Kwihala Camp

Kwihala Camp: Our full report

Rooms
6 tents: 2 doubles and 4 twins.
Traveller's rating
Excellent (98%) From 103 reviews
Children
Best for aged 12+
Open
1st June to 25th March

Kwihala is a well-established camp in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. In recent years Kwihala has changed management and its location within the park but its excellent standards have been maintained. Thanks to some investment, the camp has also benefitted from refurbishment.

There is nothing truly permanent about this camp and you won't find any cement or stone. However, the camp is very stylish in its use of natural-coloured canvas, which blends into the vegetation, with furniture and decorations elegantly in keeping with their surroundings. Kwihala offers luxury and comfort without losing any of the sense that you’re in the wilderness.

The large, pale-coloured, walk-in tents at Kwihala combine simple practical furniture, such as beautifully made wooden dressing tables, with a stylish flair. White cotton curtains hang from a lovely iron rail adorned with African beads. The handmade blue tea and coffee cups, from Nairobi, also sport the camp's signature baobab symbol. Even the bedspread has a large embroidered baobab on it. Everything matches, yet it isn't gaudy. And the tents have floor fans, which are a welcome relief on a hot afternoon.

A set of curtains to one side of each tent leads to an en-suite bathroom. Here, you will find a large wooden plinth with a beautiful wash basin in the camp's hallmark ceramic blue and a matching soap dispenser. On the other side of the bathroom is a safari shower, which looks and operates exactly like a normal shower. A tank outside your tent will be filled with 20 litres of warm water in the mornings, evenings and on request. We found these showers to be functional, although slightly smaller than ideal. There is also a flush toilet.

In front of each tent, overlooking the bush, is a small shaded veranda furnished with comfortable director's chairs.

The main lounge/dining area is a wonderful open-sided tent, which faces the Mwagusi river. Although the bare groundsheets are still visible, billowing white materials, interesting metallic wall hangings and stylish furniture lend a romantic feel. Watch out for the long guy ropes, though, as they can be easy to trip on in the evenings.

The tents are decorated with woven textiles and rustic pottery vases featuring the signature Kwihala baobab. Comfy sofas invite you to relax and browse through the selection of coffee-table books, and there's a small bookshelf with artefacts collected from the surrounding area, such as quartz sling-shot balls and ground snail shells.

Just outside the main tent, under a shaded roof, some director’s chairs with small tables look out over the riverbed. There’s a little campfire area just in front, where guests gather in the evening for drinks and light snacks before dinner.

Kwihala’s location on our last visit, in July 2017, was in a secluded valley on the edge of the often-dry Mwagusi River, where a couple of the tents have great views of the rocky Ikuka Falls. Animals regularly wander through the camp and along the dry riverbed. The sounds of the bush are all around as you sleep.

The guiding at Kwihala is excellent; on our last visit the guiding from the resident expat guide Lorenzo was some of the best we experienced in the park. All the guides at the camp are very good though – highly trained and passionate – and have very extensive wildlife experience in Ruaha and elsewhere.

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 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. Various walking areas are easily accessible from camp, ranging 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 areas 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 in which there is plenty of scope for guests to explore what really interests them.

Our view

Kwihala blends simple charm with high standards and the feel of an elegant bushcamp. It’s done a fantastic job in combining the top service and style expected from a larger operation, while maintaining the personal and characterful feeling of a small camp. But it’s Kwihala's excellent guiding in this fairly remote park that is the real draw.

Geographics

Location: Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: At least four days to really explore Ruaha National Park.

Directions: By far the easiest way to access Kwihala is to fly into Ruaha from Dar es Salaam, which takes around three hours, and then drive for 45 minutes to the camp. By road, Kwihala is about nine hours' drive from Dar es Salaam, while the nearest town, Iringa, is around three hours away.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Asillia

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: When we stayed in July 2017, the food was well-prepared and focused on 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 out in the bush, laid out on the bonnet of the vehicle.

Lunch is normally served as a buffet and, on our last visit, we enjoyed a selection of barbequed chicken, potato and pea salad, tomato and avocado salad and freshly baked breadsticks.

Dinner is either in the dining tent or – on clear nights – set out under the stars in the river bed, with only kerosene lamps 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 papadom basket with pilau rice and roast green beans, followed by a dessert of lemon posset.

Over dinner we were impressed with the waiter’s wine knowledge and the range of South African wines in camp, and were very intrigued by the local Tanzanian wine available.

Dining style: Group Meals

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are included in the rates at Kwihala, apart from Champagne, which is charged extra. Drinking water is bottled.

Further dining info: There is no room service as such, though you can have tea and coffee brought to your room. There is also always the option to dine privately if you prefer.

Special interests

Solo Travel: Located in the game-rich Ruaha National Park, 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 more ideas for Solo Travel in Tanzania

Birdwatching: Ruaha National Park has an extraordinary diversity of birds, with over 520 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.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Tanzania

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 more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania

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 more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania

Children

Attitude towards children: Children aged seven years and above are welcome at Kwihala.

Special activities & services: There are no special activities or services offered for children.

Equipment: There is no special equipment for younger children at Kwihala Camp, as you need to be over the age of seven to stay here.

Notes: Parents should note that children are their own responsibility for the duration of their stay.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: Kwihala has a backup generator.

Communications: 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 match is on.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Water for washing is pumped from the Mwagusi river. There are flush toilets.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

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: There is a safe in the main office where you can store valuables. Guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night and there are airhorns in the tents in case of an emergency. Night watchmen are on duty to keep an eye out for animals.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the vehicles at Kwihala and there is also a firebreak around camp.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry is included but all the clothes are rigorously handwashed, so it is not suitable for delicate items. As with many safari camps, Kwihala is unable to wash underwear – both gents' and ladies' in this case.

Money: 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.

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