Reviews of Kwihala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
The real experience at Kwihala Camp
Kwihala Camp was our first experience of a safari ever and it was absolutely amazing. The camp is very small and intimate, the staff and manager incredibly friendly, welcoming and always willing to share their experience. Our guide Tony was really special - passionate for his job, rather a vocation, extremely knowledgeable, always willing to go the extra mile to show us something very special. During camp time, we had great conversations with the team, both children and adults. It felt more like a big family and at home, than just visiting. Finally, the owners of the camp are very committed towards making a positive impact on the environment and the people who live in it - a fundamentally important aspect of this kind of tourism in my view. We would always go again and highly recommend Kwihala Camp and their team.Read more about the whole safari
Tam, the host is exceptional. Different staff announced evening menus, in informal, fun way. Food was good. Tents were more than adequate. Location great.
Great guides and they really tried to find the animals people wanted to see. The day we left the morning drive found pack of dogs, knowing I wanted to see them, they radioed back and a driver took me out, but we missed them. That was really good of them, as they need not have told us, as we were leaving for flight
Got the balance right between individuals and groups and kept smooth running of drives and camp. I should have added on the Jongamer one that it seemed we were always rushing back because it was meal times, and could not be late. Here and other camps they were less stressed, and 5-10 or 15 minutes after curfew was fine, as everyone met for drinks before dinner anyway.
Rohoporini-the spirit of the bush
I have plagiarised the title of this, my sixth stay at Kwihala, from Tam the absolutely delightful new manager, who uses it for her blog about the camp. The Swahili word sums up so well what makes Kwihala special and a cut above other camps .
Much has been written by many in previous reviews about this magical place, which continues to attract a high proportion of return visitors who are in a good position to make favourable comparisons with other camps in other places.
When I came with my daughter on her first visit last October ,the bush plane had barely lifted off when she said 'when are we coming back!
Kwihala is that very rare combination of simplicity and comfort ,great food ,amazing scenery ,varied habitats, informal family atmosphere, communal dining, great team work and a real focus on guiding ,which is flexible and passionate. Where else can you be out in the bush from 6am to 1pm and then again from 4-7pm giving ample time to track animals or linger to observe interesting animal/bird behaviours or just drool over the palm trees along the Mwagusi River against an African sunset.
For those who appreciate all that Kwihala represents and has to offer it sets the bar very high and is greater than its constituent parts .
Just before I left I learned that the camp had been moved but was reassured it was to a beautiful place . Well hidden in the Sokwe forest opposite the Ichaka falls (unfortunately dry at this time) on the banks of the Mwagusi sand river, the winding entrance to camp was very intriguing and to be greeted at the final turn by Tam and the guys singing and dancing made my return even more special.
I cannot imagine how much hard work went into relocating the camp both physically and in terms of the selecting the best sites in virgin bush for the tents and eating areas. The huge effort was worth it and much appreciated. Tents 1 and 2 have long views up the sand river with a clear view eastwards -ideal for watching the African dawn to the crescendo of bird song . Because the trees provided more shade it was possible to eat lunch outside the mess tent and the evening campfire and dinner table were set very romantically in the dry river bed. The animals liked it here too-elephants were frequent visitors as were baboons scampering in the rain trees over our tent.The mass of droppings they left on the path in the morning were miraculously cleaned up thanks to Rajabu and his team, who keep the place spotless.
The food is delicious and varied and on one occasion to celebrate a birthday the chef made ice cream -by hand -in the bush.
Staff take it in turns to join guests at communal mealtimes ,which add so much to a safari experience by providing opportunities to share amusing tales of adventures and experiences that whet the appetite even further.
It was good to come in a different season .The weather in June is lovely and warm during the day if cooler at night ,but nothing that a warm sweater and hot water bottle for the beds and early morning game drives couldn't dispel.
By mid-June the rivers have gone down after the long rains but there are still scattered pools,which make game more elusive but still much more in evidence than at Jongomero just a few days before. There are echoes of the green season ,with beautiful flowers, grasses really as 'high as an elephant's eye' and a wonderful light that is more clear and luminous than in October or February .The condition of the tracks made driving challenging but not impossible, especially after Lorenzo, in his best Italian- accented Swahili, had charmed the driver of the grader to clear certain tracks to help us get further afield .
