HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London through Africa.
It’s Kirsty behind the keyboard today.
When we first began planning our trip we made a Gotta-Go-There List. Ruaha National Park in Tanzania was on that list, so when we started driving in the direction of the park we were excited.
Our arrival was delayed when we found a patch of manicured grass at a campsite in Iringa. It was unimaginably nice to walk around bare foot on the green stuff. The camp’s English owner seemed intent on making us stay as long as possible – organising her workers to build us a huge fire, a Sunday roast lunch and the promise of free avocados. But after we did some chores – including a mammoth load of washing we set off to Ruaha.
From Iringa the road forked into two dirt tracks, a bumpy ride to the left and a smooth graded road to the right. We ended up experiencing both!
A few kilometres out of the park we were greeted by a swarm of Tsetse flies. These flies spread a sub-sahara African disease named ‘Sleeping Sickness’ and although the disease is just about wiped out, the quiet flies still pierce your skin and leave an itchy swollen patch. It was awful sitting in the Troopy with the windows rolled up spraying bug killer! But luckily the deeper we drove into the park they left us alone.
In the first hour driving through the park we saw nearly no wildlife. When this happens we usually pull out our in jokes, they go a little like this “No animals in this park!”, “Nope, no animals round ‘ere”, “F this sh!t”. Jokes aside after an hour we did start to worry ”Hmmm, I hope this isn’t a complete disaster”
Tanzania’s National Parks are the most expensive of our entire trip. Ruaha was $160 a day and the Serengeti up north was going to be $220 a day. We decided the best thing to do once we were in the park was to forget about the money, after all we knew what the costs were and had decided to come. But in the early moments when we saw no wildlife we did start thinking about it!
Luckily as we drove deeper into the park all of those thoughts were left behind. We soon saw huge numbers of elephants in large families, giraffe, and the biggest crocs ever.
:: Riverside Camp in Iringa + the best patch of grass we have enjoyed in a long time (we may have rolled around on it)
:: Our first wildlife spotted in the park
Ruaha was the first park where we were able to drive after sunset, so we planned to make the most of it and drove off on a big loop along the mighty Ruaha River. In amongst a forest we came across a huge lone bull elephant who entered the river. He splashed about and flicked his trunk in and out of the water spurting water metres into the air. The river was flowing so fast that it seemed to be getting the better of him. Eventually he let go and went with the flow and pulled himself out 100-metres downstream. He then started scratching his butt and looked like he had just had so much fun - surely that’s a smile on his face in the pic below?
A few minutes later we came across a family of elephants, including two babies and a rowdy adolescent. The teenager was intent on showing us who was boss. We now have some spectacular GoPro footage of him chasing us away! After looking at them for ages we eventually just wanted to pass – it was nearing sunset and turning around would mean a detour. But he completely bailed us up and we had to turn around! We got back to camp just as the last rays of light we falling dark and mammoth hippo head lurched out of the water and honked as if it welcomed us. I made the quickest vegetable curry I’ve ever made in my life, while Gareth kept an eye out.
:: Lone elephant bull swimming across the river
:: Getting swept up in the pull of the river. Gareth and I prepped to strip off to save him.
:: “I’m all good guys!”
:: “My butt helluva itchy though”
:: Bailed up by a family of elephants. And chased away multiple times by the adolescent.
:: Baby eley learning early how to strip the bark off the trees.
:: Home for the night
The next morning, out of our tent window we were treated to a sunrise over the river. Just before we turned on the car I spotted a family of elephants swimming across the river, it was magnificent, all I could do was point and say “G. Look!” Waking up to a scene like that is the stuff African Safari dreams are made of.
As the elephants approached our side of the river we drove off to see if we could find the exact spot where they were pulling themselves out of the water. It was in the same direction as we had heard lions roaring in the northern plains. We found the family – wet from head to toe – and once again we got bailed up by elephants! There was no passing this crew unless we wanted to put ourselves in danger so we again reversed. The beauty about a wild park like Ruaha is that the animals are not as used to cars as they are in a more visited park. In other parks we have felt relatively safe being close to elephants but these guys were being very defensive. It was a bit disheartening as I was sure the lions were further up the road. But of course Ruaha had a plan! Later that morning we spotted a dead lion in a river. Not the sighting we were hoping for, and quite upsetting. Then we crossed a river and went to the far Eastern side of the park. And a lion, enjoying the shade in the middle of the road.
This guy was so lazy that even when we came within patting distance he just raised his head and put it back down. We must have watched him for at least an hour. We edged closer and closer. He really didn’t want to move. But we really didn’t want to go back the way we had come. We were bailed up again!
Eventually we passed him so close that if I had put my hand out the window it would have been able to feel the scruff of his neck. At that point he decided it was best to stand up!
:: Sunrise view from camp
:: Lazy lion
:: Really lazy lion
:: Very close
:: Then he found us interesting and sniffed around our True Blue Outdoors rear bag!
:: Bailed up by a lion, then bailed up by a dodgy river crossing up ahead, so we had to cross him twice!
And just like that, we were completely satisfied with our time in Ruaha. The park itself is one of the most beautiful we have visited, especially at sunset. I have this particular image imprinted in my mind: driving towards camp with the sky glowing red, the rivers glistening, coming over a hill to see hundreds of elephants patterning the landscape.
Here are a few more photos of our time in Ruaha. Ohh, Ahh, Ruuu-ahh-ha.
As always thanks for being here guys. You rock nearly as much as Ruaha