Reviews of Ruaha River Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Excellent value for money
I must say that Ruaha grew on me - the setting of the River Lodge made an immediate impression of course (even better than Selous Impala) but the Park was a slow burner. Maybe it was because it took a very bumpy 45 minutes or so drive before we got to more interesting terrain, but the more time we spent going further afield the more I realised how beautiful the place was and that this was how I had imagined Africa to be - some of the views were amazing and went on forever!
The wildlife/birdlife didn't disappoint either. Whilst it didn't have the large herds of zebra and wildebeest, there was still plenty going on - particularly impressive were the buffalo herds, the elephants, lions and our first sightings in the wild of leopards. Our guides were excellent (although sometimes hard to understand) and very flexible - particularly in seeking out the leopards we so badly wanted to see. After returning from a full day drive at 4pm they were happy to go out again at 5.30pm to see if a leopard had returned to a tree where it had stashed an impala. Nothing was too much trouble.
With regard to the River Lodge, the location is beautiful, the cottages are excellent and the atmosphere is relaxed. As per your description, the food was wholesome and plentiful rather than inspiring and maybe some of the staff could be a little more friendly, but overall the camp is excellent value for money - 3 star rather than 5. We were lucky in that the lodge was fairly quiet in terms of visitor numbers and we received a more personal service than I suspect we might otherwise have done.
Having said that there seemed to be a lack of flexibility regarding game drives, i.e. one day we wanted to do a morning and an afternoon drive, but were more or less obliged to do a full day drive as 'everybody else was going on full day drives'. As it happened it was an excellent day, but it would be nice to have a choice. Overall though we really enjoyed Ruaha and the River Lodge - it is certainly worth doing at least one all day drive to get the best out of it, but even if you spend an afternoon or morning walking around the lodge grounds there is still plenty to enjoy.
Ruaha River Lodge - What a Place!
I travelled with my brother and we shared a banda with twin beds for four nights.
We had seen photographs and read reviews of River Lodge but nothing prepared us for the sheer beauty of this wonderful camp! The location on the flowing Ruaha River is simply stunning. The individual bandas and the lower restaurant are set on the river whilst the top dining area gives a panoramic view. The climb to the top is very steep (there are plenty of hand rails) but is well worth it and we were glad that the lower dining area was closed for our first two days as it "forced" us to enjoy the view with our excellent meals! At night, we were collected from our banda by Masaai who escorted everyone to the restaurant. I shall never forget the line of people huffing and puffing their way to the top of the hill illuminated by torches with Masaai walking effortlessly in front and behind us! Awesome!
The bandas are huge, tastefully decorated, clean and very comfortable. All rooms have a double and a single bed attractively covered with mosquito nets. We particularly liked the sofa area where we could relax after the evening meal before "lights out" at 10.30. We were lulled to sleep by the grunts of the hippos and the babbling river. We enjoyed the large verandah from where we could watch elephants, crocs, zebra, waterbuck, giraffe, impala etc coming down to drink. A couple of comfy loungers would have been nice although the directors' chairs made sure you didn't miss anything! The company of geckos and small lizards was a real bonus!
We thought the food at River Lodge was excellent and we liked the buffet style lunch and evening meal. There was plenty of choice and my nut allergy was scrupulously taken care of. The staff were attentive and friendly without being intrusive. River Lodge is not a fussy camp - you don't get your bed turned back whilst you are at dinner and you don't have you glass filled up every two minutes - and we liked the camp all the more for that.
Josephate was our private guide and he was wonderful. We had booked a private guide and we were very glad we had as the camp was busy and other guests were sharing jeeps. Having already been on two trips, we wanted to spend more time observing animals that we came across rather than going off in search of them. We spent about an hour watching a leopard that was just sitting by the road and we had a similarly long time with lions and elephants. Josephate was very patient with us and so knowledgeable about all the creatures we saw. His bird-spotting skills are second to none!
Overall our stay at River Lodge was superb. It had everything we wanted - location, views, varied scenery and wonderful animals in and around the camp. Saying goodbye to the lovely Metta, the camp manager and her new assistant, Caitlin was a real wrench. We would return without a second's thought!
Best game safari at Ruaha
Ruaha National park had by far the most game to see in terms of different species. Elephant in abundance and looking at the tree damage possibly too many, but I'm sure others are looking into this matter, particularly as other parts (Selous) have lost 65% of their elephant in the last 7 years. Lion, leopard, cheetah, many antelope and an array too many to detail, the park has a great depth in game.
The fact that it is a national park does present some challenges viewing some of the game because of the strict rules, for example, driving off track. Lion under a tree 200 yards away look ok to the naked eye but unless you have professional camera equipment good shots can be difficult. This did not prove to be a major problem, just a little disappointing and we do not blame the guides for observing the rules considering the heavy fines.
The camp itself is a fabulous location alongside the river which provided great morning and evening viewing over mealtimes. Elephant and antelope were regular visitors as were baboons and much of the great bird life.
The new open restaurant area was a great success although the area split into two does break up some of the networking between guests. Clearly this a question of logistics, the big plus of the new design is more people can be served simultaneously which makes good sense.
The facilities were all excellent, great rooms and everything worked as one would hope in such a remote location. The staff were also excellent but noticeably younger than those at Rufiji, however this we saw as a positive in terms of expanding the knowledge base into the next generation. As mentioned earlier, all the staff were brilliant and the team effort at Ruaha reflects the considerable managerial skills by Karen and the senior team.
The Massai night guards earned their money on a couple of occasions chasing out bull elephants so we could return to our Bandas.
Great time at Ruaha River Lodge
From the moment we were picked up at the airstrip to the time we left, everything was very well organised.