It was good to meet Charles ,the new trainee who had only been with Lorenzo for a couple of weeks. It was he who spotted a leopard slinking into the long grass on my first afternoon which led to a great drive tracking its movements over and around the Mdonya river area. He also spotted that my feet couldn't comfortably reach the floor of the vehicle, which made balancing a bit tricky over the bumpy tracks -in his quiet charming way the next morning he presented me with a little wooden footstall that he'd made himself and that made such a difference..
We saw lots of groups elephants with babies, several prides of lion including 3 lionesses stalking impala and afterwards noisily crunching on the bones, an amorous male lion waiting patiently for a female to signal interest, huge family groups of banded mongoose dashing across the river bed plus all the usual suspects .
Having experienced the phenomenal birdlife of the green season I came with realistic expectations. However there were many birds like sand grouse with tiny chicks and the large number of immature birds proved a real challenge to my attempts at identification ,which didn't ruffle Lorenzo's patience . A few new species were added to my list including a barn owl which Lorenzo inadvertently flushed out of its roost in a cavernous baobab ..
Lorenzo, as ever up for an adventure, proposed a full day out heading east to Lunda and beyond,which we readily agreed to as last year we had had a similar full day out but heading west .Ever hopeful of seeing roan or sable, despite it being early in the season ,there were large herds of impala and zebra ,which being nearer hunting areas were much more skittish and fled in alarm. At one point a flock of about 50 white stork,wings outspread against a clear blue sky and reminiscent of a Chinese painting , simply took our breath away.
The thing about Ruaha is that it's so lovely that just being driven through the bush and taking in sights and smells ,the varied vegetation and the changing light is quite heavenly.
My hope is that the new camp planned by Asilia near the old location (and complete with swimming pool) will not detract from Kwihala -the true spirit of the bush
Amazing and so different in green season
A third trip to Kwihala but first in the green season. Ruaha is thankfully still quiet in terms of tourism and as amazing as ever. As a camp Kwihala just keeps on getting better – constant Asilia improvements.
It was already very good back on the first visit and it meets all my key criteria. It is small, just six ground level spacious tents giving an authentic bush feeling. You are provided with all the comforts / facilities you need but nothing that for me detracts from the bush experience. All the staff are outstanding – you could not be made more welcome and no request is too much trouble – e.g. hot bucket shower whenever you want it. The food is wonderful, right from the bonnet breakfasts out on game drives to lunch and dinners back in camp. The whole situation of pre-dinner campfire (weather permitting!) drinks and communal dinner feels like one big very friendly family. The guides are excellent at their job but it is more than just being in a vehicle with a really good guide – you are in a vehicle with someone as a friend which raises the whole experience another level.
So to the green season comparison with dry season. Before arriving we were expecting what I believed to be a typical January: a mixture of good dry spells with a number of heavy showers / storms. However, the thing no one can control thought different – we arrived in the wettest January anyone could remember for years. Rivers were all flowing fast and many routes were either impassable or partly destroyed by water torrents. That sounds bad but in reality we got out for every game drive – a few just a bit delayed while the worst rain cleared and also a bit restricted to the available roads, although during our stay we did manage roads for the first time in over a week.
Game is undoubtedly harder to see – general dispersal and the lush green undergrowth see to that. However we still saw plenty – lions on kills, cubs playing, leopards, civet, all the usual antelope, giraffe, elephants, zebra, hippo, hyena, jackal etc. etc. The sighting highlight had to be the wild dogs – I would not have believed a dog could be so vividly beautiful. There is also a mass of birds and butterflies not present in the dry season. Sitting watching weaver birds build their nests from strands of grass is entrancing. You can be shown side by side pictures of the same place in the dry / green season but the difference is so amazing that you really need to see it firsthand. Just to see the Ruaha, Mwagusi and Mdonya rivers full, bank to bank and flowing fast was a wonderful sight.
Of course the weather led to some issues on the road and in the camp. Whatever problems occurred were dealt with efficiently and professionally and we never felt insecure or unsafe. Overall we had a fantastic time and everything contributed to an unforgettable nine night experience.
Kwihala really is the complete package and yes I want to go back again – green or dry – that is the question. If you have only been in one then you have missed out.
Kwihala Camp review
First class accommodation and guidesRead more about the whole safari
Kwihala Camp review
We had a fantastic 4 nights at Kwihala. The best aspect is the team working there. They are extremely friendly (welcoming you back every time with a cold towel and a smile) and extremely knowledgeable. The guides are excellent, extremely skilled in all aspects of the bush and safari as well as being very warm and friendly people so it was a joy to spend time with them during the drives and over dinner.
