Reviews of Mdonya Old River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Bush experience at Mdonya Old River Camp
We stayed three nights and that was about the right duration, The game viewing was excellent, to the extent that we from arrival at the airstrip saw lions, leopards, wild dogs and tried to locate a lion kill (heard the noise) thus in the pursuit of finding the lion kill ignored (did not stop for) e.g. buffalo and eland herds. We only arrived at the camp site after dark and that was somewhat of a challenge as the kerosene lamps do not provide that much light for example in the tents and trying to find your stuff in your luggage.
The following days was also good yet - as known upfront - with the rainy season around the corner we did have our share off rain showers. The guide was pleasant and knowledgeable, making the game drives interesting beyond only looking for game and birds.
The camp manager (Andrea) was initially somewhat silent but opened up more and more and was all in all a very good host engaging with the guests and sharing his own experiences.
We did share some feedback with the camp manager, mainly around the food which was plentiful but somewhat strangely combined. Meat and warm vegetables together with some kind of pie makes may all taste fine but together a bit strange. Soups for starter was good, especially as the rain and lack of sun made you a bit chilly. Lunches for full day game drives could have been more attractive e.g. with adding bread, having a banana cake instead of a banana as a desert, etc.
very inviting camp
we were excited from the Camp (like from Lake Manze). a small problem in this season are the bugs and the tsetse flies.
What A Real Safari Is all About
We spent 4 nights at Mdonya Old River Camp in November 2016 and loved every minute of it. The camp has a real feeling of remoteness about it which is not always true of other places we have stayed on safari, but for us, this is what a safari is all about. The tents are comfortable without being luxury and the food is straightforward and very good - both fit in well with the surroundings and fitted our needs perfectly. The camp has an eco-friendly feel whilst still providing for the needs of travellers eg solar powered hot water for showers and electricity in the main office to charge camera batteries etc.
Our guide and driver for our stay were Ayoub and Henry. They were both brilliant. They were great at spotting animals and birds and were a really good match for us. They were also great fun to spend time with and quickly became our friends. We left camp every morning around 6.30am and didn't return until around 6.30 each evening - just fantastic. The guys showed us things we had never seen on previous safaris and gave us loads of interesting facts as well. We shared breakfast and lunch with them everyday, setting up our table and chairs in some great locations. The bush meals provided by the camp staff were always lovely ( a far cry from the boxed lunches you tend to get from many camps on the Northern circuit). We also really enjoyed the chats we had with the guys at mealtimes when we were able to learn about each others lives - another really enjoyable experience.
We also really enjoyed the communal meal times at the camp where we met up with Rebecca and Andrea, the camp managers and all the other guests. Dinner was always served under the stars and gave us a chance to chat with others, a really nice way to end each day.
Rebecca and Andrea were great. They were always around to see us off on safari in the morning and to greet us with a cold juice, on our return each evening. They were always checking if everything had gone well and were very responsive to any requests that we made. It was also great to chat to them over dinner and learn about their lives.
So all in all we had a great stay and would highly recommend the camp.
Beauty, wildlife and expert guiding at Mdonya
I recently spend 6 nights at Mdonya and was impressed by its beauty and wildlife, including visits to our camp of elephant, hyena, giraffe, impala and baboons. The terrain is very varied and beautiful, with lots of baobob trees in bloom (early November). Rebecca and Andrea, who manage the camp, kept me very comfortable, and my guide Emanuely and driver Chelestino, made sure we saw and learned about a lot.
It's quite hot here during the day in November, but is cooler and more comfortable at night. You will also be dealing with tsetse flies in some areas, but it's all worthwhile.
I've done a lot of African safaris (since '91), but though we had all the comforts, this felt very remote, and that's a nice thing.
The food was delicious and they took excellent care of this vegetarian.
My only suggestion would be for Expert Africa to revise the tipping suggestions. It's $10 each for the guide, the driver, and the camp staff. This amounts to $30/day. It's not an unreasonable sum and wouldn't be an issue but for the fact that I couldn't use a credit card. Especially as I was on an 11 night safari, it makes for a lot of cash to have on hand.
Expert Africa comments
Tipping is a tricky subject. Our travellers come from a variety of different countries, and so have a variety of different tipping cultures in their home locations; plus each safari camp has different advice and different tipping practices. So for us to give out universally good and specific advice on anyone's trip is a challenge.
We've started to address this need for advice with a new Tipping in Tanzania page. We want to revise this over time to improve it; if any of this site's readers have constructive suggestions or thoughts, as to how we can modify this further to improve it, please let us know.
Great safari at Mdonya Old River Camp
We loved everything about our safari, thank you.
The location of the camp was special and all well spaced out - we were pleased with the low impact approach, although the tents had everything you could need.
The whole experience was great - the staff were all outstanding both in camp (the meals were all delicious) and the guides exceptional.
Unbelievable wildlife encounters at Mdonya
We had a great feeling of being part of nature at this camp. Monkeys, Impala, Jackels, elephant,giraffe and lions all roamed through the camp at various times and yet despite being townies we felt very safe. Rebecca and Andreas and their team have created a respectful and relaxed approach to the game which rubs off on the guests making us feel we have had a very special safari experience. We particularly loved the welcome glass of fruit juice offered every time we returned from a drive and evening campfire with lions roaring in the background.
