A trip to Mwagusi, in Ruaha, is all about the wildlife. However, let's first look at the camp.
Mwagusi Safari Camp: Our full report
Set on the banks of the seasonal Mwagusi River, Mwagusi Camp is relatively smart and comfortable, yet rustic in feel. It has been operating in Ruaha National Park since the 1990s. As a result, the game drawn to the river and in the surrounding area is well habituated. The camp's owner and occasional host is the charismatic Chris Fox who was born in Tanzania and is passionate about Africa, the park and wildlife.
As part of this commitment, Chris Fox operates a school to train all the guides for Mwagusi, during which time they also learn other skills such as waitering, plumbing and electrics.
Mwagusi's 13 rooms, or bandas, and its central area all look out over the seasonal river, whose natural pools attract game throughout the year. Characterised by high thatched roofs, and waist-high reed walls, the buildings have a stylish edge – with highly polished red stone floors and bits of drift wood built into the walls. The main dining and lounge area is a spacious open-sided room with dining tables for breakfast and lunch, and plenty of sofas for relaxation and game viewing. Animal skulls and other items collected from the bush are dotted around, adding a rustic feel. Read more about the bandas here.
Adjacent to the lounge is a further lounging area and a small library – with a table and chairs, wildlife books, and comfortable, built-in sofas covered in bright-coloured fabrics.
Activities at Mwagusi focus mainly on 4x4 drives, headong out in the morning after breakfast and then again in the late afternoon when it has cooled down. Sometimes there is the option of an all-day trip, which allows you to explore deep into the park.
If you want to experience the bush on foot – then there are two options. Short, informal nature walks around the outskirts of the camp are run in the early morning, and can often tally up a good number of different species. More serious three–four-hour walks through the bush or along the river, accompanied by a camp guide and one of the park's rangers, must be arranged in advance.
Our viewWe can see why Mwagusi continues to be popular. Judging by our last visit, in 2016, it is still one of Ruaha's best camps. Despite being a little quirky, it feels both homely and welcoming and is certainly the antitheses of a lodge created by professional architects and designers. Mwagusi's service is good and the guiding very competent, resulting in a fantastic game-viewing experience. Mwagusi is not expensive compared with Tanzania's other top camps, but it does cost a little more than some of the alternatives in Ruaha. We think that it's worth it.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend spending at least three–four nights at Mwagusi to explore Ruaha National Park
Directions: Ruaha is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Dar es Salaam, then it is a further 30–45 minute drive to the camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Mwagusi's two key chefs, Meru and Mohammed, have both been working in the kitchens and producing tasty food for a number of years.
breakfast times are flexible although it is normally served between 7 and 8am. There is always plenty of fruit and fresh bread on offer – as well as Mwagusi's famous cinnamon rolls (which are quite an institution). There is also the option of a cooked breakfast available every morning.
If you head out soon after dawn on a drive, you will enjoy a bush breakfast later in the morning at some scenic location. This may comprise fresh fruit juice, rolls, cinnamon bread and fresh fruit (as well as tea/coffee).
Lunch is usually a relatively light meal – with plenty of cold salads and meats – served at around 12.15 to 1pm, when guests have returned from their morning activities. The various options are set out buffet-style, with desserts then served to your table.
Dinner is a slightly more formal affair, often served outside following pre-dinner drinks around the campfire, and often in the river bed. Everyone sits around one large table, with the meal either served to you or presented as a buffet, depending on the location. Private dining can also be arranged on request.
On two separate visits in 2016, we enjoyed vegetable or peanut soup, followed by lamb tagine, fresh vegetables, homemade bread rolls and green salad. Dessert was chocolate brownie and cream. The food at Mwagusi was tasty, imaginative, and consistently very good, and the team had no problem catering for special dietary requirements.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Apart from complimentary filtered water in the rooms and on game drives, no drinks are included here. A beer costs around US$4, wine around $5 and soft drinks $2.
Further dining info: No
Family holidays: Overlooking a seasonal river in Ruaha, Mwagusi Camp is a quirky, owner-run camp, which feels comfortable though fairly rustic. Come for 4WD drives, (competently guided) walks and brilliant service on your family safari holidays in Tanzania! We recommend it for mature children 10+.See more ideas for Family holidays in Tanzania
Solo Travel: Ruaha's owner-run Mwagusi Safari Camp is and a great choice for solo travellers visiting Tanzania. Plenty of water and open plains mean top wildlife safaris, whilst shared activities, communal meals and sociable lounge/dining area make it great for single travellers.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Tanzania
Birdwatching: Ruaha's position at the centre of Tanzania gives it an interesting cross section of birds - and makes it a fascinating park for birdwatching in Tanzania. Early-morning bird-walks are a very popular activity at the camp to catch dawn chorus with a guide before breakfast.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Tanzania
Walking safaris: Experience Ruaha on foot with a walking safari at Mwagusi. Highly trained guides will take you to discover the lesser known flora and fauna of the bush; learn how to recognise different droppings, how to identify bird calls and the many medicinal uses of plants.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Ruaha has all the usual big game, and the team here take a very enthusiastic approach to finding it for you. There's also a tremendous depth of experience at this small, owner-run camp; it's the right choice if you're passionate about your experience and your game-viewing!See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Mwagusi welcomes children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions to stay at Mwagusi, but no children under 16 are allowed on guided walks.
Generally recommended for children: Expert Africa does not recommend Mwagusi for under 10s.
Notes: Although Mwagusi welcomes children of all ages, we would recommend the camp only for well-behaved, mature children over the age of about ten. Because of the dangerous game (on our last visit, elephants were often wandering through the camp), children need constant supervision by their parents.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: Mwagusi has a backup generator. There are no sockets in the rooms, so camera batteries and the like are charged in the office (cameras and phones take precedence over iPad and computer charging). The camp recommends that guests bring power-banks with them.
Communications: Airtel and Vodacom have good cell-phone reception at Mwagusi. The camp also has basic text-only email, which guests could use in cases of emergency, however there is no Wifi.
TV & radio: There are no TVs at Mwagusi
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All water is boiled and filtered for drinking, however bottled water is also supplied.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is first-aid equipment at the camp, and the guides have basic first-aid training, with the senior guide/guide instructor fully trained in first aid. For serious cases, the camp has links with the flying doctor service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are always escorted to and from their tents at night. Valuables should be stored with management if required.
Fire safety: Extinguishers are in each banda, and the riverbed acts as a natural fire-break. Fire safety inspections are carried out every three months.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included. It takes 24 hours and isn't suitable for delicate clothing, as it is all hand washed and coal ironed. Please note that as at many other camps in Africa, the team here will not wash women's underwear for cultural reasons.
Money: Mwagusi is unable to offer any form of currency exchange. There is a safe in the office.
Accepted payment on location: For payments of drinks and other extras, Mwagusi can only accept cash, preferably in US dollars or Tanzanian shillings. No credit cards are accepted.