Ruaha National Park is the second largest national park in East Africa and one of Tanzania’s greatest notable wilderness areas. The Park has a total area of 20,226 square kilometres and is located in central Tanzania. It consists of Zambian Miombo, acacia woodlands, swamps, Riverine forests, and savannah vegetation, and all of these provide habitat for a wide range of mammals and birds. The Great Ruaha River, rolling hills, rocky escarpments, and vast open plains dotted with the iconic African Baobab trees make up Tanzania’s largest National Park (about 20,226 square kilometres in size). Ruaha is in a unique position to continue uninterrupted due to its longstanding status as an untouched, serene ecosystem, making it not only rare but also special in the modern era.
The Great Ruaha River, as well as other rivers such as Mwagusi, Jongomero, and Mzombe, are vital to the park’s survival. During the dry season, these rivers provide the majority of the water for wildlife. There aren’t many natural springs that serve the same purpose. Elephants use their front feet and trunks to obtain water from dry sand rivers during the dry season. The remaining water flows along the Great Ruaha River, providing critical habitat for hippopotami, fish, and crocodiles.
History of Ruaha National Park
The park’s history began in 1910 when Germany’s ruler designated it as the Saba Game Reserve, and it was renamed Rungwa Game Reserve by the British in 1946. After the southern portion of the Game was designated as Ruaha National Park in 1964, a tiny stretch of the Great Ruaha River was included in the park in 1974. The Hehe word “Ruvaha,” which means “river,” is where the name “Ruaha” originates from. Ruaha National Park is part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem, which spans over 45000km2. After annexing Usangu Game Reserve and other significant wetlands in the Usangu basin, the park became the largest in Tanzania and East Africa in 2008.
Attractions in Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is equipped with a variety of major attractions such as animals in Ruaha National Park Tanzania such as elephants, cheetahs, leopards, and lions, birdlife in Ruaha National Park Tanzania such as ostriches, vegetation in Ruaha National Park Tanzania such as the epic baobab trees, historical and cultural sites in Ruaha National Park such as the trade routes used by the Arab caravan, rivers in Ruaha National Park
Animals and wildlife in Ruaha
Ruaha National Park in Tanzania is indeed a wonderful place for a wildlife safari because it has one of the largest populations of elephants in all of Africa. Magnificent creatures like Kudu (both Bigger and Smaller), as well as the uncommon Sable and Roan antelope, can be found in Ruaha. Grant’s Gazelles, Topi, Southern and Bohor reedbucks, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeests, and klipspringers are all found in this park. Sable, Roan, and Hartebeest sightings are frequent along the higher cliff, known as the miombo woods. These can be spotted in other places, such as Makinde Springs and in the direction of Lunda, during the dry season. Contrarily, topi are restricted to the Usangu marsh plains. Along with these animals, tourists taking Tanzania tours to Ruaha can encounter cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, elands, impalas, bat-eared foxes, jackals, lions, leopards, and wild dogs.
Around 10% of the remaining lions in Africa are supported by the second-largest lion population in the world, which is found in Ruaha. Also, it is one of just six lion populations with more than 1000 members worldwide. One of only four East African cheetah populations over 200 individuals can be found in this National Park. In Ruaha National Park, you can also see crocodiles, both deadly and non-poisonous snakes, monitor lizards, and agama lizards. When going on a safari in Tanzania, crocodiles are most frequently observed in the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers.
Around 450 different bird species can be observed within Ruaha National Park, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise. The area is home to migratory species from Europe, Asia, Australia, and Madagascar as well as endemic and almost endemic water birds. The Park is home to a variety of birds, including crested barbets, yellow-collared lovebirds, ashy starlings, red-billed hornbills, giant kingfishers, white brown coucals, spur-winged coucals, African fish eagles, black-bellied bustards, goliath herons, long-crested eagles, Namaqua doves, southern ground
Rivers such as the greater Ruaha, Mdonya, Mwagusi, Mzombe, and Jongomero are always of tremendous environmental, economic, and social importance to the park for biodiversity during dry season and for humans in which they support the agriculture sector and make a contribution to hydroelectric power generation.
The park’s most popular tourist destination, the River Ruaha, is also how it gets its name. Usangu Plains are traversed by the Ruaha River, which also serves as the park’s water source during the dry months and as an irrigation system for the farmers in the area. Throughout the dry months, a number of wildlife species can be observed gathering along the river’s banks to quench their thirst.
