Reviews of Mwagusi Safari Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
View to a kill
At first site this is a large camp, but you immediately feel at home, the staff are friendly and helpful.
Kimberley and Rianne were great hosts and Samson was an enthuastic guide.
The highlight of the stay was the seven hours spent watching a cheetah with two cubs, making 5 failed attenmpts stalking and hunting impala, before finally making a kill less than 300m away - truely widescreen viewing.
Mwagusi Safari Camp review
This was our next stop after having been at Selous. The landscape was quite different - more open , hotter.
The camp was excellent. The location overlooking a dried river bed was interesting - with elephants, jackal , monkeys wandering around ( and lion ).
The game viewing turned out to be even better than we had had in Selous. On our first drive , we made a rapid detour to see a leopard , photogenically perched in a tree. We then came across a large pride of lions, over 20 strong. On our second day , we encountered a mother cheetah with 2 cubs. Our guide ( Samson ) was sure it was hunting and we watched as it attempted on about 5 occasions to run down impala. This took some time and the camp brought out a packed lunch for us so that we could continue to watch. Just as it looked as if the cheetah would never succeed, it pursued and dragged down an impala - a grisly lunch for the cubs , right in front of us. All this goes to show is that the guiding here was excellent.
The accommodation was very comfortable. Each night , dinner was held a short distance from the camp , under the stars and next to a roaring fire. On the second night it was not only the fire that was roaring. We were dining in the dry sandy river bed and over coffee suddenly heard loud growling . The camp manager ( Rian ? - big South African - excellent) flashed his light to reveal about 6 lions prowling and looking straight at us about 75 yards away. We were very calmly ushered back to the camp , where the same lions , and the rest of the 20 strong pride were to wander through during the night, with very loud roaring. I was impressed with the professionalism of the staff. It sounds scary, but we didn't feel in danger and it was all rather exciting !
Mwagusi - full of character
One can feel that Mwagusi has grown over the decades as an owner-run camp, loads of character and and owner Chris makes an excellent host with plenty of stories to tell after over 20 years in Ruaha.
The best feature of the bandas may well be the sunken corner with big cushions - a great spot to relax and watch the action down in the sand river. Not that there wasn't plenty of wildlife outside the camp - guiding was excellent and one really noticed that each guide knows the different areas of the park very well.
In general, we really enjoyed the fact that Ruaha has such a varied landscape - everything from plains to wooded hills or rocky kopjes can be seen in good day's drive.
Dinner at Mwagusi is a real occassion - the camp has three different locations along (and in) the sand river which are lovingly decorated for dinner, making for a very special experience. While there were some issues around quantity at lunch, the food was fresh and of excellent quality.
Mwagusi Camp review
thank you annabelle and charlotte you are great. also sampson and moses and our super banda attendant.
what happens when the girls leave at the end of the season?:
Mwagusi Camp review
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Mwagusi, but overall we found the bandas very dark, you needed at least one more light in the bedroom area and probably more in the "wet" area - it was impossible to shave with the available light.
The size of the banda overall was amazing and the "entertainment" area which opened out on to the river bank was absolutely amazing - especially the double swing.
The public dining area was great and the concept of pre-prandial drinks round the camp fire led to convivial evenings.
The staff at the camp were excellent but were eclipsed by the brilliance of our guide who knew absolutely everything about absolutely everything to do with the park.
Mwagusi Camp review
As activities we only went on Game drive. There were two incidents that we were disatisfied with. One morning there was a confusion about which guests were going in which Jeep for the game drive, this led to a delay of 45 minutes which was annoying since we got up very early in the morning to have an early morning game drive.
The second disappointment was that one afternoon we saw a Leopard hiding in the bush, it had caught an Impala and was hiding from us and waiting to go to it's food. We knew that the Leopard wasn't going to move as long as we were close by, the guide said that we should come back early tomorrow morning and see if the Leopard has gone up a tree with the Impala.
Thrilled and excited about this we went up bright and early the next morning only to find that we did not have the same guide to take us to the leopard, our guide from the evening before had explain where the leopard ought to be but still the new guide didn't get it right, no comment was made why we didn't receive the same guide as the night before.
Apart from that we always enjoy and appreciate it when the owner is also living in the camp, it adds alot of feeling and personality to the atmosphere.
Mwagusi Camp review
Everywhere was very green and the area is beautiful and Ruaha has become my favourite place in Africa to date.
The guides were the best that I have come accross in my 12 or more safaris. Each guide had a driver/spotter and between them, they seemed to see everything. We were allocated to a vehicle each day and therefore we had 4 different guides over the 5 days. I did not like this idea at first but now I think it is good to experience the skills of diffent guides.
There were 4 large prides of lion numbering 14 or more in each pride. Good lion sightings were a daily event during my 5 nights there. We had an amazing sighting of 2 leopards in a tree followed by one of them climbing into a large tree where it stood for 20 minutes before we left it alone.
