Reviews of Kwihala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Ruaha is hard to get to, but worth it
Arrived the week of manager transition and was impressed with both the old and new.
Great elephant sightings of large groups with lots of juveniles in dry river beds
saw reasonable amounts of many game species.
Lion kill on baboon from large troop
hyena family out of den in early Am was special
outstanding service and 5 star food
very comfortable vehicles
excellent large predator bird sightings
guide spotted huge python coiled in tree(something we were looking for)
would say 5 stars based on everything except camp itself which is very good
Kwihala Camp review
Our 3 night stay at Kwihala was excellent. We were very well looked after by the camp manager and the staff and I can't speak too highly of all the guides. Our allocated guide was faultless and the other two guides, who accompanied us on our walk on the last day, were also extremely knowledgeable and competent. The whole experience was a step up from Lake Manze, but for us, still struck the right balance - not too plush, but comfortable whilst retaining the "bush" experience.
It was the attention to detail that was impressive - comfortable vehicles, excellent meals in the bush, and flexibility of activities and meals to suit our preferences. We had numerous sightings of lion and elephant, as well as good sightings of leopard on two occasions. Bird life was quite prolific considering migrants had not yet arrived and we achieved an impressive list of sightings with the help of our guide. We took half day game drives with bush breakfasts, evening game drives, a night drive and a walk.
We squeezed the walk in our last morning and this proved to be the best way to round off our stay - a proper safari walk. For this, we drove for 30 minutes away from the camp and then walked for over 2 hours with 2 very knowledgeable guides and an armed ranger. Altogether a great experience, and rates as one of the best in some 40 years of our African safaris.
One word - AMAZING
As some one who appreciates the details and the little things, kwihala Camp did not disappoint. Everything from the staff, to the decor of the tents, to the food, to the guides was exceptional.
It was the perfect size camp. The guides were exceptional and a lot of fun to be around. We took full advantage of the various tours they offered. The walking safari, night ride and game drives were all unique experiences.
Kwihala is my idea of safari perfection in either green or dry season-great camp,great location,amazing game and bird life and above all top notch guiding . So pleased that the essence of Kwihala is being preserved and full marks to Sandy for sustaining the warm welcome and helpfulness that always awaits.Special thanks to her for managing to procure my favorite sun downer tipple and the orange juice to accompany it . Campari and mango juice is an acquired taste!
This green season was very different from last year-very little water in the rivers -even less than in October, which resulted in different flora and birds. It was great to spend time with Lorenzo again and I marvel at his patience with my attempts to improve bird identification.
The game and birding was great as usual and my few days ended on a high note with a dash across from Kimilimatonge to over the Mwagusi bridge to catch good sightings of wild dog. This was my fourth visit and there is nowhere else I'd rather finish a safari tour as it never disappoints.
PS While i was in Kwihala Lorenzo was awaiting the results of his level 3 Field Guide exams and news came through after I returned home that he has been successful .Congratulations -great achievement
Kwihala - really comfortable 'camping'
We were not aware that going to a National Park meant that we had to stick to the dirt roads, with off-roading strictly prohibited, but it all worked out, albeit it was a different experience than Selous.
The staff at Kwihala were very welcoming and did everything possible to ensure we had a great time. One thing I'll always remember is the night when they made a cake for another guest's birthday, and brought it into the dining tent all singing a Swahili birthday song, tapping on cans or bottles with sticks, and 'dancing'. Every night we met before dinner at a campfire for drinks, where we were advised of the dinner courses for the evening, and then led back to the main dining tent. Dinner Kwihala is served family style which is a nice opportunity to get to know people from different countries and hear about their experiences during the day.
The main dining/lounge tent is quite large and very comfortable. There is a washroom tent very close by which is handy. The sleeping tent that we were in didn't have any sort of view from the porch which was a bit of a drag but I don't believe any of the others had a view either. The sleeping tent was very comfortable, although the shower head was a bit low and my husband had to duck to get water on his head. I wasn't expecting turn-down service in a tent, but sure enough...
The quality of the guiding was very good. They have a training program for Junior Guides which is nice to see. The vehicles were also good and seated 6 in 3 rows. The first row, however had very cramped leg room so we always moved to row 2 or 3. I may not have been happy if the vehicle was full and I had to sit in the front row. Breakfast on the road and sundowners were always standing up as they didn't bring camp chairs along. I think an option for this would have been appreciated.