The game drives were excellent. We had Josephad as our guide and he was amazing, both with regard to spotting all the animals and birds, and his knowledge. I absolutely loved the location of the lodge, especially being able to go up to the lounge area on returning from a long day out, and being able to watch the hippos, elephants and giraffe while writing up the day's diary.
Beautiful site on Ruaha river
A great place to stay in Ruaha National Park, with a really beautiful setting on the Ruaha River.
Lots to see from the veranda and dining area. Manager and staff were very welcoming and helpful. Setting promotes interaction among the guests.
Guiding on game drives was outstanding. I visiting early in the season (early June) and the place was not at all crowded, but the number of visitors was obviously building. A great place to stay, with no particular negatives. Bandas were very nice, comfortable, and secure.
Electricity was available during the hours of darkness, which was quite adequate.
Ruaha River Lodge review
- Friendly staff.
- Accommodation spacious and clean, pretty location.
- Some game drives felt a bit rushed but generally good.
- Picnics worried us slightly - food not chilled and was stored in plastic containers which were hot and sweaty by lunchtime. We did have upset stomachs one night which I'm sure was as a result of this.
- Lack of electricity was quite annoying 6pm - 10pm.
- More comfortable chairs/loungers to sit on balcony would be good.
- Food generally good - plentiful and lots of vegetables
Great wildlife at Ruaha
Ruaha River Lodge was the first stop on out trip and it was a great place to start. The game drives were excellent - even on the short drive from the airstrip to the camp we saw giraffe, elephant, impala, baboons, zebra and more! The terrain is Ruaha is quite varied with rivers, bush and plains, which means that you see a wide variety of wildlife. All the wildlife is quite used to having cars pull up next to them which means that you can get quite close, which is great for pictures. We saw four of the 'big five' (rhino excluded) on our stay here, as well as hippos, crocs, jackals, eagles and much more.
The lodge itself is very nice. It's not a luxury camp but the rooms are large and spacious with hot showers at night and flushing toilets.
The buffet-style food was very good and all the staff were really helpful and friendly. All-in-all it was a great start to out trip.
Ruaha River Lodge review
Spacious bandas in a fantastic location on the Ruaha river - great for verandah safaris! The restaurant up on the kopie is spectacular as was the BBQ by candlelight on the banks of the river.
The game drives were fantastic - particularly the full day drives as the greatest game densities were quite far afield. Also particularly recommend the game walk along the river.
Ruaha River Lodge review
OK, this camp stay started out very well. I was gobsmacked just arriving to that location! First time I've sensed a location description being understated in a tour companies marketing! It is amazingly situated, straight on to the river, and with a free 180 degree panorama view. The game is really coming down to drink just outside your banda or the large, open lounge.
The game drivers here were excellent. Not so charming maybe, as our guy in Selous, but these guys had years of experience (and were helpful and friendly). Two different ones found a leopard in a tree (we still don't know how he could spot it), while the other tracked down a lion by following its paw prints on a dirt road.
Although managment seemed very professional, they gave off an odd atmosphere, the guy being incredibly chatty, but without any warmth, the woman seeming increasingly bored and you could sense how she walked around the tables and said "how are you" out of shere necessity.
The big issue in Rhuaha though was the food. We both agreed it was mainly on par with school canteens, given the odd potato side dish a higher score. For me, it was also an issue with the "no meat" issue. Whereas Selous always had one meat and one fish option on their menu, Ruaha never had. It was always two meats and side vegetables. A few times there was a (tinned) tuna pasta salad (which was just tinned tuna, pasta and a handful of sweetcorns, nothing else). Only ones did I get a "specially" prepared vegetarian substitution – when my son had both minced meat and chicken, I got a boiled egg, halved and dotted with mustard... All other meals I was assumed to eat the rice/potato and the side vegetables/salads. Nothing else. For the last evening – when there was a Saturday bbq – I thought they would have got me a fish to be bbq-ed. To my great astonishment, there wasn't anything else than the rice and the bbq sauce for me to eat. At that point I lost patience with the food policy and raised the issue with the (male) manager. He seemed to take on my criticism and said he'd talk to "Peter" (the owner, I believe, who was present at the site).
I expressed I felt I had been left with the side vegetables although I had been paying full price. I would accept if they couldn't meet my nutritional need, but would expect a discount. I did expect this issue to be brought up the following morning, at our departure and paying of bills etc. But neither the manager, nor the owner was present, and the office clerk said nothing of the matter. I guess I would have thought that a gesture towards some of the drinks cost or something would have fine enough. But now I do feel I would like Expert Africa's help to have at least some compensation.
My feeling is, this could have been a marvellous place. With an improvement of the food and managment skills it would be!
Expert Africa comments
Ruaha River Lodge is really a mid-range option in Ruaha National Park: it aims to be simple and good value – and we’re particularly pleased that the game drives were so good. (Some of the guides here have worked with the lodge team for almost 3 decades!)
However, the River Lodge is one of the less costly lodges in Ruaha and, as this review demonstrates … travellers shouldn’t expect its food or service to be quite up to the high standards of other lodges (which cost half as much again)!
We put this traveller’s comments on food to the lodge team, who have spoken to the cooks. They comment that there are always vegetarian elements for lunch and dinner – and for the Saturday bar-b-que, the menu included rice, ratatoule, stuffed tomatoes, a vegetable salad, a normal salad and onion rings. The manager at the time, Jaap, did apologise that there was no fish cooked – which was clearly a lapse. We’re sure that after this comment to them, it won’t happen again.
The lodge also comments that any temporary lapse in imagination in the food may have been because the lodge’s top chefs were away, attending a month-long chef course, with European instructors, which started on the 1st November. We hope this bodes well for the future of this camp’s food!