It was rare to see another vehicle and any of the game drives.
There was a large population of elephant which produced some of the best sightings that I have experienced.
I saw 4 wild dog, Klipspringer and Lesser Kudu for the first time.
The variety of birds was excellent which kept us busy identifying well over 100 species.
The packed breakfast was poor for a camp of this quality but it did not spoil the long morning drives.
It has become my favourite place and I must return to see the dry season when more large game are likely to come down to the river.
Mwagusi Camp review
Difficult to rate Mwagusi accurately because some parts were excellent but the Management was appalling.
The food was excellent and the guides were the best we encountered on the trip. The rooms were very nice and very spacious but in view of the number of biting insects around it was disappointing that the bathrooms were not protected from flying insects. The bathrooms had a potentially dangerous step and the solar heating did not seem to work well for the hot water.
We arrived in a cloudburst. We had to carry our own bags from the plane and while other groups were met with waterproofs and a closed in vehicle our vehicle was completely open and we and our luggage was only protected by black plastic sheets. The assistant manager who met the vehicle was very patronising (he was on a holiday job) and did not introduce himself until we asked him who he was.
The manager had an ear infection and appeared after a day and once again failed to introduce himself and was very resistant to making conversation. No one asked us what game drives or walks we would like to do and we were just bundled into a vehicle with other people. There was no mention of a gamewalk (which we had requested before we left the UK) (and we didn`t press it, because the weather was a bit unpredictable). When we gave batteries in to be charged they were returned 24 hours later uncharged and when we left, no member of management was there to see us off or to ask if we had a good time. The vehicle arrived 20 minutes late to take us to the airstrip (but every cloud has a silver lining because on the way to the plane a leopard crossed the track right in front of us!).
Overall, we felt that the camp was not run for the benefit of the guests and we felt that we were a bit of a nuisance. Other people staying at the camp shared our disappointment and on the flight we met 2 people who stayed at Jongomero - they had stayed at Mwagusi the year before and vowed not to go back because of the unpleasant atmosphere.
The laundry did not come back very clean.
It was a pity because in many respects it was an excellent experience and Ruaha is a beautiful Park.
Expert Africa comments
The team at Mwagusi commented on this feedback in detail. They wrote:
“We're very indeed sorry that these travellers didn't enjoy their stay with us; we take comments like this very seriously, and do our best to learn from them.
Unfortunately, their arrival coincided with our first heavy rains. As is normal all over Africa, this coincides with the hatching of lots of insects. At this time, especially, we suggest that guests switch off their lights when they come to supper. If this doesn’t happen, then they’ll often find many insects in the bathroom when they return. (Our tents, containing the beds, are separate and are sprayed every evening against insects.)
We are grateful for the comments about the bathroom step; we are now arranging to paint the edge of all of our steps for next season. The reason for a lower level in the bathroom is to prevent shower water from splashing into the dressing area.
I’m sorry that we didn’t know that the solar heating for the shower not working, as we could have explained the situation and resolved the problem immediately. We have a back-up hot water system, for any overcast days. In this instance, a calcified non-return valve interfered with the flow of hot water, and was immediately replaced.
We apologise about the situation at the airstrip. All of our staff are instructed to assist guests with their luggage whenever possible. Our driver and guide seem to have had a misunderstanding at the airstrip about which guests were coming to Mwagusi, and this confusion meant that they didn’t help as they should have.
Our vehicles do have side flaps, for times of heavy rain. We also cover the seats and luggage with plastic sheeting, and providing plastic sheeting for guests to cover themselves, if they’re unlucky enough to be caught in the rain.
These guests did arrive in heavy rain and because of this Adrian (our assistant manager) rushed them quickly to their Banda, without the usual formal introduction of himself. Once there, Adrian gave them our informative welcome speech, which emphasises safety, and perhaps they felt that this was patronising. The availability of walks is part of this talk, and these are also mentioned in the ‘welcome folders’ in each Banda. We’re sorry if somehow these travellers felt that we were rushing them, or somehow uninterested in them.
Riaan (the manager) did have a serious ear infection, and was in town seeing the Doctor when these travellers arrived. He returned the following night, but was unable join dinner. He finally introduced himself at lunch the following day, and also mentioned to guests that, due to his ear problem, he was having trouble hearing. I’m sorry if this seemed rude.
At Mwagusi we do our best to charge guests’ electrical items in camp, prioritising camera and video batteries. I think that the item that these travellers are referring to was a Nintendo DS game system. We did have trouble charging this; Adrian mentioned to them that perhaps there was a loose connection. I’m sorry that they were upset that we couldn’t charge this for them.
We greatly appreciate feedback like this from guests after their stay with us. However, it is even better for us, and for the travellers’ comfort during their stay, if issues can be mentioned to us at the time, when they occur. That way we have the opportunity to resolve them promptly, without any continuing unhappiness."
