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Asanja Ndembo – the most beautiful safari lodge in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania!

Going on a safari trip was our life long dream and we still can’t believe that it finally came true! We went on a safari to one of the best places in the world where you can experience the wildlife – Tanzania.

Some of you might know that Tanzania is home to 22 National Parks which covers approximately 15% of the land area. It is also home to the world’s most famous national park for safari – The Serengeti National Park.

Why did we choose to go to Ruaha National Park instead of the Serengeti you might ask? It was a hard decision but after a short research we found out that as Ruaha is not as well known as Serengeti, there are not so many tourists around and therefore your experience is much more private and authentic. And that’s something we always look for and love the most! And we were right! On our 8 days long trip we met other cars with other people only twice, so it basically felt like we were the only ones in the entire National Park at all times!

Another reason we chose to go to Ruaha National Park is the camp Asanja Ndembo. It is the most beautiful safari camp we have ever seen! It instantly stole our hearts! And so it was decided! Ruaha and Asanja Ndembo…we are coming for you!

ABOUT RUAHA NATIONAL PARK:

Ruaha national Park is now the largest national park of Tanzania covering more than 20 000 square kilometres. It is located in the south-central part of Tanzania and its name derived from the Great Ruaha River. It is one of the most untouched and unexplored ecosystem, making visitor have a rare safari experience away from all the crowds of other vehicles.

The park offers excellent wildlife viewing. It is particularly good for spotting predators, including very large prides of lions and the endangered wild dogs. Ruaha is home to almost 100 wild dogs. Elephants and a big variety of antelopes are another big draw to the park.

Ruaha has been formerly known for its large amount of elephant population. It had numbered 34 000 in Ruaha-Rungwa ecosystem in 2009, before declining to only 15 836 due to poaching. The 2018 census showed that the population had stabilised and started to increase again. At the moment there are more than 20 000 elephants in Ruaha National Park.

The park is also home to East African cheetah and lion, African leopard, spotted hyenna, giraffe, hippopotamus, African buffalo, sable antelope, gazelle, zebra, waterbuck, bushbuck, impala, lesser and greater kudu and other beautiful animals.

10% of the world’s lion population lives here and the park has been a lion conservation since 2005. One of the 6 places left in the world with population of lions over 1000.

With 571 species of birds, Ruaha is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The migrant birds fly here from all around Europe, Asia, Australia and Madagascar and they typically arrive here during February-April.

The park is characterised by semi-arid type of vegetation, baobab trees, Acacia and other species. There are over 1650 plant species that have been identified. The park is the transitional point of two vegetation zones, the Zambezian (characterised by Miombo vegetation) and Sudanian (characterised by Acacia vegetation).

The park can be reached by dirt road from Iringa (130km) or by flying to Msembe or Jongomero Airstrip from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Zanzibar or Selous. The flight is quite pricey but it saves you a lot of time considering that if you would like to drive from Dar es Salaam it takes around 12 hours.

Dry season starts from May and lasts until October while the wet season is from November to April. The best time to visit the park is during its dry months when the animals (especially predators) are easier to spot, however if you are a bird enthusiast, the best time to visit is during the wet season especially during February – April when there are lots of migrant birds. We believe that there is no “bad time” to visit Ruaha National Park, in fact next time we would love to visit it during wet season as everything turns green and it looks completely different! The temperature varies from 25-30 Celsius during the day and 12-17 Celsius at night all year round.

ABOUT ASANJA AFRICA AND THE “NDEMBO” CAMP:

Asanja Africa is a family business that at the moment operates on 3 luxury safari camps & lodges in Tanzania. Asanja Grumeti and Asanja Moru which are both in the Serengeti National Park and then the one we visited – Asanja Ndembo in the Ruaha National Park.

All 3 camps look incredible and we had a hard time choosing only one, but in the end we decided to stay at their Ndembo camp and we are so glad we did!

This beautiful and luxury safari camp is located in the very remote part of the Southern part of the Ruaha National Park. Its remoteness and peaceful and idyllic setting full of wilderness makes it a true hidden gem!

If you wonder where the name of the camp came from, Ndembo means elephant in the local “bantu hehe” language (of ethnic and linguistic group based in Iringa and Ruaha). Recent studies show, that there has been an increase in the population of elephants in the area, since the building of the camp, leading them to believe that the elephants that left In the past due to poaching are now making their way back as they feel secure and protected with the camp’s presence. Thus to honour their return, they felt privileged to name the camp after these mighty beings! 🙂

The camp has only 8 tented suites and can host only up to 16 people which sets itself apart from all the other big safari camps & lodges.

Each of the tented suites is 140 sq. m large and has a private terrace with a plunge pool. The tent itself was one of the highlights of our trip and it is the most unique and beautiful place we have ever stayed at!

The camp is built along the Great Ruaha River which makes it a perfect place to spot animals as they come to drink water from the river every day! Having animals roaming around your room is nothing unusual here!