Ruaha National Park contains both savanna grassland and woodland vegetation, as well as flat plains, acacia trees, bushland, swamps, rolling hills, kopjes, and the stunning 160-kilometre-long Ruaha River. The entire vegetation offers the finest habitats and watching grounds for numerous plant and animal species, such as wildlife observed on the park’s wildlife viewing safaris, like mammals, birds, butterflies, and many others.
The Rift valley
The Great Rift Valley cuts through Ruaha National Park, with escarpment walls amounting in height from 50 to 100 meters, and the Great Ruaha River, which runs for 160 kilometres, is thought to be an extended version of the Great Rift Valley.
Historical and cultural sites
Ruaha National Park is considered to have been an ancient place with several of chief Mkwawa’s secrets because it contains numerous historical and cultural sites. Ganga la Mafunyo, Painted Rock at Nyanywa, Nyanywa and Chahe, Gogo Chief Mapenza Grave at Mpululu, and Mkwawa Spring Area, which was allegedly used by Chief Mkwawa, among many other cultural sites, are some of the places that have been used for ceremonies. Around Iringa town are historical landmarks such as Lugalo, God’s bridge, Kalenga, Mlambalasi, and the Isimila pillars.
The Usangu grasslands and marsh are fantastic park destinations. Kilimamatonge, Nyamasombe, Nyanywa, Chariwindwi, Igawira, Mwayiui, Kibiriti, Magangwe, Ndetamburwa, and Isukanvyiola are just a few of the undulating hills in Ruaha. They serve as kopjes, providing suitable habitats for creatures like klipspringer, who are frequently observed in several of these hills. Ruaha has everything for everyone, from the great Ruaha River to the undulating hills, rocky escarpments, and the huge desolate open plains sprinkled with the unmistakable silhouettes of African Baobab trees.
Natural springs can be encountered all around the park, and several of them, including the Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde, and Majimoto (hot water) springs, are connected to the foot of the Western Rift Valley escarpment. These are wildlife havens during the dry season when the majority of the rivers dry up. Although few people have ever touched naturally hot water, Maji Moto (hot water) spring adds a distinctive point of interest to visitors’ experiences, making it a good destination to see while on a Tanzania tour. Approximately 20 km away from the Jongomero tented camp, the hot spring is situated in the same region.
Tourist activities are done in Ruaha National Park
One of the fun activities you may participate in while on safari in Ruaha National Park is a game drive. It is possible to go on a game drive in the park very early in the day to observe predators coming out of their hiding places or very late in the evening to see animals going to their resting places. Significant amounts of elephants and buffalo will be visible during the game drive, along with other animals like wild dogs, zebras, giraffes, greater and lesser kudus, impalas, elands, leopards, sable, and roan antelopes, as well as a variety of bird species like the Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, among others.
Night game drive
One of Tanzania’s protected areas, Ruaha National Park, provides a thrilling night game drive. Armed security officers and flashlights are used during night game drives in the park to simplify the process to see the nocturnal creatures, which are more active at night. One will be able to observe nocturnal creatures including genets, wild cats, leopards, bat-eared foxes, bush babies, jackals, night jars, hyenas, feeding hippos, and experience night whispering during the night game drive.
The Park is a habitat to 574 various bird species. Numerous water-related birds, such as White-crowned Plovers, Open-billed Storks, and African Skimmers, can be found here. the Park has a thriving raptor population, which includes Black Eagles. There are various other species, including the Bare-faced and White-bellied Go-away birds. Other species include the bare-eyed thrush and yellow-collared lovebirds. Ashy starlings, speckle-fronted wavers Excellent starlings White-headed buffalo weaver D’arnauds Barbet, the blue-capped cordon-bleu and the Ruaha red-billed Hornbill.
There are more different species of birds in the vast miombo woodland areas than there are along the Ruaha Valley. Together with other intriguing species, these include different “miombo specialists.” They include Schalow’s turaco, Miombo scrub robin, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Spot-flanked Barbet, Racket-tailed roller, Spotted Creeper, Yellow-bellied hyliota, and Miombo grey tit. The highland regions may also contain rare forest species, many of which have never been observed this far east. They include the African Hill-babbler, Southern citril, and Black-backed Barbet.
Guided nature walks
The guided nature walks and safaris that are possible in Ruaha National Park allow visitors to explore the park on foot. Guided nature walks are executed in the company of an armed park ranger. During such an exciting activity, you will follow various trails where you will be able to recognize different tree species, and plants, walk close to animals like elephants, waterbucks, warthogs, bushbucks, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and lions, listen to sweet bird species’ sounds, unwind in a peaceful and quiet environment, breathe in clean air, have breathtaking views of the landscape.
