I usually try to write safari blogs as soon as possible after getting back, otherwise it gets away from you and the memory fades into the beer soaked fog. But wow, where to start with the Voelker’s & Thomas', what an adventure we had!
This one was going to be special from the start. Gary & Janet got in touch with me and we struck up a friendship right away. This safari was to celebrate Gary & Janet’s 50th wedding anniversary, and for good measure they wanted to take their entire family on safari. That’s two children, two in laws and six grandchildren! What an incredible achievement and what a hell of a way to celebrate!
With two pilots in the group, day one started with much excitement about our Cessna Caravan flight to the Selous. Meanwhile I was much pleased at successfully moving twelve people through Dar es Salaam without anyone getting lost, left behind, misplaced or worse. Gary was super impressed with my lacklustre hippo impression, I told him not to worry as in the Selous he would be hearing all the hippos he could possibly want. So off we went and the descent over the Rufiji River was awesome as always, spotting giraffe, buffalos and crocodiles from the air.
We were staying at Sand River’s sister camp just downstream on the Rufiji River, Kiba Point. And everyone was suitably impressed by the location and their digs. It’s a lovely spot but Kiba is also a private camp so we had the run of the place and the freedom to make our own schedule with the team. So off we went for our first game drive, there was a great energy in the group and I was really energised by everyone’s excitement. We had the first sundowner of many next to Lake Tagalala with hippos blowing in the sunset. Good start.
On one rather long game drive we found our first lions, they were polite enough to raise their heads to look at us. On the same drive we also found some wild dogs, always really special. Out on the boats some of us were getting a little too close for comfort to the crocodiles and hippos, but everyone was agreed that sandbank sundowners are a winner. Some of us also got the taste for fishing, Selous style. Kurt caught a crocodile, Beck caught a nice catfish and I caught a tigerfish. Some extended fishing time was required to break Kurt’s duck while the rest of the gang hung out in camp. Unfortunately me a Beck caught some more fish, but ever the good sport, Kurt vowed to take on the Rufiji again one day and left with his head held high. His pride but never his mood was further dented the next day when sister Jenny caught a whopper two minutes after throwing a line in!
Eager to stretch the legs we set out for a bush walk not far from camp. Investigating the local flora and the local droppings we stopped at a tree lookout. Not a hundred yards on we spotted the back of a hippo on the edge of a swamp, what a bonus I thought as seeing big game on foot is always a treat. Next thing you know another big grey animal wonders through, an elephant! Two elephants, three elephants, five elephants! Now this is as good as it gets, especially in the Selous, where elephants have not been doing so great. With a calf in the group we had to move quickly and luckily a rocky hill presented itself as the perfect vantage point. We all watched in silence as the young family moved quietly below us.
Tough act to follow but off we went to Ruaha and with a warm waving welcome from the entire staff, everyone was straight away wowed by Ikuka camp and the view. The Selous Ruaha combination is always a great one and up on the escarpment overlooking the dry Mwagusi valley the contrast between Ikuka and Kiba couldn’t be better. We had the whole place to ourselves here as well. I was pleased with our elephants in Selous but I reassured everyone that elephant time would really start in Ruaha, and so we were indeed rewarded with lots of elephant interaction. We also had plenty of lions and even another good pack of wild dogs right by camp. Act followed.
After multiple evenings of setting the world to rights with drinks on the house, some of us were feeling the pace. But on the last day the kids wagon managed to find us some lions on a fresh kill, while the adults narrowly avoided a stampeding buffalo herd. We all met up for a bush breakfast amongst some mighty granite boulders to share stories. We finished up with one last sundowner, this time from a special spot high up on the hill above Ruaha and some no less special bubbly, only fitting for the occasion.
So a big thank you to Gary & Janet, the Voelker’s and the Thomas' for a really memorable safari. And of course to Kiba Point and Ikuka Safari Camp for looking after us so well. Janet I’ve been thinking you could get yourself a hippo or two instead of spending all day on that lawnmower of yours, what do you think!?
Check out some more trip reports and the safari camps mentioned here below.