Katavi Wilderness Camp delivered the ultimate safari experience, a pristine African environment unchanged for millennia, teeming with game and mine alone. The camp was an intimate enclave of comfort and gracious hospitality deep within the Katavi National Park, in the far western reaches of Tanzania. It took determination to reach Katavi, its main link to the 21st century being a twice-weekly light airplane connection with the Ruaha National Park. Road travel, for the daring souls who might consider it, was assessed in days. Which explains why despite its reputation for pristine wilderness and exceptional game viewing the 1,7270 square mile (4,471 square kilometer) park, the third largest in the country, only receives a few hundred visitors per year. The privilege of being one of them was obvious to me by the time I reached the camp.
Strung along the rocky bank of the river that gave it its name, Ruaha River Lodge was one of only a handful of permanent accommodations within the rugged immensity of the Ruaha National Park, in the highlands of central Tanzania. The 3,980 square mile (10,300 square kilometer) park is the second largest in the country after the Serengeti. It is reputed for its craggy scenery as well as the abundance and variety of the species that can be found there. Yet visitors are relatively few so that the park retains a great wilderness atmosphere.
Stretched along a bluff overlooking the Rufiji River at the especially scenic eastern tip of the famed Selous Game Reserve in southeast Tanzania, the Rufiji River Camp delivered an outstanding variety of game viewing opportunities. First identified as a protected area over a century ago, Selous expanded over time to become the largest faunal reserve in Africa. In 1982, it was designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its wildlife concentration and diversity and its undisturbed environment. The profusion of wildlife was obvious even as I made my way from the airstrip, turning the relatively short distance to the camp into an extended game drive.
A two hour morning flight from Ruaha National Park on a Cessna 13-seat plane found us at the Mtemere airstrip, a half hour’s boat ride from Selous Impala Camp. Musa our guide for the duration of our stay, and a boat driver greeted us at the airstrip. After brief introductions and the customary jambo greeting in Swahili we walked to the small motor boat on the Rufiji River banks on which we made our way to camp.
It was marvelous to be in the Grumeti Reserves in the famous Serengeti, miles from anywhere, and enjoy a new and handsome, well appointed world class spa offering on site and in suite treatment options at the Sasakwa Lodge and nearby Sabora Plains Tented Camp. We enjoyed excellent deep tissue massages, a facial and a couple’s treatment that left us walking on air.
We found Jongomero, named for the He He tribe’s word zongomero which means great wilderness, in a remote corner of Ruaha National Park, one of Tanzania’s fenceless parks dedicated exclusively to game viewing. Described as the “ultimate wilderness” by property manager Greg du Toit, the small luxury tented camp was perched on the edge of the Sand River. Since there were no other camps for many miles, Jongomero guests enjoyed almost exclusive access to that part of Ruaha.