Reviews of Mdonya Old River Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Mdonya and the Ruaha park as a whole was the highlight of our trip to Tanzania. The camp is wonderfully simple and makes the most of the curve of the old river bed in its layout. We were in tent 10, the furthest from the camp with a wonderful view from the verandah out onto the river bed at the front and 'upstream' away from the camp at the side.
Wildlife is perfectly at home here, on our first night there were two elderly male lions lazing about 100m upstram from our tent in the riverbed, which amazingly (considering the doddery state of them) managed to kill a buffallo right outside the camp later in the night and stayed there guarding it for the duration of our 4 night visit. Both I and a giraffe had a shock when it popped its head over the side of the tent walls when i was having a shower one evening. The highlight in the camp though was listening to a leopard stalk and kill an impala right outside the front of our tent.
The guiding was variable, on our first day we had a driver and guide pair who seemed determined to drive the whole park in a day and only stop for a big cat. after a chat with Micol about this in the evening we were paired up with Zac for the rest of the trip. Zac is a much better guide with a huge amount of enthusiasim for the area and happy to talk about trees, insects, birds and find me my first ever Cheetah!
The food at the camp was good, very Italian but with a few odd twists and flexible in the timings of meals. Michol and Gil were very good hosts with lots of enthusiasim for the area and many stories to tell. The camp as a whole is much more relaxed than its sister camp in Selous - lake manze.
Mdonya is in the north of the park, a long way from the other camps and when we were there at the end of the dry season the majority of the game drives concentrated on the Mwagusi river area, about an hours drive away, as the local waterholes were mainly dried up, however we did see quite a lot of animals closer to the camp too. Our first guide insisted that we had whole day game drives in order to see anything but we did find that an early morning drive covering longer distances and a shorter evening drive in the Mdonya area was a much better combination.
We are very keen to go back early in the dry season when there is more water in the Mdonya and escarpment areas, as these are the most scenic areas of the park.
beware the Tsetse flies... evil little buggers.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
We liked the camp and the services were good but there were two real negatives.
When we arrived after flying overnight from Lodnon plus a 2.5 hr flight to Ruaha we were met at 11 am who said we were going on a safari before going to the camp. This would have been fine if we had arrived at the camp after a couple of hours but our guide insisted on a long safari and we arrived at the camp in the dark at 6.45 pm. This was too much after a long journey. The safari was shared with another guest who had come from Dar es Salaam but she had also not wanted an immediate long safari. The second day we were pressured to do a 13 hour safari which we successfully resisted, returned at lunchtime and went out again late afternoon, avoiding the intense heat of the early afternoon.
There is the general slight problem for the camp that there seemed always to be a significant drive before any special sightings.
Expert Africa comments
We were concerned to hear that these guests felt unhappy with their arrangements when arriving at Mdonya, and we passed their comments onto the camp who were equally concerned. They apologised that these travellers had not been given the choice to return to the camp and were instead taken straight out on safari. Their usual procedure is to offer all guests the option to return to the camp to freshen up before an activity, especially for those having arrived off an international flight.
At the time these travellers were visiting, the best game-viewing was slightly further away from the camp than usual and the guide had wanted to show them this area. Unfortunately this was done without offering the travellers the option to return to camp first. Mdonya has assured us that they have talked to the guides, emphasising that all travellers must always be given the option of heading to camp on arrival.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
After two very different camps in Selous, we went to Ruhaha National Park. This camp is the sister camp to Lake Manze, run along very similiar lines, but with a totally different feel.
The Camp Manager was away, and Alex was standing in, we felt that the camp was "running itself" and as she spoke no Swahali the staff had little guidance. Having said that the tents were great, we were back to no electricity, which was lovely, our guide and driver Kahimba and Nicholas were excellent and again very knowledgable, and very interesting to talk to over bush breakfast and bush lunch, we understood a lot more about ordinary life in Tanzania.
We had amazing sightings of lion, including a "Lion Honeymoon" and leopard, a large herd of buffallo and the wonderful elephants, all great. We were visited each night by a giraffe eating from the bushes three feet from our tent, as it was a full moon it was a wonderful experience.
The food was poor, and sausage casserole was perhaps not the correct meal for bush lunch, sitting in the jeep for six hours in the heat, both of us had upset stomachs after that day.
We enjoyed Mydona, but I'm very glad that it wasn't our first camp, by the time we got to Ruhaha we were acclimatised to camp life.
Magical stay at Mdonya
This was an amazing place and a perfect start to our safari holiday.
Having had a wonderful game drive from the airport to the camp, including a lovely lunch and impromptu dash to see our first two leopards, we were quite late arriving at the camp, but were welcomed so warmly by Alex and Nicole and made to feel at home immediately. This was the feeling throughout our stay, nothing was too much trouble, the atmosphere was delightfully informal and friendly. Drinks around the campfire, and suppers all together created a lovely ambience to exchange views on our days experiences. Everyone was so flexible and we never felt there were any time constraints on our drives.
Our guide, Zac, and driver were excellent and put themselves out to find wonderful sightings for us. The tents were lovely and comfortable and private, food was excellent, Alex and Nicole fantastic hosts and always ready with any information we needed.