There was a large number of elephants and baboons when we visited in February. This was in contrast to the Selous area. It was very nice being able to sit and watch how social these groups are - especially since there were many babies. We saw two or three elephants that were only 1 - 2 weeks old! We also saw 3 different prides of lions - all with young ones. Again, the roles each of the lions play in their interactions within the pride was very interesting to observe. As it was green season, and viewing was more difficult, the guide needed to be well versed in the birds and fauna. He made sure to pass on all his knowledge - which was quite deep.
The food at Kwihala was a bit hit or miss. This is the one area that I think they could concentrate a bit more on. The quality of the ingredients was good - just somehow not put together quite tastefully all the time. We are both vegetarian (but eat fish) and this may have been the challenge. One thing they do get right is the wine! The complimentary red and white wines were very palatable. After telling the staff how we like our gin and tonics made the first night, they went out of their way to replicate them afterwards. All these little things add up to a wonderful experience.
The camp was offering guided walks and night drives for an extra fee. We chose not to go on the night drive simply because of the fullness of the vegetation and the inability to see anything not right in the headlights, but we would certainly do it in the dry season.
Overall, I would very much recommend staying at Kwihala. Sandy - the camp manager - is very helpful and oversees all the details.
fantastic safari at Kwihala
I had heard good reports of Kwihala and my visit exceeded all expectations.
The camp is extremely well run and everything is geared up to the comfort of guests including the superbly appointed tents, amazing catering, attentive friendly staff and fantastic guiding.
Steve is not only a top guide but extremely good company. His knowledge of wildlife and birds is encyclopaedic (even to a lifelong nature fanatic and birdwatcher). Every game drive seemed like a fresh adventure for him too, which makes it all the more enjoyable. Brilliant bush breakfasts and sundowners enhance the ultimate wilderness experience. The night drive takes you into a whole new world in which the same landscape is inhabited by completely new participants.
Dinner with Sandie (manager) Steve and Festo (guides) and other guests was always entertaining. The food was plentiful varied and unbelievably delicious.
The camp is in a great setting and the game plentiful and varied.
The whole experience was unforgettable. Asilia, Sandie, guides and all the camp staff are to be congratulated on doing the safari experience to such an amazingly high standard.
Kwihala Camp review
This was our third and final camp. We stayed five nights and really didn't want to leave! Ruaha at this time of year is truly magical: lush and varied landscapes giving up their wonderful wildlife secrets and a true feeling of isolation. We saw huge numbers of elephants - on a couple of occasions more than 100 at once. We saw lions every day and at the end of one evening drive found a cheetah with the help of three very focused giraffes and our guide Lorenzo. The amount and variety of wildlife and birds was a revelation.
During the course of our stay we encountered only a couple of other vehicles in the vastness of the national park. Although you can't go off road here it didn't seem to make much difference. We still had fantastic close encounters and not only with the cats. Very special were the tiny dick-dick and klipspringers: two of the smallest antelopes. Lorenzo and his Masai assistant Daudi were a joy to be with and great fun. Lorenzo is a mine of information and has boundless enthusiasm for his subject. Every day was a great adventure.
The camp has been recently taken over by Asilia and new manager Sandy is a fabulous host. Again all the staff were friendly and helpful and our vegetarian diet was magnificently catered for. The camp is simple but stylish, comfortable and clean, with widely spaced individual tents. We felt like we were the only ones in the bush as we drifted off to sleep to the sound of lionesses calling from the nearby Mwagussi river.
Kwihala Camp review
Very friendly atmosphere. Warm welcome and well looked after by Sandy.
Fantastic guide - Festo.
Perfect safari experience
This was a second visit to Kwihala – the only camp I have returned to. Repeat visits to Kwihala are quite common which says a lot.
For me it provides the perfect safari experience. Ruaha is a superb National Park with varying landscapes and plentiful wildlife and above all, quiet in terms of tourism. Kwihala being close to the Mwagusi river means game is readily viewable and not a long drive to get to any decent viewing. With only six tents, the camp provides a very friendly environment. It feels like a large, relaxed family which the guests can just become part of and a communal dinner with twelve guests plus guides works really well in that everyone can hear a single conversation which becomes impossible with a larger number of guests.