A fantastic introduction to Africa
We had a wonderful time at Mwagusi and could not fault it. This was our first time on safari and in Africa. Charlotte and her team made us feel very welcome and immediately relaxed. It was such a peaceful camp in terms of human activity, with any noise coming only from the wildlife. We loved watching animals come and go from the dry river bed outside our banda. Although the days were quite structured (as seemingly with any safari), the emphasis was on what we wanted to do. I imagine that the fact that it was low season with very few guests may have helped. What really shone through was people's enthusiasm for Ruaha and the wildlife.
Guiding: The guiding was the best that we experienced. Our guide was Daniel and his spotting and knowledge was amazing. We will never forget the 2 separate leopard sightings and the sandgrouse that Daniel identified from their flight pattern when they were miles away before we saw them close up to know that he was spot on. We learnt so much and had some fantastic sightings. It was particularly good to have a separate guide and driver (thanks Moses).
People: All staff at the camp were friendly and polite. Nothing was too much trouble. Waiters in the UK could certainly learn a lot from the Mwagusi team who were efficient and helpful! The housekeeping staff kept our banda immaculate.
Accommodation: Our tent under the thatched banda was great. The verandah, tent and bathroom were kept spotlessly clean. In fact, the housekeeping was some of the best and most thorough we had experienced anywhere in the world. The bandas were much smarter and more polished than we had expected having seen the photos on the website. The laundry service worked really well and was very welcome as we had packed light. Despite all the interesting animal noises at night, I had some of the best sleep ever!
Food: The food was much better than we had expected, bearing in mind the remoteness of the camp. We enjoyed breakfasts in the bush on each drive with Daniel and Moses always taking us somewhere different. The cinnamon rolls were delicious and we thought the breakfast selection was good. As we were eating so much for other meals, we did not need a big breakfast. Lunch, afternoon tea/cakes and dinners were consistently good. There was a good selection and it always seemed very freshly prepared. The vegetable dishes were particularly tasty. Eating dinner under the stars in different locations around camp was a great experience.
Excellent, authentic safari experience
A fantastic first safari experience.
Comfortable banda accomodation - dotted spaciously along the dry river bed. Even though they are quite open, with daybeds & a hammock & the bathroom outside, it felt really private with bush separating each banda. The openness has the added advantage of making you feel very close to nature- waking up to see the animal parade which unfolds in front of you (or the munching of elephants eating the banda itself!).
We experienced really good quality guiding from Joffray- a real advantage of having a driver plus a guide was that the guide could concentrate on spotting. On several occasions there were quite long drives with few animals spotted before coming to another area where there was a greater density. Thought that the driving was careful and in-tune with guests wishes - allowing plenty of time for photos etc.
Meals were very sociable - especially of an evening, meeting around the campfire. It was a really relaxed, welcoming atmosphere - and Chris's willingness to share some of his stories and years of experience added to the experience. The variable locations and the beautiful set-up made each night memorable.
As others have written, drinks were an additional expense and it would have been nice to have had an idea of the cost (e.g. a price list in the room information) or just paid a little extra per day & have had them all included. As it was - our drinks bill for 3 nights for 2 people (a couple of beers per person per day) was about US $100.
One comment about the tipping - there was no 'staff box' in the office where the bill was settled - and the tip (which I had separated from the final drinks bill) was just tucked into the top pocket of one of the camp managers with the money for the drinks. It didn't give me any confidence that it would be shared out with the guides or other staff - rather that it was a handsome tip for one person.
Expert Africa comments
We are glad to hear that Mwagusi is keeping up with its reputation for good guiding and service, though the issue over tipping was of immediate concern to us. We contacted Mwagusi straight away and have been able to clarify the tipping procedure. They replied swiftly:
“Thank you for forwarding all the feedback for the whole season. Its very useful for us to see what guests have felt about their stay with us, however I feel the need for the first time to respond regarding one comment about tips below. I am upset to think that the guests have the impression that we 'pocket' the tips ourselves and I would be most grateful if you could pass onto them that they must be assured all tips received by guests in camp are logged individually and then tallied up at the end of the season and shared out amongst all our staff.
I can confirm that the tip from these travellers of $63 has been included in this amount. We inform staff of tips as they are received so that they can see they are doing well. We have a bush office here and rather than walzing around with a wad of cash in our hands in front of staff, it is more sensible to remove cash from wandering eyes, hence, we usually put it in our pockets to transport it to the office where it gets logged and goes into the safe.
Having a tip box is not a bad idea and many camps have it, but I might ask the question of who empties the tip box when the guests have left!”
From this, we’re confident that tips are being treated correctly. However, we have commented to the Mwagusi team that whilst it’s important that tips are correctly handled, it’s also vital that they are seen to be correctly handled.
Some camps use a ‘dual key’ system for tip boxes, with one key held by the manager, and one held by the ‘elder’ of the staff; this is a system that we’ve warmly recommended to them.