Traversing the Great Ruaha

On our third day in Ruaha we decided drive along the Great Ruaha river. From our Mwagusi river camp it took us about 45 minutes to get down to the Great Ruaha river travelling through diverse landscapes.

“Make the rest of your life the best of your life.”~ Unknown

Driving down to the Great Ruaha river along the Mwagusi we found a pair of leopard cubs we had seen two days before. The smallest cub was the most cautious and was still high up in a tree, obviously a busy night before.

“The beauty of Ruaha lies in its vast and unspoilt wilderness. It is natural and wild, the way it should be. It fills your senses so you feel alive. ~ Mike Haworth

First light down near the Great Ruaha river. A female giraffe and her calf were quietly going about their business. They were still very wary of all the sights and sounds around them from the night before, a time when they could lose their advantage.

As you will see in the Maasai Mara and Serengeti, the balloons are busy first thing in the morning. Those wanting to go ballooning needed to get up around 4h30 to get transport to a suitable launch site. The cool temperatures early in the morning provide the perfect temperature differential to get the balloons easily airborne. They normally fly for about an hour and a half before the ground temperatures rise and it gets too hot.

In the early morning it is easy to discern where the balloons are, even if you cannot see them because their burners make a loud roaring sound, unmistakable in the bush! Once they are fired up and the balloon is rising, all is quiet. In the very early morning, the burners create a glow inside the balloon which lights up, creating another worldly sight.

Once down and adventuring along the Great Ruaha river we were looking for a pride of four lionesses which we heard had cubs. When we found them, the lions were out in the open and clearly very hungry. A few impala wandered past on the far sand bank which created some excitement because we thought a hunt was about to begin, but the opportunity evaporated. As soon as lionesses saw their potential prey they went into stealth mode, but the impala never came close enough for a successful attack.

While the lion hunt was unfolding we were visited by a pair of spur-winged lapwings. Red eyes, but wide awake!

This image of one of the four lionesses showed the muscular strength in her legs.

Our wanderings were always eclectic. One minute we were watching lions, the next minute we heard squawks from a nearby tree and there was a juvenile grey kestrel calling for attention and food.

Wildlife seem, better than humans, to understand the need for their offspring to learn to fend for themselves. They progressively wean them off the support, and they teach them all they need to know until they are fully functioning – natural wisdom and respect for the next generation!!!

A panorama of the Great Ruaha river from close to the picnic site at the confluence of the Great Ruaha river and the Mwagusi rivers.

Part of the reason why the three lionesses above the bank were so interested as the small group of impala rams wandered by, was that a female was in the river bed, but could she not see the impala.

One of the aspects about lions which always impresses me is when the opportunity for a hunt is either missed or just disappeared, there never seems to be any recriminations. Instead they reinforce their bonds with each other by head rubbing and licking each other.

By the time we had moved on from the lionesses, it was late morning and starting to get hot and the light was bright with strong contrast. Time to switch gear to high key images. We found a small family herd of Plains zebra on their way down to the river to drink. I liked the baobabs in the background.

“Strip out the colour and see the tones and detail.”~ Mike Haworth

In Ruaha you really get a sense of space – feel you can breathe deeply!

Later that afternoon we found our lionesses again, few kilometres down river. They were still on the look out for a meal which made us wonder how the cubs were getting on. By this time it must have been at least a day since they last saw the cubs.

“Everyone is willing to eat but few are willing to hunt!”

A portrait of one of the lionesses in the fading light of the afternoon. She was lying on the top of the nearest bank of the Great Ruaha river.

For me I can see the strength and wisdom in her face. She is clearly very hungry but alert, patient and not wasting energy.

The evening skies were darkened by storm clouds. The temperature was still warm, so it was balmy. This is a wonderful time to be in the bush when all your senses are enlivened.

” There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.”~ Edouard Manet

For a while we thought we were going to get wet, but the clouds dissipated, casting a mood over the landscape.

“I prefer living in colour.”~ David Hackney

By now it was getting dark and we needed to make our way back to camp which was still some distance away. When you are sitting in the game vehicle you almost have to pinch yourself because your are bathed in the beauty and light in this vast expanse.

When we got back to camp it was dark. After a quick freshen up we all gathered for dinner. This time it was in a different part of the river below the camp. The bonfire was blazing and the paraffin lamps were all around like fairy lights shining on the white river sand. Who said there wasn’t heaven on earth?

“The goal of life is to make your heart beat match the beat of of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”~ Joseph Campbell

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

2 thoughts on “Traversing the Great Ruaha

  1. Wonderful writing and photographs. Everything was great but I particularly liked the kestrel, the first zebra photo, and the three moody landscapes at the bottom. Thanks!

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