Kigelia Camp: Our full report
Set on the banks above the Ifuguru sand river in Ruaha National Park, Kigelia is a tented camp that takes ...... its name from the grove of sausage trees, Kigelia africana, where it nestles. With only six well-positioned tents, the camp aims to blend in with the surrounding bush, causing minimal environmental impact.
Opened in 2008, Kigelia manages to combine the simplicity of a temporary tented camp with the style you would expect from a permanent camp. Take bare groundsheets, safari showers and campfires, then add elegant furniture, plenty of hot water and real flushing loos, and you get a tasteful camp with a real authentic wilderness feel.
Beige canvas has been used for Kigelia Camp's main mess tent. At one end you'll find a lounge area with sides made of mosquito-net screen, making it a cool and breezy place to relax. Inside are a comfy sofa, a couple of chairs and a small wooden table topped with coffee table books. The furniture has a natural and rustic edge to it, with patterned African throws and decoration to add style and a homely feel.
At the other end of the tent is a large sturdy table, where you'll generally eat breakfast and lunch, and sometimes dinner – although this may also be served in one of a number of locations under the stars.
In front of the mess tent, facing the sand river, directors' chairs placed in the shade offer a further place to relax. On the edge of the riverbed, there's a small campfire where pre-dinner drinks are served.
Kigelia Camp's six spacious tents can be booked individually, or the whole camp can be hired out exclusively for eight people or more. The tents are spread out along the riverbank, with tents 1 to 4 north of the main, central area and tents 5 and 6 to the south. Tent #1 is about a 3-minute walk from the main area, and tent #2, the larger family tent, about 2 minutes away. Tent #5 is close to the river and also conveniently close the main area.
In the same beige canvas as the communal areas, the guest tents seem to disappear into the bush. While not over the top in style, they are well designed, with a simple elegance and natural feel. Inside, rush mats dot the bare groundsheets, while natural woods and pale colours lend an understated yet rustic elegance. A comfy, kingsize bed (which can be separated to make two singles), is flanked by bedside tables with solar-powered lights. A large lockable wooden trunk can be used to store valuables.
In each tent is two-way radio, used to request an askari escort after dark, and which also serves to warn of potential hazards. For example, when we last stayed, they called to tell us that a herd of elephant had just entered the camp – and then again to let us know when it was safe to leave the tent.
To one side of the bedroom area you'll find the bathroom, with a curtain which can be pulled across for privacy, and space to store a few clothes. It's a simple set up, consisting of a flushing toilet, a wooden table with a basin, and some jugs of water for washing, or brushing teeth. A couple of small mirrors are hung above the table, and some basic toiletries are provided for convenience. If you unzip the side of the tent you will find an outdoor safari shower so you can wash under the stars. Plenty of hot water can be brought to your tent on request. On our last visit we found the tents clean and well kept, but can get incredibly warm during the afternoon. There is a standing fan in each tent which certainly helps.
Safari activities at Kigelia Camp focus on game drives, but timings are flexible, depending on guests' interests and wishes. Although full-day drives with a packed lunch can be a good way to explore the park, the game is good very near Kigelia itself, so half-day drives are more usual – returning for lunch and a rest in the heat of the day before setting out again in the late afternoon. Kigelia's safari vehicles are very comfortable, with comfortable armchair-style seats, blankets and hot water bottles, and seating a maximum of six. We were highly impressed with the quality of the vehicles, with universal plug sockets and on board fridges.
You can also do night game drives from Kigelia and it is one of the few camps in Ruaha that has a permit for driving after dark. On our we clocked up genet, lion, bat-eared fox, elephants, impalas, white-tailed mongoose, porcupine and unusually, an aardwolf which are rarely seen in the area. We returned to camp at around 9.30pm for dinner.
Closer to home, there can be some fascinating sightings straight from the comfort of your tent, with game frequently wandering through and elephants often coming to feed on the vegetation and tap the dry riverbed for water.
