Ikuka Safari Camp: Our full report
Built high on the escarpment, the upmarket Ikuka Safari Camp has commanding views of Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park.It was opened in late 2016, about a 20-minute drive from the park’s best game-viewing areas, and stands out for its unique location.
Ikuka is one of the newest properties in the park, named after the area of Ruaha where it’s situated. It is managed by one of the owners Mark Sheridan-Johnson, an experienced safari guide and lodge manager in Tanzania. The architect behind the camp is Neil Rocher, whose portfolio also includes Chongwe River House and Luangwa Safari House in Zambia. All his designs make good use of natural materials to give a fresh, modern take on a traditional safari lodge.
Neil’s signature style is evident in Ikuka's seven open-sided rooms, strung out along the escarpment. They each have stunning views over the national park, with rooms 1-3 facing the sunrise and 4-6 facing the sunset, while a two-storey family room, added since our last visit, has its own plunge pool. All have been beautifully designed and feature low walls, created from locally collected white quartz, and high thatched roofs to allow for a fresh breeze. A neutral colour scheme and the architect's hallmark use of natural materials give the rooms a sophisticated look and a calm, relaxing atmosphere.
Each room has a central tented area with a super king-size bed, surrounded by full-length cream curtains. Two rustic wooden lamps sit either side of the headboard and glass decanters provide fresh drinking water. On one side of the room you will find a comfortable dark leather sofa with a scattering of tasteful cushions and a low coffee table. The floor is covered by makuti matting, with shoots of mother-in-law's tongue growing through it. Combined with large quartz boulders, this creates added interest and helps Ikuka feel in keeping with its surroundings.
The spacious en-suite bathrooms have a good rainfall shower, flush toilets and twin stone washbasins with lovely views. A large mirror hangs on the back wall and Ikuka provides complementary toiletries by Inaya Zanzibar. The bathrooms are separated from the bedroom by a shoulder-height wall constructed from a wooden frame filled with quartz rocks. This looks stunning, and gives the entire room an open, airy feeling, but does limit privacy within the room itself. All rooms have a gas boiler to provide an almost inexhaustible supply of hot water.
Outside, a large wooden balcony, complete with director’s chairs and a hand-carved table, allows you to relax while taking in the panoramic views.
The central area is equally stylish. As with the rooms, its wood-and-thatch construction has been left open-sided to maximize the views – helped by a viewing scope that has been set up to spot game on the plains below. This space has been built around several trees and boulders that were left in place during construction and form a focal point. At ground level you'll find a number of comfortable leather sofas and low tables with coffee-table books. The dining area forms the focus for all meals, which are sociable occasions, with all guests dining at one large table. Up a set of steep stairs is a second relaxation area with plump, colourful cushions and a small library containing several field guides.
From the central area, a few steps lead down to a raised wooden veranda where guests can relax by a beautiful oval swimming pool, set out with shaded sun loungers, and enjoy more spectacular views. Attentive staff are on hand to offer drinks.
Safari activities at Ikuka centre around 4x4 game drives, mainly in the game-rich area surrounding the Mwagusi River. While out on game drives in 2018, we encountered several large herds of elephants and prides of lions, and in the past we were lucky enough to have a leopard sighting.
Guided walks are also available for an extra cost of US$50 per person, and need at least 24 hours’ notice, so that the necessary park rangers can be arranged. The walks are usually led by Ikuka’s owner Mark, a highly experienced guide. You will typically head out early in the morning to learn about the tracks and signs of the bush and discover some of Ruaha's lesser-known birds and animals. You’ll then normally end with a full breakfast out in the bush.
We are always excited to see new owner-run camps open, and we think Ikuka is an excellent addition to this remote corner of Africa. It offers something quite special in Ruaha in terms of its elevated location.
- Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- Spend three or four nights at Ikuka to explore Ruaha National Park.
- Ruaha is a two-and-a-half hour flight from Dar es Salaam; it is then a further 45-minute drive to Ikuka.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Expert Africa last visited Ikuka in 2018 when we found the food excellent. Dishes are international in flavour, and are fresh, tasty and beautifully presented.
A leisurely breakfast incorporates a selection of fresh fruits and cereals, as well as a full cooked breakfast. Alternatively, guests may take a bush breakfast out on safari, normally consisting of boiled eggs, bacon and toast, along with a selection of fruit, yoghurt and cereals.
A buffet lunch is served at around 1pm. We enjoyed homemade fish cakes with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, together with a selection of fresh salads and herb bread hot from the oven; dessert was a tasty rhubarb sorbet.
A three-course dinner is served from around 8pm. On one visit, we started with tempura vegetables with a soy sauce. Our main course was roast chicken with mashed potato, green beans and buttered carrots. For dessert we enjoyed a very good lemon tart. On another occasion, a fish curry was served with coconut rice, followed by a chocolate orange mousse.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Private dining can be requested if preferred, but most guests choose to eat together.
- Drinks included
- All drinks are include with the exception of premium wines and spirits, which are charged extra. There is a good selection of cocktails.
- Family holidays
- Children over 7 years are warmly welcomed at Ikuka. The camp has recently constructed a family banda which can sleep up to five, and there is a communal swimming pool to enjoy in between game drives.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- With spectacular views and attentive service, Ikuka offers a very romantic option for a Tanzanian honeymoon. Couples can relax in the beautiful pool while its six elegant rooms offer both luxury and seclusion.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Ruaha National Park is a paradise for birdwatching in Tanzania. More than 580 species have been recorded in the park and visitors could well spot a hundred or so different species in a single day. Ikuka’s lofty location is perfect to watch raptors soaring above the plains.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- Ikuka is an excellent choice for keen photographers in Tanzania. Owner and guide Mark Sheridan-Johnson is an accomplished photographer and is more than willing to share his skills and experience with guests.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Walking safaris
- Head out for a walking safari with a knowledgeable guide from Ikuka and discover the lesser-known flora and fauna of the bush. Learn how to identify bird calls and how to recognise animal tracks and scat, and the many medicinal uses of plants.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- Ikuka is located in one of the best game-viewing areas in Ruaha, making it a great choice for wildlife safaris in Tanzania. The park is known for its particularly good numbers of lion and elephant and guests staying for several nights can expect some excellent wildlife sightings.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Ikuka welcomes mature, well-behaved children over the age of eight.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children need to be over eight years old.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special activities for children at Ikuka.
- Generally recommended for children
- While Ikuka welcomes older children, the camp generally has a rather adult atmosphere.
- Ikuka is unfenced and animals regularly wander through camp; children should be under adult supervision at all times. There is a steep drop from the verandahs which could be dangerous.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ikuka Safari Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ikuka Safari Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Ikuka has a back up generator, although this is rarely used. All rooms have three-pin UK-style plug sockets.
- It is possible to connect to Wifi in the central area.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV at Ikuka.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All rooms are fully plumbed and each has a gas boiler for instant hot water.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Managers have basic medical training and there is a first-aid kit on site as well as in every safari vehicle. Ikuka has links with a flying doctor service in Dar es Salaam.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are askaris on guard around the clock and you will be escorted to and from your room after dark. All rooms come equipped with air horns to raise the alarm in case of emergency.
- Fire safety
- All staff receive fire training and there are sand buckets and fire extinguishers in the rooms and central areas.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included and normally takes around 24 hours.
- There are electronic safes in all the rooms.
- Accepted payment on location
- Ikuka accepts Visa and Mastercard, although cash payments in either US dollars or Tanzanian shillings are preferred.
Other lodges in Ruaha National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.