Out with the old, and into the wild with the new: an experience
I asked my friends who have never been on safari, or never even really thought about it, what kind of accommodation they thought people would stay in. Answers were pretty wide ranging... One said they would expect to be moving between camp sites every day, the other said a “fancy-lodge-hut” (questionable), and the other said, “well, it’s a bit like glamping at Glastonbury isn’t it?”. It is true that all of these styles of lodging are available on safari, and pretty much everything in between, but I don ’t think any of them realised just quite how luxurious it can get in the very remote corners of the African wilderness.
Africa is in fact home to some of the most luxurious hideaways in the world. One of my favourite luxury lodges I have ever stayed at is the beautiful Jabali Ridge in Ruaha National Park. Owned by Asilia Africa, they really do know how to treat their guests, and this is one of their new flagship properties (and so it should be - it is PIMP)
If you aren’t convinced, see my shoddy quality but equally (if I do say so myself) magical piccie below…
Jabali was my first stop in Ruaha, and I was mesmerised by everything; the sheer variety of wildlife; cheetah, lion, elephants and buffalo for DAYS, and yet, some how there was not another vehicle to be seen - no clouds of burnt red earth being kicked up by frantic trucks; just me and my guide (who was excellent). Why? My only guess is that when people think of Tanzania they automatically think of the stars of the north; the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti and so flock there and automatically overlook the southern parks of Ruaha and the Selous.
After spotting endless wildlife on the short transfer to camp, we eventually arrived and I was already in love with the park. The pictures I had seen and the information I had read on Jabali did not prepare me for my two nights there. On arrival, the lovely manager greeted me and we had lunch. I happened to mention that if I see another bowl of soup, I might vomit (soup is a very popular starter on safari, and the fact this was around 20 days into my trip, coupled with years of grandma’s “special leek and potato recipe” made me truly sick of the stuff. Though, if I had known, I would have bit my tongue… To my utter embarrassment, at dinner time the starters came out ( safaris are a very communal experience), and whilst everyone had what I’m sure was a truly delicious leek and potato soup, I got Camembert in breadcrumbs… RESULT! No seriously though, I felt awful but also incredibly impressed by how much the staff and managers at Jabali look after their guests… But still, a little embarrassing!
En route to my room, winding around the Kjopes as the lodge does, you feel like a little excitable hyrax returning home from a day in the wilds of Ruaha. But obviously, you aren’t… But thank god I am human I thought, because that lunch was banging. “I’ll be seeing you later” I did not say (thank god) but thought as we passed the infinity pool with views over the baobab peppered leafy mystery that is the park below — after 20 nights in tented accommodation a bit of luxury was an extremely welcome sight.
On entering my room, I didn’t quite realise how much luxury this was. I ventured out onto my private deck, had a smoke and just listened to the sounds of the bush around me. Nowhere I have ever stayed has felt quite so wild as Ruaha — I cannot stressed this enough. I thought, as it’s rather hot, and, hey, I’ve been on flights today and everything, I would have a nice mid day Kilimanjaro (local beer), so I did this and simply continued to sit, watch and listen.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Safaris are loved most by people who are torn between their love for adventure, and their laziness (me). It’s why I love fishing — essentially, all you are doing is standing on a bank, smoking and drinking beer, but with your line in the water at least something could happen. It’s like safaris — you can be sitting outside your room, smoking, drinking and thinking of food, then you may get eaten. I’m joking, but you could spot a lion in the distance or you may hear wild dogs call, or see a tail swishing in a tree. The possibility of unique experience on a safari is what keeps me going back again and again, and nowhere I’ve ever been seems as unpredictable and unmanned as Ruaha. I absolutely love it… Did I mention I loved it? Well I did.
As night drew in, so did vibrant colours in the sky, and it was truly gorgeous (as with any African sunset I think I have ever seen). The silence, yet unmistakable bush soundscape echoed into the night and I felt completely alone yet absolutely taken care of in one of the most rural parks in the world. Falling asleep, I felt very happy reflecting on my day, until I heard what sounded very much like a lion’s roar, and remembered that Ruaha is home to 10% of the whole world’s lion population. I felt slightly less sleepy, but eventually drifted off with the faint rustling of activity always in the back of my mind.
Ruaha is a truly raw and wild part of the world and Jabali Ridge really is a hidden gem. I think if you will excuse the cliche, you may just believe me. But don’t tell too many people! Let’s keep Tanzania’s best kept secret, still a bit of a secret… Sshhhh. Sh.