Tandala Tented Camp is situated just outside of Ruaha National Park.
Tandala Tented Camp: Our full report
Tandala Tented Camp is an authentic safari lodge located about 10 Km outside the southeast boundary of Ruaha National Park. Tandala means Kudu in Swahili; which is both the camp and the park’s emblem. The camp first opened its doors in April 2003 making it one of the longest standing and most established camps in the area. Being set outside the gate means that Tandala offers a very different experience to the rest of the camps in Ruaha.
The camp is set about a kilometer back from the road that leads to the main entrance gate of Ruaha National Park. The parameters of Ruaha are not fenced, so game roams freely around the surrounding area of the park. Tandala is built in a very quiet area within an acacia and baobab woodland; and although it isn’t sited within Ruaha itself, a surprising amount of game frequently walks through camp. On our latest visit we saw impala, kudu, warthog, baboon, giraffe and elephant in camp; whilst we were there we also saw images of lion and leopard that were taken on Tandala’s motion capture night-camera.
However it is not right to talk about Tandala Tented Camp purely on a game-viewing basis because this is not their main focus. The camp is owned and managed by an expat Greek family who have always lived and worked in the neighboring area. Tandala is their home and they invite guests to share it with them. As a result Tandala feels more like a countryside retreat than a safari lodge.
The 11 tents are simply designed, raised up on stilts and covered by an olive-green tarpaulin. Wooden stairs lead up to the viewing deck where there are two green camp-style armchairs and a small table. The tents are not overly spacious but they’re perfectly comfortable and fit a double bed, small hanging wardrobe, and a writing desk inside. The room is lit by strip L.E.D. lighting that isn’t particularly elegant, but it is very effective. The en-suite bathroom is through the back of the tent, which is finished with stone and thatched grass. There is a sink and shower with running hot and cold water, as well as a flush toilet and a small mirror. Everything about Tandala is functional but not particularly stylish.
When Expert Africa visited the camp in July 2014 Tandala was in the process of being refurbished and although much of it had been completed there were still certain areas that needed work. They were waiting for the arrival of 11 new tents to replace the old ones which would be a huge improvement.
Sandy paths, lit by kerosene lanterns, lead from the rooms to the main area which has a very old fashioned authentic African feel to it; with red polished concrete floors, safari green chairs and dark wooden furniture - all under the cover of a high thatch Makuti roof. Both the restaurant area and the bar area are designed in this fashion; artifacts found in the bush are really the only decoration. The bar is relatively large; it has numerous colonial style, tan leather sofas as well as a pool table and a cabinet which contains various puzzles and board games. The sofas overlook one of Tandala’s two watering holes which elephants frequently drink from.
Perpendicular to both the restaurant and the bar is the recently re-paved, kidney shaped swimming pool, which is a great place to spend the afternoon if not on a game drive.
Being based outside of the park means that going on game drives involves a little more thought than it does at other camps. It is about a 15-20 minute drive from the camp to the park gate. Factoring in the lengthy drive it then takes to get to the main game viewing areas, full day game drives are preferable. Guests will take a packed breakfast and lunch whilst spending the whole day exploring Ruaha. The alternative is either an afternoon game drive leaving at around14:00 and staying out until19:00, when the park gate closes, or a morning game drive which leaves camp at around 07:00.
Other activities available from Tandala include a visit of a local Maasai Boma visit and a historical tour of Iringa which is something a bit different to what most safari camps can offer. However the main reason people stay at Tandala is to enjoy the peaceful wilderness of its surroundings.
Our viewTandala Tented Camp is a no frills safari camp, perfect for budget conscious travellers who don’t want a heavy emphasis placed on wildlife. It is child friendly, unpretentious and fun but should not be compared to the safari-focused camps found in the park itself.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: By far the easiest way to get to Tandala Camp is to fly from Dar es Salaam to the Msembe airstrip in Ruaha National Park, this takes around 2 hours. It is then about an hour and a half’s game drive through the park back to camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: John and Dionysia
Staff: Jionysia – the only female guide in Ruaha.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Much of the produce is grown on John and Dionysia’s nearby farm. Their Mediterranean background has influenced the cuisine at Tandala and meal times feel informal and homelike.
Breakfast is served between 07:00 and 09:00. It usually consists of a fruit salad followed by toast and a selection of eggs and either bacon or sausage.
Lunch is served anytime after 13:00 and is usually a relatively light meal, on our last visit we had Nile Perch goujons, homemade tartar sauce and broccoli.
Dinner is often served out under the stars; in July 2014 we had leek and potato soup to start followed by a deconstructed Moussaka which was made with rice and beef, followed by banoffee pie.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Beer costs around $3.00 and a small bottle of wine is $5.00 – a large bottle is $25.00. Soft drinks are $1.00
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome. The owners have two of their own and the camp feels very child friendly as a result.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: The camp chef can make baby food!
Equipment: Tandala has a travel cot, a low-sided cot and a car seat for game drives!
Generally recommended for children: Despite being outside of Ruaha wild animals still walk right through camp and there are no fences. There is also an open pool so children should always be under parental supervision.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Batteries can be charged in the main area when the generator is running (between 9-11 AM, 2-4 PM and 6– 10 PM)
Communications: There is sporadic telephone reception at Tandala but there is no Wifi.
TV & radio: There is ono TV or radio.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Guests should drink the bottled water that is supplied rather than the water from the taps.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first aid kit in the main area and there is also a doctor in the local village about 12 Km from camp.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are at least 5 askaris on duty at all times; guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the main areas and there are also firebreaks around the camp.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included and usually takes around 24 hours.
Money: Tandala can exchange small amounts of TSH, GBP, USD and EUR. There is a security box in reception.
Accepted payment on location: Due to it’s remote location Tandala do not accept credit cards. All payment must be made in cash - they accept TSH, GBP, USD and EUR.