Kwihala Camp: Our full report
Kwihala is a well-established camp in one of Ruaha National Park’s best wildlife viewing areas.It is a tented camp with a traditional safari feel without scrimping on comfort. Blending beautifully with the surrounding bush Kwihala offers a high level of service, attention to detail and memorably excellent guiding.
There is nothing truly permanent about this camp and you won't find any cement or stone. Instead well-designed structures, using natural-coloured canvas that blends into the vegetation, have been fitted with furniture and fittings elegantly in keeping with their surroundings. Kwihala offers comfort without losing any sense of being in the wilderness.
The six large, pale-coloured, walk-in tents at Kwihala Camp are furnished with simple, practical, well-made furniture, such as light wood beds under a mosquito net canopy, sisal and wrought iron luggage racks and a neutrally coloured occasional chair. Touches like the metal spotlights combine nicely with the natural fabrics and materials for a modern flair. Traditional zips are replaced by a wooden door for easier access and each tent has a large makuti floor mat and a standing fan.
A curtained doorway separates the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom. Here, you will find a large wooden plinth with two ceramic basins, mirrors and a selection of complimentary toiletries. An open wardrobe offers hanging and shelf space and the shower and flush toilet have separate cubicles with wooden floorboards. The safari shower looks and operates exactly like a normal shower. A tank outside your tent that supplies the shower will be filled with 20 litres of warm water in the mornings, evenings and on request.
A small shaded veranda in front of each tent is set with wooden chairs and a side table. It’s a relaxing spot with views over the bush from where you can watch birds fly in to make use of the little bird bath.
The main lounge/dining area is a wonderful open-sided tent, which faces the Mwagusi Riverbed. The style is functional comfort and bare ground sheets are still visible along the edges of the vast makuti mat. It is a minimalist, natural style that takes nothing away from the surrounding bush and wilderness location.
At one end hangs a large canvas adorned with the signature Kwihala baobab. Comfortable seating invites you to relax and browse through the selection of coffee-table books, or to sit back with a drink from the bar and enjoy the setting. Daytime meals are taken in the dining area, within the main tent or on the shaded veranda. There's a little campfire area beyond the tent where guests gather in the evening for drinks and light snacks before dinner. Dinner is served in the main tent or in the open, in front of the main area.
The guiding at Kwihala is typically excellent, with highly trained and passionate guides who have extensive wildlife experience of Ruaha, and often elsewhere in Tanzania too. On the last few visits to the camp we have felt that the guiding here is some of the very best that we have experienced in the park.
Acitvities at Kwihala mainly focus on morning and afternoon game drives in the game-rich areas around camp. For longer stays it's possible to do whole-day drives to more far-flung regions of the park, such as the Jongomero area. Here, you'll find a more forested landscape and a slightly different composition of species.
Night drives are an option included in the nightly rate of the camp, although advanced notice is needed so a national park scout can accompany you. Night drives are always variable in terms of what you see but, on our last trip, we spotted nocturnal species including bat-eared-fox, white-tailed mongoose and lesser bush baby.
Walking is also an option and Kwihala is one of the few camps in the park where this is included in the nightly rate, although advanced notice is also needed if this activity appeals. Walking areas easily accessible from camp range from the flatter terrain by the Ruaha River, which is a busier part of the park but with good wildlife, to more challenging walks to reach parts inaccessible by vehicle. On our last trip, we climbed the dry Ikuka Falls, scrambling over boulders and ending with a fantastic view over the park.
The camp's small size, excellent guiding and variety of activities result in a safari experience with plenty of scope for guests to explore what really interests them.
Kwihala blends simple charm with high standards to create an elegant bushcamp. The top service and style expected from a larger operation combines with the personal and characterful feeling of a small camp in a brilliant way. But it's Kwihala's excellent guiding in this fairly remote park that is the real draw.
- Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend three to four nights at Kwihala to give you time to really explore Ruaha National Park.
- By far the easiest way to access Kwihala is to fly into Ruaha from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Selous Game Reserve or northern Tanzania, and then transfer to camp in a safari vehicle. The light aircraft flight from Dar is about 3 hours and the transfer from airstrip to camp about 45 minutes, depending on what you see along the way. By road, Kwihala is about nine hours' drive from Dar es Salaam, while the nearest town, Iringa, is around three hours’ drive away.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our last visits, 2018 and 2019, we found the meals at Kwihala Camp to be well-prepared, including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and salads. Timings of meals are usually quite flexible to fit around the guests, and the day's activities. Although dining at Kwihala is generally a communal event, private dining can be arranged on request.