The food was also fantastic - surpassing our expectations given how remote the camp is. The food is typically not fussy but of great quality. I would describe it as fresh rustic cooking which is just what we wanted. Everything from the wake up coffee to the tents and breakfasts is so fresh and tasty that we never felt hunger during our stay. The communal dinners are very fun (including Robert or Ibrahim's fantastic menu announcements) and are a great end to the day.
The tents are extremely comfortable and they team go to great lengths to ensure you have all that you need with great facilities both in the tent and in the main mess tent, which is very relaxing place to go and spend some time.
Overall a fantastic camp with an exceptional team.
An authentic bush experience at Kwihala
We spent six days at Kwihala. It was exceptionally hot throughout our stay with only one brief shower. One area of the Park had received enough rain to start to green it, but most areas were very dry. In particular, the Mwagusi and Mdonya rivers were more or less completely dry with only a few puddles remaining, and even the Ruaha river was virtually dry with only the area next to the Ruaha bridge retaining some deep pools.
The camp provides an authentic bush experience with tents and bucket showers etc. But it is nonetheless very comfortable.
Ruaha provides a wide variety of differing landscapes including a remarkable concentration of huge baobab trees.
Tam, the manager, was an outstandingly good hostess and made everyone feel very welcome. All the staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful.
Game was fewer and further between than we were expecting, but we did nonetheless have several remarkable game viewing experiences, especially with lions and leopards. Alex, our guide most of the time, was very experienced and a reassuring person to lead a game walk - particularly when we happened upon a lion!
The food was imaginative and very well prepared and presented, especially the buffet lunches.
Tsetse flies were an issue in some areas, notably along one stretch of the Mwagusi, but were not a problem in the camp itself. Although we expected to share game activities with other guests, in practice we only did so on a limited number of occasions, although we found that sharing with four others in the vehicle (which happened once) was not a good experience.
Kwihala Camp review
This camp has just six tents and a relatively small reception area which gives it an especially intimate atmosphere. Tam, the manageress, is a wonderful hostess and all the staff are warm and very hospitable. Tea or coffee is brought to the tent before the morning game drive. There are four guests to a vehicle and Tam does her best to match interests- there are a lot of lions in the area, which is clearly the main concern of some, whereas others want to see as wide a variety of wildlife as possible.
The guiding (we had three on different occasions) is outstanding. We especially valued Noel's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm and his evident enjoyment in sharing what he knows. He also has an eye for finding the best angles for photographers, and his quiet approach to guiding and the way he drives gave us so many wonderful sights. Alex is a specialist walking guide who is also immensely knowledgeable and who gave us a quite different and complementary experience to the one we'd had in Manze.
The food in Kwihala is quite simply superb. The evening meal was always a lovely experience with the staff doing their utmost to make our time in the camp the best possible.
The night game drive is really to be recommended. We had sightings of bat-eared foxes, an ardwolf, and bush babies.
The tents are beautifully done with very comfortable beds and excellent shower facilities, though they are bucket showers. My one complaint was with the hyena who kicked off just outside our tent at four in the morning.
The whole was an unforgettable experience.
Back -again !
This was my fifth visit to Kwihala ,which I guess says it all and means I don't have much more to add to previous comments.
The unique,intangible Kwihala welcome and family atmosphere was very much in evidence and a few small changes were appreciated (eg most drinks and night drives now included , bathrobes supplied ,hot water bottles on morning drives and fans in the tents. None of which spoiled the overall bush experience.
While it was good to hear that some members of the team have moved on to other opportunities within the wider Asilia family and beyond it was really great to see some had been promoted within Kwihala .The new bunch of trainees ,who had been through an incredibly rigorous process, all seemed to be fitting in very well. Lorenzo and his new trainee Moinga made for a fantastic team and created for us a memorable few days .
This time my daughter accompanied me for her first safari and was completely enchanted with the whole experience. Her main bag didn't turn up for a couple of days and Michelle managed to find a few supplies to keep her going,which was really kind of her.
Terrific all round experience at Kwihala
Following our two previous camps Kwihala appeared rather more basic and we both felt ion arrival we should have perhaps visited this camp first.
However our stay proved otherwise, our time spent there was good to say the least, our guide Mohamed proved excellent and Michelle the manager made our stay equal to any where we have been/