Kigelia Camp is a well-designed camp, and perfectly located for game viewing within Ruaha National Park. The area around camp is particularly good for wildlife, but the black cotton soils here mean their wet season closed period can be longer than some other camps in Ruaha.
Country manager: Tanzania
- Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- 4 nights
- Kigelia is a 2½-hour flight from Dar es Salaam, followed by a drive of about 45 minutes to an hour to the camp itself.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- As with all Nomad properties, we have always found the food to be imaginative and well presented.
Breakfast, usually taken in the main tent, consists of breads, cereals and fruit as well as fresh juice, tea and coffee. If you want to go out on an early morning game drive you will leave early and eat your breakfast in the bush!
During our visits the light two-course lunch consisted of kebabs or quiches with potatoes and salads, followed by a fruit-based dessert.
Dinneron one occasion was three courses, with some bruschetta-style snacks served with our drinks around the fire before hand. To start with we had courgette soup, and the main course was a delicious coconut chicken curry, served with rice, fresh vegetables and mango chutney, followed by chocolate sponge. On another visit, dinner had a Tanzanian theme one night, complete with stiff, polenta-like ugali, a rich beef stew and cabbage.
- Cultural experiences
- Guests take a half day visit out of the park to Tungamalenga Village, where the Nomad Trust supports the local school and clinic with basic educational and medical supplies, as well as outreach programs.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- Attitude towards children
- The camp welcomes children over the age of 6 years.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under 6 years of age are accepted at Kigelia.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special activities or services for children at Kigelia.
- There is no special equipment for children
- Generally recommended for children
- Kigelia is a wild camp, and so, like many similar safari camps, we can only recommend it only for mature children, over the age of about 12, with an interest in wildlife. Parents should be aware that their children are their responsibility at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kigelia Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kigelia 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
- The camp uses a combination of solar power and generator (switched on when guests are out of camp). The lights in the tent work 24 hours a day. There are charging points in the tent.
- There is intermittent mobile reception throughout Ruaha (Vodacom and Airtel). WiFi can be made available in the managers office if guests need to check in for flights etc.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV for guests at Kigelia Camp, however the staff have a TV and guests are welcome to join them when a big game is on.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Plenty of drinking water is provided.
The Ruaha Carnivore Project
Being located within the great Ruaha National Park, Kigelia Ruaha ensures that sustainability remains important to the lodge. The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), a main issue supported by the lodge is an Oxford University-led project aimed at protecting many of the remaining wild lions in Africa. Through RCP, Kigelia works with the local community in many ways, such as the education of conservation through village film nights, using GPS collars to track lions, as well as aiding local herdsman by building predator-proof enclosures. These efforts help to mitigate the human-wildlife conflict, with the goal of creating a safe environment for all. Visits for those interested in finding out more about the project can be arranged.
In Tungamalenga, the local school and clinic are benefiting from outreach programs, as well as provision of educational and medical supplies. Outreach programs for children include safari trips, aimed at instilling a passion for conserving the local environment and the nearby wildlife. Guests are welcome to visit the village, where they can experience rural village life, and are encouraged to support the village school through the provision of school supplies, as well as baby clothes and bed sheets for the clinic.
See more great sustainability projects in Tanzania
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first-aid kit in all of the safari vehicles as well as in the main area of the camp. Kigelia are linked to Tanzania's flying-doctor service and all of the guides have first aid training.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guests are escorted to their tents after dark.
- Fire safety
- The riverbed at Kigelia acts as a natural firebreak, and the staff are all well trained in fire drills. Fire extinguishers are located in the kitchen and in all vehicles.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Full laundry service is included, excluding underwear for cultural reasons. Washing powder is provided in the rooms for these items.
- The rooms have lockable trunks for storing valuables - a very practical solution to securing bulkier items that you'd rather not leaving lying around.
- Accepted payment on location
- Everything is included in the rates so you shouldn’t need to pay for anything extra. Tips can be left in US dollars or Tanzanian shillings. There are no credit card facilities.
Other lodges in Ruaha National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.