Living with eles at Mdonya
We were greeted at the camp by cool drinks, cold towels and the charming and friendly Australian Alex who explained the 'camp rules' . However she mistakenly told us that all drinks on activities were included which they turned out not to be; this was quickly sorted to everybody's satisfaction but future guests should be aware that if they accept the offer of a drink when arriving at the airstrip they will be charged.
The camp is Italian-dominated and English-speakers were definitely in the minority. On one evening there would have been 22 Italians plus us for dinner so Alex offered us a private dinner on our deck (private from the other guests, that is, not the elephants and buffalo!)
Food was good, with particularly excellent breakfasts, both in camp and in the bush. Tea and coffee is always available in the lounge area and included in the price. Drinks prices were reasonable – cheapest all trip. Service in camp was consistently excellent and provided with smiles all round. Ask politely and they will even provide room service for sundowner drinks. Alternatively the bar made from a tree destroyed by termites is great fun.
Tents are comfortable but with no frills, with the best designed bathroom area we had all trip – the only one where privacy was possible on the loo – from humans if not the occasional curious elephant. The game really does live in camp, with the eles, buffalo and impalas virtually permanent residents and giraffes, jackals and lions visiting on occasion. Because of this, the camp staff are extremely security conscious and there are plenty of Maasai around to ensure you move safely from your tent to the public areas and back again. It's strange how safe you feel when protected by a small tree and an even smaller man with a stick! We really liked this feeling of wildness to the place and the camp rates among our favourites.
We were less enthralled with the guiding. We had a guide, driver and trainee guide with us and we always felt they had their own agenda. They seemed keener on travelling huge distances rather than allowing us time to watch the animals in peace. Kahimba was an excellent spotter of animals and birds but we'd have liked a bit less rushing about. They were much keener on chatting to one another in Swahili than interacting with us.
This is epitomised by the fact that we were 'Sir' and 'Madam' for the whole time – everything else about Mdonya is so laid back this seemed very strange. It's perfectly possible this was a one – off but we don't think so – other guests who moved on to Mwagusi also commented on the contrast in quality and attitude of guides at the two camps.
To be fair, however, we also met other travellers who were delighted with their guide at Mdonya, so perhaps we should return and give it another go. In fact we'd be delighted to do so; the excellence of the camp outweighed our reservations about the guiding experience!!
Mdonya Old River Camp review
Mdonya is very similar to Lake Manze and just as good. If anything the camp management was even more friendly, and the food just as excellent.
Again, the game spotting and driving and the knowledge and courtesy of our guides was 5 star
Alex was excellent, welcoming us back from every game drive.
Kerosene lamps did not last the night which meant that getting up in the dark was interesting. Also the electric battery lamp supplied was about equivalent to 2 unfit glowworms. The blankets supplied for the cold nights were rather small.
The meat at the evening meal was sometimes very salty. Bush breakfasts were good.
On the game drives the tsetse flies were biting in August.
Mdonya Old River Camp
Excellent start to our African adventure.
Although the camp is basic the atmosphere created by the kerosene lamps and simple style tents immerses you in the safari experience. And a shower under the stars is one of the many memories we will never forget! Meals are taken together which provided a good opportunity to share your days experience with other guests.
The setting of the camp was superb - we saw Impala, Elephant, Buffalo and more from our tent! The staff were really friendly and helpful and make you feel welcome the second you land on the airstrip - our transfer to the camp turned into a full safari and by the time we reached the camp we had seen a wide variety of wildlife already.
Overall an excellent place for those with a sense of adventure!
very good place to stay in Mdonya
Aomodation is quite expensive in Ruaha and to me Mdonya Old River Camp is the best place to stay when you cannot afford an expensive camp in Ruaha.
They did their best to make sure I was in best conditions to take nice pictures. Most of the time I was the one guest in the car . I have really appreciated that . I enjoy sharing the car with other guests as long as we are not packed like sardines in tins. The guide and the drivers did their best to find animals. Micole and the staff have been very friendly and professional.
I have been very fortunate as we saw leopard twice in two days. The first sighting was the dream of any wildlife photograher. A very relaxed leopard laying on the branch of a sausage tree. Thas was the best moment of my trip.
Also Ruaha is a very beautiful place. It is remote and wild. Lots of baobabs. Tse Tse Flies annoyed me a little bit but that's part of the game. The place is not crowded of tourists which is great.
Mdonya Old River Camp review
This camp and Ruaha far exceeded our expectations. We were made to feel very welcome. They had modified a tent for the four of us which worked well. The tents were comfortable, well furnished with flush toilets and a solar powered shower. We did have a problem with bees coming to drink at the shower and the water in the morning was warm rather than hot.
We loved the open nature of the camp. We were visited by an elephant in the early hours 2 nights and to watch him feed on a bush less than a metre from our bed was amazing. Food was good and we really enjoyed having communal drinks around a fire and eating with all being watched by buffalo and impala. We had 3 full day safaris and saw more of the park than many other visitors. Our bush lunches were out of this world.
The wildlife was fantastic - lions and leopard and even a cheetah, elephants and giraffe everywhere, antelope, 3 species of mongoose, 100 species of birds and even a puff adder. Our guides were amazing.
We loved the experience, but others who had come from more luxurious camps were less than impressed and found the rustic nature not to their taste.