Breakfast at Kwihala usually consists of an assortment of fresh fruit, yoghurt, pancakes and a cooked breakfast. Guests who leave early on a morning game drive will instead have a simple breakfast of fruits, muffins, cereals and chapattis or bacon sandwiches out in the bush, laid out on the bonnet of the vehicle.
Lunch is normally served as a buffet, or if there are few guests in camp food will be served family style. On our last visit, we enjoyed fish (tilapia), a selection of salads, chips, a tasty tartare sauce and freshly baked garlic bread. We finished with a mango and passion fruit ice, which was very welcome in the midday heat.
Dinner is either in the dining tent or – on clear nights – set out under the stars in the riverbed, with only solar lamps and lanterns for lighting. Your three courses are introduced by the chef before dinner and then served to the table. We started with a crispy ochre salad, followed by a main of lamb curry in a poppadom basket served with pilau rice and green beans, followed by a dessert of lemon posset. On another visit we enjoyed a mixed grill.
Over dinner we were impressed with the waiter's wine knowledge and the range of South African wines on offer, and were very intrigued by the local Tanzanian wine available.
- Solo Travel
- Kwihala is great for solo travel in Tanzania. Holidays here include amazing walking and 4WD safaris with top-notch guides, social evening gatherings around the campfire and pleasingly low single supplements.
- See ideas for Solo Travel
- Ruaha National Park has an extraordinary diversity of birds, with over 580 different species recorded, making Kwihala a good choice for birdwatching in Tanzania. Mid-November to March is a great time for keen birdwatchers to visit this park, and the knowledgeable guides are a real asset. The woodland around camp is a magnet for birds and it’s a great location to spot purple-crested turaco.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Walking safaris
- Experienced guides and a variety of walking safaris, that can take you to parts of the park inaccessible by road, make Kwihala one of the best camps for walking in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- Ruaha is an excellent reserve with a rather wild feel to it, which makes Kwihala a great option for wildlife safaris in Tanzania. You can find all the usual big game, including large herds of elephant and buffalo. Ruaha also has unusually high numbers of lion and several endemic species, including the Ruaha hornbill.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children aged five years and above are welcome at Kwihala.
- Special activities & services
- Children aged between 5 and 18 are eligible for discounted prices. There are no special activities or services offered for children.
- Generally recommended for children
- There are no fences at Kwihala; animals regularly wander through camp and parental supervision is required at all times. Due to the openness and lack of entertainment facilities the camp is best for older children.
- Parents should note that children are their own responsibility for the duration of their stay.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Kwihala Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Kwihala 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
- Kwihala has a backup generator.
- The camp has a satellite phone for emergencies and there is generally good mobile reception. WiFi capable of handling emails is available in the managers office.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV in the guest areas at Kwihala. The staff have a TV and guests are welcome to join them to watch it when a big sports match is on.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water for washing is pumped from the Mwagusi River.
Bringing locals and wildlife closer together
Kwihala Camp is more than just a home to 6 comfortable tents conveniently located in the wilderness of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, which provides tourists with various game drive and walking safari options. The camp is also involved in empowering local communities and conserving the environment. This is visible through their commitment to mitigating human-wildlife conflicts in the area, a key threat to large carnivores including 10% of the world's lion population.
The Ruaha Carnivore Project was initiated as part of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Kwihala has been actively funding their projects, such as the Community Camera Trap Programme. The initiative created a strong connection between wildlife and locals who are now trained and employed to monitor wild animals.
Over the past 9 years, the programme helped reduce lion killings by over 80%, employed 24 locals as camera-trap officers across 12 villages and provided over US$145,000 in benefits to local communities including healthcare supplies, veterinary medicines and educational materials to 10 schools.
See more great sustainability projects in Tanzania
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- All guides and managers are first-aid trained. There is first-aid equipment in camp and in all of the vehicles. For emergencies, Kwihala is linked to the flying doctor service.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- Guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night and there are airhorns in the tents to attract attention in the case of an emergency. Night watchmen are on duty to keep an eye out for animals.
- Fire safety
- Extinguishers and sand buckets are located near all of the tents. There are fire extinguishers in all the vehicles at Kwihala and there is also a firebreak around camp.
Guided walking safari
Hot air ballooning
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A laundry service is included. Please note that clothes are rigorously handwashed, so it is not suitable for delicate items. As with many safari camps, Kwihala is unable to wash underwear for cultural reasons – both gents' and ladies' in this case. Washing powder is provided in the rooms for guests to hand-wash these items.
- Electronic safes are provided in all of the guest tents. The camp prefers payment for any extras in cash in US dollars, Tanzanian shillings, British pounds or euros. Visa cards are accepted with a 5.5% surcharge. Travellers' cheques are not accepted.
Other lodges in Ruaha National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.