow a through breeze.
Like the rooms, the en-suite bathrooms are also very large, with a flush toilet, twin ceramic washbasins and shower. There are no dividing walls, even for the shower, so it's all rather functional and unimaginative, though with complimentary soap and water heated by solar panels, there is everything that you might need.
One of the two main lounge and dining areas at Ruaha River Lodge is under a large thatched roof, with open sides, reed walls at the back and views across the river. In the dry season this is a great place to watch out for animals coming down to drink. Polished russet-red stone floors, dark leather sofas and chairs grouped around coffee tables, and the occasional set of antelope horns on the walls give a rustic yet colonial feel. The design is simple, open and airy – yet very comfortable, with tables and directors' chairs set up in the adjacent area for dining.
A second lounge/dining area, similar in style, is an impressive structure built on top of a high kopje, with spectacular views across the river and the park. Although the walk up is quite demanding, it's well worth the effort, for this is a lovely place to have a spot of lunch or relax with a book. This area is generally used for self-drive visitors, but those who have flown in are welcome to use the facilities, too.
Ruaha River Lodge also has a small book exchange, and a shop where you can buy postcards, T-shirts and the odd gift, though don't expect a variety of high-quality curios.
Activities at the lodge focus on morning and afternoon safari drives in 4x4 vehicles, though you can also head out for the whole day with a packed lunch to explore deeper into the park. The guides at Ruaha River Lodge are friendly and seem to have a good level of knowledge, although we do not currently recommend that our guests do any walking safaris from this camp. The managers told us that if a guest was staying for a number of days they would try to ensure that they had the same guide for the time – although this may not always be possible.
To summarise, Ruaha River Lodge is an attractive camp that feels very natural – and, given its size, manages to remain quite personal and in touch with its surroundings. For those looking for a camp that has a good level of comfort, great views and a moderate price tag, this would be a good choice.
Ideal length of stay: Consider staying here for three to four nights so as to have enough time to explore the different safari areas of Ruaha National Park.
Directions: Ruaha River Lodge is a nine-hour drive from Dar es Salaam, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight followed by a half-hour drive from the airstrip.
Owner: Independent/Owner-run – part of the Fox empire
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we were last at Ruaha River Lodge, in summer 2012, the food was wholesome and plentiful, but adequate rather than inspiring.
Breakfast is served between 7.00am and 10.30pm. A continental-style buffet includes fruit, juices, cinnamon rolls etc, and there's a full cooked breakfast available to order as well.
There is a light, refreshing buffet lunch from 1.00pm to 2.00pm, when a a variety of salad platters affords plenty of choice. When we last stayed, there were pasta, rice and green salads, and cold meats.
Afternoon tea is served at 4.00pm before guests head off on their afternoon activity. There's a selection of cakes as well as a hot drinks on offer.
Dinner is a more formal three-course affair served to your table. The starter is often a thick, warming vegetable soup, then for the main course you can expect something like a meat stew, or grilled fish with plenty of vegetables on the side. Dessert is then usually a fresh fruit salad, or cake.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included. A soda is about US$2 and a beer US$3.
Birdwatching: Ruaha's unique position at the centre of Tanzania, north of Selous but south of most of Tanzania' other parks, gives it an interested cross section of birds - and makes it 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: Children of all ages are welcome at Ruaha River Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions on children in camp, but only those over 16 may to take part in guided walks.
Special activities & services: Childminding can be arranged.
Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: The large sturdy bandas with extra beds make this a good choice for families with older children.
Notes: Ruaha River Lodge has dangerous big game wandering through it fairly regularly, so children here need to be carefully supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: 24 hour electricity
Communications: Guests can access the internet on the office computer at Ruaha River Lodge, when it is not in use. There is good cellphone reception throughout the park.
TV & radio: There is no television or radio available at Ruaha River Lodge.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There are first-aid trained members of staff on site and a dispensary at the main Msembe rangers' post, about 45 minutes away by car. For serious emergencies, the Foxes will use their plane to fly the patient to Dar es Salaam.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to and from their bandas after dark, and there are safes in all of the rooms.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the vehicles.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included.
Money: Ruaha River Lodge will change GB pounds, US dollars or euros into Tanzanian shillings.
Accepted payment on location: They prefer you to settle bills in cash here, using GB pounds, US dollars, euros or Tanzanian shillings. Visa or MasterCard payments are accepted, but they have a surcharge of 5%.