Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park

This is one of Tanzania’s least accessible parks and as such it is totally untouched and remains one of Tanzania’s most exciting game reserves. One of the best Tanzania’s best kept wildlife secrets is the Ruaha National Park. Previous inaccessibility ensured it remain virtually unchanged for centuries, unaffected by ravages of mankind. Ruaha, the second largest (after the Serengeti) of Tanzania’s varied National parks, with its dramatic geography is truly a vast unspoilt wilderness of some 10,300 sq km. It is part of an enormous expanse of protected land-the 30,000 sq km Rungwa-Kisigo-Ruaha ecosystem, most of which made up the Saba Game Reserve in former German Colonial times. Ruaha is also interesting as it represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of fauna and flora overlap. The Ruaha river runs through spectacular gorges and twists past majestic trees, which makes Ruaha park especially appealing to those who wish to take great photographs.

Main features:

The shining river after which the park is named, winds through the eastern section, fringed by tall trees: Acacia albida, Tamarind and Wild figs, as well as the majestic Baobab, almost a signature of Ruaha. The valley of the Great Ruaha River is thought to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley and the Ruaha flows along the Park’s entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.

A rich diversity of animal and plant life is sheltered by the Park:  hauntingly beautiful and wild landscape of miombo forest, rolling woodlands, hills, rivers and plains and possesses a great variety of wildlife, most of the big games; lion, leopard, cheetah, hunting dog, warthog, giraffe, zebra, huge herds of buffalo and large concentrations of elephant. It is the only East Africa Park where it is possible to see the greater and lesser kudu, as well as sable and roan antelopes; and Grants gazelles. Whilst rhinos are rarely seen today, the elephant population has more than doubled in the last dozen years, not least due to steady eradication of poaching, but involving the village communities around the park in a largely successful joint effort that has become an example (MBOMIPA).

The diversity of bird life in Ruaha, more than any other East African park, is extraordinary; its geographical location meaning that it is visited by both northern and southern migrants. These include the Red-billed Wood Hoopoe, Violet-crested Turaco, Racquet-tailed Roller, Red-billed Fire finch, Dickinson’s Kestrel and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Some 480 species of bird have been sighted within the Park and the first third of the year, during the wet months, is appreciated as the most interesting for birders. Eurasian migrants flock to Ruaha twice a year –March to April and October to November-joining the resident bird species such as kingfishers, hornbills, sunbirds, egrets and plovers. As nearly as large as the Serengeti, and it is a birdwatcher’s paradise, as there are 350 species of bird that are not found in northern Tanzania parks.

Activities and Special Interests: Bird watching, photography, walking safaris, and game viewing from a vehicle (4×4 WD). Day walks or hiking safaris through untouched bush. Visit to Stone age ruins at Isimila, 120 km (75 miles)  from Iringa town  and one of Africa’s most important historical sites .

When to visit:

Ruaha is interesting all year round and there are climatic variations, not least owing to global warning and the El Nino phenomenon. However June to October is the ‘Yellow season’; when game is most visible because the grass is shorter and the animals come to the Great Ruaha River to drink. November and December are hot, and the short rains make the climate more humid, though these certainly do not preclude a visit. January and February are predominantly hot and dry but again a good time to visit. March and April are wet and movement around the park can be a little more difficult and May is usually very wet and is the time when most camps will be closed. Conclusively for predators and large mammals, dry season (mid-May-December); bird-watching, lush scenery and wildflowers, wet season (January-April). The male greater kudu is most visible in June, the breeding season.


Ruaha is accessible by both air from Dar es Salaam, Selous, Serengeti, Arusha, Iringa and Mbeya. Year-round road access through Iringa from Dar es Salaam (about 10 hours) via Mikumi or from Arusha via Dodoma. Back

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