HOW OUR TRIP WENT AND HOW YOU CAN PLAN YOURS:

Our trip started in Berlin from where we took the flight to Dar es Salaam with Qatar Airways transiting through Doha. We arrived to Dar es Salaam in the morning and decided to spend one night there as we wouldn’t have had enough time to catch the flight that took us on our safari on the same day. We stayed in Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar es Salaam Courtyard and we can highly recommend it! We spent the entire day chilling by the pool and recovering from our night flight.

The day after was finally the day that we couldn’t wait for – the day we left for the most incredible safari ever!

The best way to get to Ruaha National Park is by plane. The flights are available from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Zanzibar and Selous. The two airlines that operate these flights are Auric Air and the one that we flew with – Coastal Aviation. We flew from Dar es Salaam and our flight took around 2 hours. The flight itself was already a very exciting (and at times scary) experience as you fly on one of those tiny planes that has around 10 seats and you land directly in the middle of the savannah on one of the two airstrips – Jongomero or Msembe Airstrip.

As you are flying on such a small plane, you have some baggage restrictions – 15 kg per person which should be packed in a soft duffle bag (not a requirement but advised) which is placed in the hold of the plane and apart from that you can take on board a small backpack or a bag which weights no more than 5kg. The Asanja Ndembo camp offers complimentary laundry service so you don’t need so much clothes anyway.

After we landed in Jongomero Airstrip, the staff from our camp came to pick us up right outside the plane. Little did we know that as soon as you jump in the safari car and start driving towards the camp is already where your safari experience starts!

Two minutes into the drive and we have seen giraffes right next to our car crossing the road. That moment felt so unreal that tears started rolling down my face. We just still could’t believe it and then it hit us! “Wow we really are on a Safari!”.

After a short drive we arrived at the camp where we got a very warm welcome by the most kind staff giving us cold towels to wash out the sweat and refresh our skin and a welcome drink what would soon become our favourite juice ever, watermelon juice!

Prosper, the camp manger, showed us around the main area of the camp where there is a common swimming pool, the dining and lounge area, the fire pit and an incredible view of the savannah facing the Ruaha River. As we already said there are only 8 tents disposed one after the other along the river linked by a walking path that connects all the parts of the camp. He also explained us how the camp works and told us the main rules, because you always have to keep in mind that you are in the middle of the bush with wild animals all around, so of course there are some guidelines you have to respect to safeguard your safety and the safety of the animals.

During the day it is safe to walk around the camp by yourself (never outside of the camp) however after dark you are not allowed to walk around by yourself, but only with a park ranger. In the evening they escort you to your room where you stay until the morning. If you need anything during the night, there is a whistle in your room which you can use to call and one of the rangers will come to you.

After this introduction he took us to our tent.

Everything is designed as open space in a beautiful luxury safari style. The room is an hybrid between a bungalow and a tent because the roof and the entrance side are made of walls of cement and the front and sides are completely open. It just closes with a zip mosquito net at night but other than that it’s always everything opened. You really fully blend in with the nature as you have it wide open in front of you. I think I never slept so good like I slept there!

Describing it is such an hard task, because there are no words good enough to describe how incredible and special it is. You just have to experience it yourself to actually understand how mind-blowing and crazy it is!

These tents have everything you need… AND MORE. A bedroom with a king size bed, a bathroom with a double sink, toilet, a huge bathtub and an outside shower, everything facing the beautiful open savannah.

Outside the tent, there is the terrace with your own private plunge pool, lounge chairs and a dining table with chairs.

All the tents are facing the river so you get an amazing view and you can see animals while chilling in the pool, lying in bed, brushing your teeth or even sitting on the toilet! How crazy is that right?!

Another highlight of our Asanja experience was the food! The stay comes with all inclusive and the chef prepares delicious meals every day starting with a rich breakfast and a three-course meal for lunch and dinner. IT WAS THE BEST PLACE WE HAVE EVER EATEN AT! We are travelling a lot and we visited countless hotels and restaurants and we have never eaten more delicious and high end food like here! Every single day without one mistake. What is the most impressive part of it is that you are in the most remote place in the middle of the savannah and everything that was served to us was FRESH and TOP QUALITY! Our biggest compliments to the chef!

EXPERIENCES AND ACTIVITIES:

ROMANTIC DINNER SETUP

As we are talking about food, Asanja Ndembo has the most beautiful and romantic dinner setup next to the river. The table is set under a small “wooden stick” structure full of lanterns facing the river with the sunset view! Another “pinch me please if this is real” experience.

BONFIRE FIRE PIT

Next to the beautiful dinner spot there is also a fire pit where they set up a bonfire every night. It is a perfect place to enjoy some drinks at sunset while sharing all your amazing moments, memories and stories with your loved ones!

GAME DRIVE

A proper game drive is most likely the No 1 thing anyone wants to do on a safari and we really did enjoy ours! Driving in an open vehicle while spotting the animals all around you is truly unforgettable! We have seen so many animals that I can’t even count. Stopping the car every few meters and watching them in their habitat was priceless for us! We even went on a night game drive which was a totally different experience and so unique! The main reason we went on a night safari was that we were looking for some cats that are easier to spot at night! We were lucky enough to have stumbled upon 2 lionesses with 2 cubs and a few minutes after a pair of leopards.

