The buffalo are skittish this morning. Clustered into a bunch, with the strongest bulls on guard along the perimeter, the herd shuffles toward the watering hole for a drink, then suddenly retreats, alarmed by some unseen adversary. Moments later, a second attempt is made, but again the potential danger prompts the group to bolt back to the relative safety of the savanna.
I witness this cautious dance with a morning beverage of my own, sipping coffee high above the watering hole, in a hidden observation deck nestled among the branches of a fever tree. Saitoti, my guide from Tanzania’s new Mwiba Lodge, explains that there are many reasons for the buffalo to hesitate, as predators often lie in wait near sources of water. At Mwiba, an eight-tent Legendary Expeditions camp in the southern Serengeti, guests have a few hiding places of their own.
Opened in August, Mwiba is set on a 125,000-acre private concession bordering Serengeti National Park. Legendary Expeditions’ exclusive claim to the land enables experiences that go beyond simple game drives, from walking and night safaris to covert viewings from one of the camp’s 12 specially constructed hideouts, including my tree house above the watering hole. “Being on safari here is all about the thrill of the adventure,” says Natasha Cornelius, a lodge manager. “We want our guests to take ownership of Mwiba, to shape every aspect of their safari experience from the moment they open their eyes in the morning.”
Linked by raised timber walkways, Mwiba’s canvas-and-wood structures poke out between giant granite boulders and ancient acacia trees on a kopje high above the Arugusinyai River. The tented suites—adorned with Persian rugs, tree-trunk tables, and copper lamps—offer ample opportunities for wildlife sightings from wraparound teak decks. Underground springs snake through the camp, attracting zebras and elephants year round, while an infinity-edge pool cantilevers over a gorge where it is not unusual to spot leopards and lions.
It is the vantage from Mwiba’s hidden tree house, however, that proves the most captivating: What was meant to be a brief stop at the watering hole ends up consuming most of my day. The buffalo, finally at ease, settle into the hole for a refreshing midmorning drink. Not long after, a family of zebras arrives with a herd of Thomson’s gazelles on their heels. Then, in the early afternoon, a troop of banded mongooses—more than 20 in all—sets up camp for a bath, seemingly unconcerned about any hidden dangers, or observers, in the trees.