Tents provide all the comfort you need – spacious with large beds, electric light, battering charging, shower, loo, wash basin, soaps, shampoos etc, – without going to unnecessary luxuries. Yes you are camping in the bush but completely without any tented hardships and also without any hotel type luxuries that would really feel out of place.
Typical daily routine is on the road at 6am preceded by a wake up tea / coffee tray brought to your tent at whatever time you feel you need to get ready. Stop sometime for a substantial bonnet breakfast and continue the game drive to about 1pm depending on what you see. Quick freshen up before a sit down excellent lunch. Then a short break before a pre afternoon game drive tea / coffee / cold drink and cake before going out at 4pm. Return to camp at 7pm after a sundowner stop in the bush – possibly skipped if you make the choice between a really good sighting and a glass of wine. Back at camp, a quick get ready for dinner and pick up from your tent for pre dinner drinks round the camp fire 7:30 onwards. Then an excellent dinner under the stars with all guests, some guides / manager round communal table. Escorted back to your tent to sleep and start the cycle again.
That sounds pretty full on and tiring and the truth is that it is and may not suit some people. Individuals can obviously skip drives or a car can make a choice to change timings but for me, I go on safari to spend time out there in the bush and so the Kwihala routine is great. I don’t want to be lying in bed when I could be out in the bush experiencing the dawn and things like bat eared fox cubs playing out of their den and being suckled by their mother.
As per another reviewer, the changes since the Asilia take over mostly seem pretty positive. I think they appreciate the benefit of a small camp in comparison with a 12 or 15 tent camp and also appreciate that in Kwihala they have something very special which should be changed as little as possible.
When reviewing Kwihala it is difficult not to write on and on – I shall save doing that by saying you could pick virtually any title – guiding, staff, tents, food, location, wildlife etc etc and apply a single word to them – “brilliant”. It is too difficult to come up with a shortlist of highlights from our game drives.
Finally, there is part of me that wants to explore something new if I go on another safari – there is also part of me that really worries that if I do so, I could well be disappointed and spend time comparing to what I know I would get at Kwihala. As far as Ruaha goes, you could visit many times and still barely scratch the surface. I am pretty certain that my next safari will be another visit to Kwihala – probably “green season” for a change.
A magical place
We came at the same time last year- however this year the rains had come earlier and there was a little water in the river beds ,making for a different experience in bird life and animal behavior. Having stayed at Kwihala twice before this was our first visit after it had been taken over by the much larger company Asilia .
So we were pleased and relieved that the special Kwihala magic was still much in evidence -not surprising as the wonderful staff and the stunning scenery were just the same. The very high level of returning guests speaks volumes. Lorenzo and Saidi make a formidable team and between them their knowledge ,tracking skills,patience and sense of humour make for great game drives day after day.
Highlights include ;-
-tracking a leopard for about 45 minutes after being alerted to its presence by the hyrax colony and being rewarded with an extended sighting of 'Onca' a beautiful and relaxed young male .The grin on Lorenzo and Saidi's faces said it all.
-watching elephants rub clean every nook and crannie of their bodies on a fallen tree trunk -including behind the ears/ knees
-a large pride of lions with very tiny cubs that had feasted on an elephant kill
-2 honey badger cubs on a night drive just before we had a puncture near to said lions
-a herd of 700 + buffalo as they came to the Mwagusi to drink
-lots of wonderful birds and interesting animal behavior
Thank you to Michelle for arranging for us to have our preferred tent and guide/tracker and for being so committed to keeping the Kwihala atmosphere alive and well.
Message to Asilia
The food ,previously perfectly adequate, was very much improved and it was good to hear staff speaking very positively about increased training opportunities -all benefits from being part of a larger company .The addition of the little shop was also welcome.
But we were disappointed to see the beautiful and stylish 'Baobab' crockery was gradually being replaced with more corporate white china .Please think about replacing it - we can't be the only guests who would love to purchase items as a reminder of a wonderful camp. Please don't even think of changing the Baobab bed covers.
We realise change is inevitable, especially to ensure Ruaha remains viable. However the prospect of a sister camp to Kwihala very nearby will inevitably increase traffic in the area, which we noticed had much increased since this time last year. Still nowhere nearly as congested as northern Tanzania but how long can it remain the isolated wilderness we love?
A last request - a bird list would be really helpful. Notes written on a bumpy vehicle are pretty indecipherable.