Ruaha National Park – vast, wild and dramatic
Ruaha National Park, in the south of Tanzania, is the country’s second largest park. It possesses a rich variety of wildlife. This including lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, giraffe, zebra and huge herds of buffalo and elephant. Rolling hills, baobabs and open bushveld border the wide Great Ruaha River.
Ruaha is in an ecological transition zone with thick bush contrasting with wide open plains. This attracts a wide diversity of game. Including buffalo, zebra, Defassa water-buck, impala, giraffe and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. Roan and sable antelope roam the Miombo woodland. Also prominent is Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu (often seen in the north of the park). The lion prides are often large whilst the open plain is ideal terrain for cheetahs. Wild dog are also well-represented here. In testament to its floral diversity, Ruaha boasts over 570 birding species. Goliath herons, saddle-billed storks, white-backed night heron and white-headed plovers can be seen along the rivers. Migrant birds swell the numbers from mid-November to March.
The valley of the Great Ruaha River is said to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley. Its watershed and the other river systems are hugely important to the reserve. Indeed, the name ‘Ruaha’ is a corruption of the local word for river.
Peak season in Ruaha National Park is from mid-May to December. This is the best time to see general game and predators. The period of short rains from December to February then melds into the longer rains of March and April. Birding and wild flowers is best in this green season.
Where to stay in Ruaha
Despite the haunting beauty and abundance of game in Ruaha National Park, the remoteness and its comparative inaccessibility have meant that the Ruaha has been one of the wildest and least visited parks in Tanzania. Seasoned safari enthusiasts and those who value unspoilt wilderness will find a Ruaha safari appealing. There are only a handful of Ruaha lodges and camps. Most are luxury tented camps such as Mdonya Old River, Kwihala and the delightful Mwagusi Safari Camp. Jongomero Camp is set far apart from the others. As is the unpretentious and enduringly popular Ruaha River Lodge. A number of the Ruaha lodges offer excellent walking safaris.