The guides are highly trained and professional so they know where to look for the animals. I remember our first game drive, when the guide asked us: “So which animals would you like to see today?”. And I didn’t know what to answer because I was thinking that nobody knows where these animals are, you just have to drive and be lucky but after all the talking to the guides I understood that animals are staying in very specific areas for many reasons like for example the food they eat, the places they enjoy to stay at etc which makes it easier to know where to look for them. The guides are also trackers and they can track down animals when they see their dung or tracks.

WALKING SAFARI

The walking safari was something that we couldn’t imagine going on before we planned our trip! The only thing we could think of was just how dangerous it is! But once we arrived there, we felt differently. You start to see and understand that none of those animals actually cares about you unless YOU try to endanger them or go beyond their comfort zone. During our week of safari, we spent countless hours by talking to the rangers and guides. We quickly started to understand the beauty of the wildlife ecosystem! There is obviously a chance that you will encounter with animals during your walking safari and that’s totally okay. Just don’t freak out and listen to your guide. They spent years and years studying the behaviour of animals and they know exactly what to do. We went on 2 walking safaris during our stay and we met quite a few animals and it was an amazing experience that we can highly recommend. One of our most favourite moments of our trip happened during our walking safari when we watched elephants at sunset taking their last sip of water from the river before going to sleep for the night. We will remember this moment forever! Our walking safari was also something like a “wildlife class” because the guides explained us everything about not only animals but also about trees and plants we were passing across, how to recognise the dung of animals, everything about the big and small five and much more. We had time to notice and focus on things that you usually don’t notice during game drives.

SUNDOWNER

Some of you might already know that watching sunrises and sunsets is our favourite activity so we were really looking forward to have a sundowner in the bush. Basically what it’s all about is that you go on your afternoon game drive and you finish it off by having some drinks and snacks in the bush while watching the sunset. A perfect ending to your game drive before heading back to the camp!

BREAKFAST/LUNCH IN THE BUSH

A truly unique experience that we had was having the sunrise breakfast in the bush! The staff set up the table for us and some friends we met in the camp on top of the hill facing the sunrise. It was incredible! We really enjoyed it to the fullest. Just sitting there watching sunrise, eating some delicious breakfast while chatting with friends and having wild animals roaming around was truly unforgettable for us! The same you can do also for lunch if you would like, just keep in mind it gets very hot during the day under the sun.

PRICES

The price of a safari can be a bit confusing to many of you so I will try my best to explain everything you will have to pay for during your safari.

We obviously had to get to Tanzania so we took the flight from Berlin to Dar es Salaam with Qatar Airways and it cost us 650 USD. This is quite irrelevant as all of you are going to come from another part of the world but I will still mention it.

To get to Ruaha National Park we took another flight from Dar es Salaam which cost us around 650 USD for a return ticket. It is not the cheapest option but definitely the fastest and most comfortable one. If you decide to drive from Dar es Salaam it will take around 12h but it’s cheaper (not sure how much).

To enter any National Park you need to pay two fees:

A park fee which in Ruaha National Park is 30 USD and a concession fee which is 40 USD. So the total amount of 70 USD/day is paid to the Ruaha National Park (no matter which camp/lodge you are staying at). The price varies from one National Park to the other but compared to the Serengeti National Park where the total entry amount is 140 USD, Ruaha National Park is much cheaper. The camp will ask for the permission on your behalf and you will pay the entry fees upfront via bank transfer.

After that you pay your stay at the camp. For the most accurate calculation please contact booking@asanjaafrica.com as it depends on the amount of people, game drives you want to do etc.

To roughly have an idea, Asanja Ndembo cost around 750 USD/person/day INCLUDING EVERYTHING (EVEN PARK FEES), game drives, meals and drinks.

So to break it down it is:

680 USD/person/day (accommodation, meals, game drives with Asanja Ndembo) + 70 USD/person/day (park fee, concession fee).

FINAL WORDS:

Our safari trip with Asanja Africa was hands down the best trip of our lives which means a lot as we travel so much! We were truly moved and we feel like it has changed us in a way! We are not the same people we were before…in a good way! What started as a “Once in a lifetime experience” quickly became “WE HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN” experience. We highly recommend to do your safari with Asanja Africa and at the most beautiful Ndembo camp as we can guarantee you the best possible and most luxury service and experience that you will never forget!

ASANTE SANA (thank you very much) ASANJA NDEMBO! 🙂

IF YOU WANT TO SEE MUCH MORE…

We highly recommend you to go check out our instagram @borntotraveldiaries where we shared the best moments of our trip, all the animals we stumbled upon on and especially all the videos we couldn’t share on this blog post. Check out our story highlights Safari and Safari II and also the videos/reels and pictures on our feed.

Check out also a very active instagram profile of Asanja Africa @asanjaafrica where they share everything about all 3 of their camps!

Their website: https://www.asanjaafrica.com

We hope this blog post was helpful to you and you are gonna have a great time staying at Asanja Ndembo luxury safari camp. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries. Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂

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