Originally set up by a couple of lion researchers, Mdonya Old River Camp is owned and run by Essential Destinations. This company prides itself on providing a range of eco-friendly properties across Tanzania. Sister camp to YZ favourite Lake Manze Camp in the Selous Game Reserve, Mdonya Old River also offers outstanding value! The accommodation is booked on a full-board basis, including all meals and bottled water.
ACCESS & LOCATION:
The camp is usually accessed via road transfer from Msembe Airstrip. It has a beautiful location in the central region of Ruaha, surrounded by acacia woodland.
ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES:
There are just 12 guest tents, all constructed using natural and safari-green canvas. Each is Meru style – an outer layer of canvas extends well over the inner structure, to form a shady veranda. The veranda is surprisingly spacious, and part of it can be used to provide an extra twin bedroom for children if need be. It’s set with campaign chairs and a table – as with Lake Manze in the Selous, Mdonya attracts big game all the way into camp, so you can enjoy views of local lion and elephant as well as of the spectacular scenery! Inside, each tent has a double bed or twin beds, bedside lighting, a writing desk and chair, a storage unit, and a couple of mats on the canvas floor. The en-suite facilities, found at the back of the tent, comprise flush toilet, washbasin in a stand with mirror over, and classic bucket shower! The focus is simplicity rather than luxury, with Mdonya reconfirming the fact that you just need a few essentials for a great safari.
Mdonya’s lounge and dining areas occupy one tent apiece. Both are open sided, for the best sightings of wildlife! In the lounge tent, wood-framed well-cushioned sofas and chairs are positioned around coffee tables strewn with reading material. There’s a shelf of books too, as well as a tea-and-coffee station. The dining tent contains a couple of long tables flanked by campaign chairs – this is where everyone eats together, although dinner is usually enjoyed al fresco around the campfire. As you might expect, the food here is hearty rather than haute cuisine, but it’s seriously tasty and very satisfying too! The camp’s atmosphere is brilliant in the evening, with travellers gathering around the fire to share their safari stories. There’s also a gift shop, effectively a stand displaying traditional clothing, jewellery, curio items, and postcards. You can also buy a handy map of Ruaha, with all costs going to the park’s fund for conservation.
The camp specialises in game drives, and there’s also an activity we like to call armchair safaris – take a seat in the lounge tent or on your veranda, get the binocs out, and simply marvel at all the wildlife! As well as lion and elephant, you might spot leopard, giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu, and dikdik, a dwarf antelope species. However, the best sightings tend to take place while on game drives, especially in the area east of Msembe. Every drive involves two expert guides – one to drive and one to look out for wildlife. There’s loads to see in Ruaha! Big cats are particularly prevalent, and there are huge herds of elephant and buffalo. Numerous smaller mammals abound, including cheetah, serval, caracal, wild dog, wildebeest, and an astonishing amount of antelopes. Keen birders can look out for over six hundred types of feathery friend! The park contains a broad mix of habitats, which accounts for its wealth of wildlife. Drives are available during early morning and late afternoon, and also as a full-day trip complete with picnic lunch. If you want to make a really early start, you can tuck in to a bush breakfast too!