Location and how to get there
The Park is about 130 kilometres from the Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem, which incorporates the Rungwa Game Reserve, the Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserves, and the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area. The Selous Game Reserve lies to the west, and the Serengeti National Park borders it to the south. It is also approximately 455 kilometres from Julius Nyerere International Airport.
Ruaha National Park can be accessed by both air and road transport means
Air transport is the most convenient way to travel to the park in shortest time possible, using either charter flights or scheduled flights like Coastal Aviation, Auric Link, and Safari Air Link that depart from Dar es Salaam to the park’s airstrip.
The journey from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha takes about 9 hours, with much of it on a dusty, bumpy road. Mikumi National Park is a popular stopover for visitors to Ruaha. The journey from Mikumi to Ruaha is approximately 320km and requires approximately five hours.
Best time to visit Ruaha National Park
Although the park is open all year long, the dry season, which lasts from June to October, is the ideal time to come. The park’s foliage will be scarce during the dry season, and animals will gather near water sources, providing you with the chance to witness a variety of creatures. Also, the optimal time for male greater kudus to reproduce is in the month of June.
The ideal time to go bird watching is in the wet season, which usually lasts from January to April, when heavy rains turn the park’s vegetation thick and green and draw migrating bird species.
Accommodation at Ruaha National Park
Some of the best safari hotels and camps in Tanzania are located in Ruaha National Park, and they all compete to be the best in Africa. There are a variety of lodging alternatives in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, including high-end lodges, upscale lodges, and low-cost lodges. The following are some of the accommodation facilities in Ruaha National Park.
Jabali Ridge Luxury Lodge
A large kopje that runs from east to west and provides views all the way to the Mwagusi River is the foundation upon which Jabali Ridge is constructed. Because of the location, game drives can start as soon as the car leaves camp and take visitors right into one of Ruaha National Park’s most important animal zones.
Jabali Ridge Lodge has 8 suites that are tucked away among the granite boulders. The guest apartments are created to make the most of the breathtaking surroundings outside, with views of Ruaha from every angle of the space. Every room has a view of the outdoors, whether it be from the bed, a desk, or even the toilet. Louvred curtains can be entirely opened to let in more natural light or closed for privacy. For a leisurely afternoon nap or to simply unwind outside on your private deck, king-sized beds are ideal. Rain showers and flushing toilets are standard amenities in bathrooms.
situated on the shores of the Jongomero River within the isolated South Western region of Ruaha National Park (seasonal). The camp in Ruaha National Park with the most western location is Jongomero Camp. Around the Great Ruaha River’s junction on the Jongomero Sand River, it’s approximately 70 km from the Msembe headquarters. Although it’s a long drive to other camps, the camp has a private airfield and is readily reached by air from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. The flight from the camp’s airfield to the main Ruaha strip takes about 15 minutes.
The Jongomero Camp has eight sizable, opulent tents with double, twin, and single accommodations that are constructed on wooden platforms. Together with the above amenities, the tent also has a bathroom with a large shower, solar-heated thermostatically controlled water, a big private verandah, and 24-hour electricity. With an unbroken view of the Jongomero River and the surrounding jungle, the public space, which includes the bar and restaurant, is exquisitely situated under the thick shadow of an ancient riverine tree.
Tandala Tented Camp
Tandala Tented Camp is situated outside Ruaha National Park, roughly 5 kilometres from the park’s entrance gate, about 20 kilometres from Msembe airstrip, and much less than 2 hours from Iringa town (100km). Ten large, elevated luxury tents with twin or double bed configurations are offered at Tandala Tented Camp. Additional beds are available for kids or a third person. At the back of each tent, encircled by thatch and rockwork and with a view of the wilderness, is an en-suite bathroom. Gas or solar energy is used to heat showers. Every accommodation has a spacious verandah with inviting sitting in front of it, which is perfect for unwinding and keeping an eye out for wildlife along the Mdweka Sand River.
Tandala is renowned for its delectable home-style Mediterranean cuisine, which is paired with a variety of wines. Candlelit meals are frequently served in the courtyard by the campfire or under the stars.
Jabali Private Home
Jabali Private Home is ideal for a family or small gathering of colleagues and is always reserved exclusively. The House is constructed amid three of Ruaha’s famous baobab trees and blends in with the surroundings, drawing inspiration from the terrain that surrounds it. There are two master bedrooms and one more twin bedroom in the Jabali residence. This is the perfect location for your family dinners in the woods since there are both inside and outside dining and lounging places. In addition to the house’s own private plunge pool, visitors to the House have access to all of Jabali Ridge’s amenities.