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Marine lady turns bush baby

When Rob Barbour asked me whether I wanted to spend a week at our camp in Ruaha there wasn’t a doubt in my mind – I had to go – I had heard so many wonderful stories about this untamed piece of Tanzania and even the name conjured up mystical wilderness with a whisper of danger.  So I left my island paradise of Chole Mjini and headed via Dar es Salaam to Msembe Airstrip.    The flight in itself was an absolute delight – after leaving the urban sites of Dar, vast green plains spread out below us, uncultivated and undisturbed, followed by rugged mountain ranges and finally the sight of the Great Ruaha River flowing across sand bars.  We dropped passengers off at Jongomero first and then the 10 minute flight to Msembe, following this great river, was a true Robert Redford / Dennis Finch-Hatton experience – seeing Africa from the sky – grazing treetops while scattering game from their shaded slumber - it was magical and a heavenly start to my week at the National Park.

My time at Kigelia camp was wonderful – I could wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the delightful simplicity of being a visitor in nature, the changing colours of the landscape but I feel I might lose you as readers so I’ll just tell you two of my highlights.  The first one came Day Two – it was mid-afternoon and I was in my tent when trumpeting and crashing shrubs sounded around me – I edged forward on the bed and peered through the canvas onto the sand river below and there were 3 adult elephants and the tiniest of babies grazing and digging for water in the sand.  Merely 30ft from my bed and I could have watched them for hours, especially the little one who was cavorting on the ground, playing with his trunk and obviously embarrassing his Mum…It was amazing to see these phenomenal creatures up close – a pure delight.

The other highlight I want to touch on and will always stay with me was a dawn game drive with our experienced guides, Raffa and Amos.  On my last day we woke up at 5.30am and filled the car with warm blankets and hot coffee, because by jove, in comparison to Chole it was freezing – I thought I was back in the UK again!  We saw so much during this solitary drive (we did not pass one other vehicle) - I could reel off a list of animals which would make any zoologist jealous; giraffes, including a large group of over forty with several babies, kudu, jackel, rollers, rock hyrax, giant buffalo, impala, huge herds of elephant, zebra, eagles, mongoose and two very sleepy lions who were merely 4ft away from the vehicle and I will never forget the gold of that lady’s eyes watching me.  But even through all those fantastic experiences, the one that will stick in my mind is when we stopped at the brow of the hill just as the sun, a ball of fire, rose in the tinted sky – wow – deep red – flooding light over this phenomenal vista – picture perfect with rolling hills, majestic baobabs, wispy grasses and tagalala trees with dikdiks scampering, giraffes nodding for leaves and me with a cup of coffee, under a blanket wondering how did life get this good.

Lyndsey Fair, Chole Mjini Lodge Manager

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