Due to unseasonably early, heavy rains and the water-logged Siwandu airstrip we flew into Mtemere airstrip rather than Siwandu airstrip (which is a 10-minute drive from camp). The 1.5-hour transfer from Mtemere meant we started our Siwandu stay with an unanticipated, longer game drive. Elephant, giraffe, a pride of lions and TWO different packs of wild dog later and we arrived into Siwandu. Talk about a strong start! Knowing how special wild dog sightings are, we all felt incredibly privileged to get to sit with two separate packs just minutes from one another. Our guide explained that this is actually very rare, as their territory is so large that these two packs would not be hanging around so close to one another for much longer.
Siwandu is split into two camps – North (4 rooms) and South Camp (6 rooms). This design offers flexibility if a group wants to have an exclusive-use camp but also that the guest's experience is very small and intimate at Siwandu. We were in South Camp, with our tents spaced far apart for real privacy. The large octagonal tent flowed onto a vast decked area where one could sit and watch over Lake Nzerakera and its inhabitants. Watching hippos grazing right outside my tent in the early morning was a very special way to wake up.
It was suggested that we come to lunch armed with our cameras which I thought was an unusual request for a meal time! When we met at the dining area we were escorted down to the water and onto a pontoon boat, I understood the reason for the camera request. Tucking into our delicious lunch, (complete with crocodile-shaped fresh bread) whilst floating on the water, as hippos flicked their ears at us and crocodiles slithered into the water, was an experience none of us will ever forget. With the sun shining down and lush, green bush surrounding the lake I could see why this was so often one of the guest's highlights at Siwandu.
In the afternoon half the group went off in search of the wild dogs, hoping to catch some hunting action. Whilst they weren’t ready to hunt, they were very content sitting and observing the dogs playing with their pups.
The rest of the group went on a blissful water safari. At one point there were more than 30 crocodiles in and some out of the water, while vultures swooped down we saw a carcass being fought over on the bank. We sat for a while watching the crocodiles, feeling quite shocked at how many emerge when there is a dead antelope to fight over.
Sipping our sundowners, watching the sun disappear over the horizon, we all agreed what a different safari dimension the water-based experience offered in camp.
The following morning most of us wanted to head out on a bush walk. As we all wanted a good long walk to burn off the delicious food we had been devouring, we decided to go for around 3 hours, this is of course adaptable to fitness and energy levels. We saw giraffe, water buffalo, kudu, wildebeest and plenty of birds. At one point we were stood in clearing with at least 50 bee-eaters swooping down all around us to collect termites – what a very special start to the day.
The walk culminated with a surprise of a well-earned, three-course bush breakfast on the banks of the lake. In the afternoon the groups from the previous day swapped and those of us who went out on the boat headed off on a game drive, we then met up for a picturesque sundowner on the shores of Lake Siwandu. The setting was perfect and we were all sad to leave this stunning camp – though so excited to see what the Ruaha and Jongomero had in store for us.