|Friday 7th September - Tanzania - Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is a large park on the edge of the Great Ruaha river. The river used to flow all year round but, because of water-use upstream, the river in the park now dries up for months at a time during the dry season. This massive ecological change has occurred just since the late 90s.
Apart from Rhino, Ruaha can boast just about all the game you can think of. It is home to thousands of elephants, a healthy population of wild dogs (which are very rare elsewhere) and large numbers of lions. Our hosts back at Peponi and again at Riverside had encouraged us to visit Ruaha so today we set off for the park.
The road was quite rough and took about 3 hours. We stayed at Chugela Campsite, about 10km from the park boundary. The camp was recommended to us by Riverside Campsite and it was very good clean, with hot showers and a friendly manager who looked after us very well.
We went for an afternoon game drive in the park for a couple of hours and saw hippos, crocodiles, elephants, kudus, impalas, giraffes. Ruaha has beautifully varied terrain, with a big river and several prominent hills. This makes it a lovely place to drive through, whether you are seeing animals or not.
When we arrived back at Chugela Camp the table was set and our dinner was ready, so we sat down to eat. Our forks were poised with the promise of a first mouthful but then we all stopped to listen to scurrying and scampering in the roof above us. Looking up we saw 4 or 5 large mice running along the rafter a few feet above our heads. Keziah has got quite interested in wildlife during this holiday, so to her the mice were just another type of animal to see. She was sitting opposite Andrew, pointing to the rafter above his head and saying Look, hes right there, just there. Hes got a cute little white nose. Just then the manager came up and Keziah pointed out the mice. His response was Oh no, theyre not mice. They are just rats. Great. That makes me feel a whole lot happier.
Weve not seen many rodents during our holiday. Way back in Sudan we once had a little shrew-type thing that visited our camping area after the girls were in bed. On another occasion in Sudan we crossed the Nile by ferry and we saw lots of big rats alongside the road down to the river. The rats we saw today are actually thicket rats not nearly as bad as the typical image of a rat. I suppose thicket rats just come as part of the package the climate, bush and thatched roofs make them unavoidable. All the same, Id rather not have them peering over my dinner plate.
After dinner our host set up a campfire for us and, with the girls in bed, we sipped a glass of wine under a gloriously starry sky.