A wild and remote paradise for nature lovers…
Location: Southern Tanzania, Africa
Good for: Wildlife, flora and Fauna, an intimate safari in luxury surroundings.
When to go: This tented camp is closed in April and May at the height of the rain cycle. Anytime of year has its benefits here as Jongomero camp is located on the banks of the Ruaha River which provides plenty of viewing opportunities whether it is in full flow or not.
June through November are drier and cooler although the later in the season the warmer it gets, you will also find there are potentially fewer insects at this time of year. The wildlife in the drier season could also be easier to see as there is less foliage and a higher concentration of animals around water sources. Benefits of the wet season are the abundance of insects, which in turn means more birdlife and reptile activity as well as the delights of a lush and green surroundings. we visited in September, which was lovely and warm through the day (a little cooler in the evening due to the position West of the Southern Highlands).
|Family group of Elephant in the Ruaha reserve, by the road
Cost: This is not a budget trip, but it is exceptionally good value for money. The food is marvelous and plentiful, prepared daily by the chefs and served to a standard that you could expect is any good hotel. While you are at the camp all of your food is included, as is water, tea and coffee. There are plenty of other drinks available but these are excluded and are payable. There is also an invaluable laundry service, which will get your clothes back to you the same day or next day, which is also included. You get two game drives per day of your stay with a highly qualified guide/driver. If you want a private drive then an additional fee applies but there are only four seats in the vehicles, so even when shared, the game drives are still intimate. The cost varies depending on the season, but a rough guide could be £1,000 – £1,500 for a 4 night stay. This would include your internal transfers to and from the local airstrip and again, depending on the time of year, you may also be able to get the cost of the air transfer from Dar es Salaam. Private game drives are an added cost of approximately $250 dollars (for two in a day). If you are booking this camp as part of a pre-planned itinerary you may find costs will be reduced.
Flights and travel: Flights by small, light aircraft will fly you in from: Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Zanzibar, Selous or Mafia, to the very local (5 mins by car) Jongomero airstrip. at a transfer time of between 1.5 and 2.5 hours – which is actually a very pleasant part of the journey.You may find that the aircraft you board will have stops along the way which might increase your travel time a little.
|Vervet monkeys catching the last of the rays in Ruaha reserve
Time difference: 2 hours ahead of the UK.
Jongomero Camp: The camp itself is set along the banks of the Ruaha River, which is a wide, although rarely full river. In September the river was dry, although due to the water table, the water was still there 1m below the earth enabling the animals with the know-how, to dig and drink as required.
It is a particularly picturesque camp, with 8 superbly private, riverside tented lodges and a central lounge, bar and restaurant area. All of the tented lodges have a thatched over structure which means they blend seamlessly into their surroundings. There is also a small pool area with shade and sunbeds.
The camp is compact and you will find everything you need, close at hand. The central areas are spacious and sumptuous, with rich fabrics and chunky wooden furniture to sink into after a full day of wildlife spotting. Tall ceilings and open spaes make you feel like you are really living outdoors, but with all the comforts you would want around you.
|The fantastic tented rooms at Jongomero camp – really lovely
The raised tents are just as gorgeous, with huge wooden beds, large verandas, kitted out with seating and daybeds and a large open plan bathroom. There is no shortage of Space here. All of the tents come equipped with toiletries, moisturiser, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap. You are also provided with robes, towels and drinking water in a cool, insulated flask.
Even eating here feels like a special event, with every meal unique, from the location it’s served in, to the menu itself. You may eat at the riverside or in the roofed restaurant area, or if the river bed is dry, you may find your table set in the riverbed, lit by lanterns and a bonfire.
But, regardless of all of the above comforts and of course the idyllic location, it is the team that truly makes this place special. From the guards that escort you to and from your tent at night, to the chefs and waiters who cook and serve your food, all are welcoming and friendly, ensuring that you immediately feel right at home. The managers during our visit were Chris and Sam, who made a great team. They were always on hand to help and organise and really dis go out of their way to make sure you were happy – as did all of the team there. There is a very ‘family like’ atmosphere here and it really does make this place special.
The guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, passionate about what they do and keen to make every drive you take, a special one. Our guide Kim, spent extra time with us explaining the local birdlife and was happy to do so – something we really appreciated.
An added bonus is that Jongomero is so beautifully isolated that you are extremely unlikely to see another vehicle in the park and if you do, the chances are that is is from jongomero! I have never experienced such peaceful game drives. There are several tented camps in Ruaha, but most are in the north of the park and Jongomero sits alone in the south.
|River, teeming with animals and birds
Wildlife: Well, where to start: of the big five we saw: Elephant (lots), Lion (several), Leopard (one) and buffalo (masses). There are no rhino here sadly, but there are both greater and lesser Kudu, Genet (cats) Zebra, Giraffe, Water buck, Bush buck, Mongoose (dwarf, banded and slender), Yellow baboons, Vervet monkeys, Jackals, Bat eared fox… seriously I could go on. Trust me, there is a huge amount of wildlife to see and the terrain is breathtakingly beautiful. The birds here are spectacular and it becomes a real challenge to tick them all off the spotting list which is provided in your room.
The only negative and it really is the only negative I can think of is the number of Tsetse fly in Ruaha National Park. They are a bit of a pain, but the vehicles do burn elephant dung (the smoke deters the fly), which is actually not an unpleasant smell and they provide you with a fly ‘whisk’ to swat away the invaders. Deet doesn’t seem to do much to the tsetse appetite, but apparently Dettol (so I hear after the event!) can be quite effective – not sure if you apply a diluted solution to skin or just have a stinky Dettol soaked hanky…
What to take: Take earthy and neutral colours (Tsetse are attracted to blue, black and other dark colours).Other vital accessories include:
• A good torch, powerful but lightweight.
• Zip off trousers (mornings start cool but it can get very hot).
• Camera and plenty of memory cards!
• A fleece (the mornings and evenings can be quite cool here).
• Mossie repellent (Avon Skin So Soft is what I use).
• After bite cream (one with a numbing agent is quite good to stop bites itching).
• Hand sanitising lotion is handy for when you are out and about.
• If you are going in the wet season, a light waterproof and a dry sack for your equip is useful.
• Take a strip of antihistamine tablets, they are good if you get insect bites.
• Sun protection, despite being under cover you will be in the sun a fair bit.
ollars for tipping (only take dollars minted after 2006)
The vehicles are covered so hats aren’t really needed unless you do a walking safari.
|The adorable Dikdik in the Ruha reserve bush
What to expect: Expect to be blown away by the wilderness and enchanted by this wonderful gem of a camp.
Expect visitations in the night, the elephants are frequent night time visitors and can often be right by your tent, as well as other nocturnal creatures, so expect to have broken sleep, but trust me it is worth it when you see a bull elephant munching the undergrowth by your bathroom window!
You won’t get that much down time between game drives and meal times, although the pool area is lovely for a dip and a spot of camp wildlife watching (you will see lots in and around the camp itself). Don’t expect to have the time to read much you will be way too distracted by the wildlife all around you to concentrate on a book for long.
This camp runs a communal tipping system, which enables you to tip everyone at the same time, even the people you won’t necessarily see. Your travel agent may offer you some guidance on this, but if not, the camp information in your room provides a rough rule of thumb. Your game drives guides are excluded form this, so remember to tip them separately.
Any costs detailed here are based on information at the time of writing – and are purely for guidance.