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Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park’s very remoteness is perhaps its greatest charm. It remains untouched and after the Serengeti is Tanzania’s second largest park.

Fast Facts

Major Attractions
  • Granite kopjes
  • Balancing rocks
  • Large elephant aggregations in January and March
  • Huge buffalo herds
  • More than 500 bird species both endemic and migratory
  • Only park that is home to both lesser and greater kudu
Activities
  • Game drive
  • Walking safari
  • Cultural tour - Matemba vilage, Isimila archaeological site.
  • Aerial safari
  • Cycling safari
  • Bird watching
Size
  • Size: 20,200 sq km (12,546 sq miles), Tanzania's 2nd biggest park.
Location
  • Location: Central Tanzania, 128km (80 miles) west of Iringa. Ruaha National Park forms part of the southern circuit of Tanzania.

ABOUT

Ruaha National Park’s very remoteness is perhaps its greatest charm. It remains untouched and after the Serengeti is Tanzania’s second largest park. The Great Ruaha River nourishes the landscape, even in the dry season. The park is also known for the unique behaviour of its lions. Without wildebeest, their favourite prey, Ruaha’s lions take on larger animals like buffalo.

Ruaha remains the Africa of your imagination as there are very few tourists and even fewer cars. The solitude and sheer beauty of the park is breathtaking. In the wet season the park’s open areas of grassland take on an emerald green hue with a stunning backdrop provided by the  blue rolling hills that recede into the horizon.

The Great Ruaha River, which winds for 160kms along the parks southeastern boundary is fringed by tall acacia, tamarind and wild fig trees. Grotesque, yet simultaneously magnificent, baobab trees are common in the north of the park.

Ruaha boasts a high diversity of plants and animals including a high population of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, and some rare and endangered species of wild dog. The park serves as a watershed for both wildlife and human beings. This makes in economically significant as it supports agricultural activities down stream and contributes to  hydro electric power for the county of Mtera and Kidatu dams.

The great Ruaha River and other rivers like Mwagusis, Jongomero and Mzombe serve as the life line of the park. This is due to the fact that, during the dry season, these rivers become the major source of water for wildlife, however there are numerous natural springs that serve the same purpose.

In the peak of the dry season elephants obtain water from the dry sand rivers using their front feet and trunks. The remaining water pools along the Great Ruaha River are also important habitats for hippopotamus, fish and crocodiles.

WILDLIFE 

Ruaha National Park is known for its great concentration of elephants however, it is also a place where magnificent mammals like kudu(both lesser and greater), sable and roan antelopes can easily be spotted in miombo woodland. The male kudu have beautifully  spiraled horns while male sable antelopes have impressive curved horns. The park is also a habitat for endangered wild dogs. One of the most compelling sites in Africa is to witness a pack of African wild dogs, and Ruaha is one of the few parks where this elusive  and enigmatic animal is still reasonably common. Other animals in the park include lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, eland, impala, bat eared fox and jackals.

Apart from large animals the park also harbors crocodiles, poisonous and non poisonous snakes, monitor lizards, agama lizards and frogs. The Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers are presumably the most preferred habitat for crocodiles.

Ruaha boasts an impressive 540 bird species, which includes both migrants from within and outside of Africa. Migrating bird species from Europe, Asia, the Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. The recently annexed wetland in Usangu Basin is one of the countries Important Bird Areas(IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International.

GEOGRAPHY

The Great Rift Valley crosses the park. The escarpment wall along the western valley side is about 50-100m high in the north-eastern parts, increasing in height towards the southwest. It is considered that the valley of the Great Ruaha River is an extension of the Great Rift Valley, and the Ruaha flows for 160kms along the entire eastern boundary through the rugged gorges and open plains.

The parks vegetation is characterized by semi-arid type vegetation, baobab trees, acacia with combretum being the dominant species. The park is a transitional point of two vegetation zones, the Zambezian(characterized by Miombo vegetation) and Sudanian(characterized by Acacia vegetation).

Ruaha has a wide range of physical features from The Great Rift Valley, river systems, natural springs, wetlands, hot water springs, kopjes to the beautiful rolling hills and mountains.

The river system and watershed are of economical, social and ecological significance for the park itself and the country at large. Main rivers include Great Ruaha, Mzombe, Mdonya, Mwagusi and Jongomera.

Natural springs occur throughout the park and they are associated with the base of the western escarpment, most notably Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde and Majomoto springs. They are dry season refuges for wildlife when most of the rivers run dry.

The park has undulating land and hills. These act as kopjes providing an excellent habitat for animals such as klipspringer which can usually be seen in these hills.

CLIMATE

Ruaha has a bimodal pattern of rainfall. The short rain fall season is November through to February, while the long season is March through to April. The Park experiences its’ dry season between June and October.

The rainfall varies from an average of 520mm per annum at Msembe, the park headquarters, to more than 800mm per annum above the escarpment in the Miombo country. It falls during the months of November through to April.

The coolest month is July with a daytime maximum temperature of 30 degrees celsius dropping to 15 degrees celsius at night. Temperatures then rise until it starts raining in November or later.

WHEN TO VISIT

For predators and large mammals the dry season from May through to December is preferable. If you are interested in doing some  birdwatching in Ruaha, the wet season taking place between January through to April is recommended.

Accommodation at Ruaha National Park

Jongomero 2

Jongomero

Jongomero features spacious tents on wooden platforms overlooking the Ruaha River. These stylish tents feature polished wooden floors, a vast double bed, and an en-suite bathroom.

Kwihala Tented Camp2

Kwihala Tented Camp

Kwihala Camp is stylish and offers a high level of luxury and comfort without losing any sense that you are in the wilderness.

Mdonyo Old River Camp 5

Mdonyo Old River Camp

With just 11 twin or double bedded tents, all with en-suite out door facilities, Mdonya Old River is a small camp offering a personal service designed to each clients’ needs.

Mwagusi Camp4

Mwagusi Camp

There are 13 spacious tented rooms known as ‘bandas’, and each one is encased within a larger reed and thatch building.

RRL_new dining with hippos

Ruaha River Lodge

The lodges proximity to the Ruaha River provides ample opportunity to hear and see animals coming to drink at night.

Sunset Mountain Lodge 1

Sunset Mountain Lodge

All the lodge buildings are styled after traditional African village buildings and have their own particular ambience. Great care has been taken to ensure peace and tranquility for the guests.

Optional Activities in Ruaha National Park