Under the expert care of guide Mowlidi and driver Godson we were privileged to enjoy the most amazing wildlife sightings, usually with no other vehicles in sight. Despite the heat, the majority of our sighting were of active game going about their business and Mowlidi and Godson gave the closest views of animals we have ever had while all the time taking every care to ensure the animals weren't disturbed. It was particularly enjoyable to see how enthusiastic they were about their jobs and Mowlidi is extremely knowledgable. We have never seen so many lions and the thrill of coming across a group of 9 lions preparing to go out hunting will stay with me for a long time, not to mention the huge variety of eagles in the park and two wonderful views of leopards.
Ruaha is vast so you do need to be prepared for long game drives and to cover a big distance. Bush breakfasts and lunches are prepared from the camp and it is a treat to eat a meal in the bush. The Tsetse flies are less of a treat and annoyingly persistent despite repellent of every type. Beige or stone coloured clothing seems to work best as even green or brown attracted them. The tents are similar to Lake Manze and very comfortable. Showering in the open roofed bathroom is fun especially with our resident toad for company in the evenings!
We loved it and will be back.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
I can't say enough good things about Mdonya.
Arriving at the Ruaha air strip we were greeted by Prosper and Emmanuel who would be our guide and driver for our entire trip. They drove us just a short way to a nice covered area by the Ruaha river and set up the first of what would be steady stream of delicious meals. After lunch they took us on a short game drive as we made our way to the camp. It became apparently right away that having a separate guide and drive was a huge advantage as it let Emmanuel do his expert work of keeping the truck pointing forward, while Prosper was able to use his seemingly endless knowledge of the wildlife and vegetation to explain nearly everything we set our eyes on.
Before I go too much further, I just want to say that Prosper and Emmanuel were absolutely terrific over our entire trip. They took our endless questions with knowledge and good humor, and were just excellent companions for our trip. Having our bush breakfasts and lunches with their company was a joy. On our first full day out, the truck we were in broke down just about as far out from camp as we could have been. Once they realized we'd be stuck for a bit, they went out a bit and found a lovely shade tree, set up a table, chairs, and lunch, and made what could have been rough outing into a charming little adventure. Again, I can't say enough about how great they both were.
Once we got to camp, we were greeted at the gate (as we were each time we returned) by managers Rebecca and Andrea. The trend in service started with Prosper and Emmanuel was continued here and both Rebecca and Andrea were outstanding hosts. We knew we were arriving early, but it turned out we were the first visitors of the season and would be the only guests for a few days. Given this, it might have been reasonable to expect the camp to hold back a bit until they had more guests, but the opposite was true: we spent our first two days in camp having amazing breakfasts and dinners with Rebecca and Andrea - just the 4 of of us sitting out under the stars with great food and great conversation. Both of them are clearly passionate about the camp, the animals, and the land - and it's something that comes through and makes for a special experience.
Speaking of meals - the food was amazing. Both my finance and I are vegetarian and the camp was not only accommodating, they seemed to go out their way to come up with dishes that novel and delicious.
As for the camp itself, it's terrific. Luxurious in all the ways one might want, but nothing that makes you feel disconnected from nature. As others have mentioned, all the animals make their way through the camp, and while were there we were lucky enough to have a couple elephants, a few gazelle, and even a couple hyena visit. We've heard it's not uncommon to see even more! We were a little worried going into this that it might be a little nerve racking to have so much wildlife wandering about the camp as we slept, but the opposite turned out to be true: it's a really magical experience and left us feeling really connected to wilderness around us. We toyed with the idea of staying a lodge, but are so glad we picked Mdonya instead. If you're goal with your safari is experience something that is perhaps close to what it might have been like to visit this area 100 years ago - the sounds, the animals, but also the style and the comfort of a top flight camp - this is your place.
If it sounds like I'm gushing - I am. I love this place, I may have gained about 10 pounds with all the great food, but I can't wait to come back.
Really back to nature
Weather different here - cooler (21) at night but still up to 35 C daytime as less humid. Unfortunately the area has tsetse flies and its almost impossible to avoid getting bitten in some areas (both geographically and physically !!)
Landscape very different with rolling countryside and big hills. Camp is more rustic but still attractive and food is adequate.
Highlights -- leopard with small kudu kill up a tree, mating pair of lions, getting hit by a torrential thunderstorm, massive herd of elephants - about 100, cheetah with impala kill, Jumanne's guiding and Edmond's driving.
Whay great wildlife
Brilliant wildlife viewing, including leopard amongst the 30 odd different species. The guide Emmanuel, and driver Daniel did everything they could to find the wildlife that I really wanted to see, including Oribi and Klipspringer.
Problem with something in the tent biting both myself and my wife at night making a bit of a mess of both of us.
Wild and beautiful
Many special thanks to Mary, Emannuel and Thomas. Mary is the Camp Manager, Emannuel is a guide and Thomas is a driver. They made my stay very special.
The Camp is beautiful, I LOVED the wild feel of it, having my tent surrounded by wildlife at night. The Masaai were great, all the staff were very helpful and polite. Mary's attention to detail is great.
Emannuel is a very knowledgeable guide, he kept testing my own knowledge too which I appreciated :-). I was lucky enough again to have a car, a guide and a driver to myself. Thomas drove probably around 150kms a day for us as we went out on these all-day safaris. Lots of lion, leopard, elephant sightings, I have some great leopard photos. We explored the Park thoughout because I was so curious and wanted to see different habitats. It just looked and felt so different from anything I have seen before. Beautiful wilderness.
I had a great time, the guys worked so hard. Loved my stay.