Ruaha national park is one of the few Tanzania’s famous wilderness area where one can have a rare experience of game viewing spiced up by the fascinating landscape. The park is rich of plants and animals such as Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) which can not be found in any other national park. The park boasts of her almost untouched and unexplored ecosystem, making visitors’ safari experience very unique.
The park history dates back to 1910 when it was gazetted Saba Game Reserve by the Germany then the name was changed by British to Rungwa Game reseve in 1946. In 1964 the southern portion of the Game was gazetted as Ruaha national park and in 1974 a small section of South Eastern part of the Great Ruaha River was incorporated into the park. The name “Ruaha” originates from the Hehe word “Ruvaha”, which means “river”. Ruaha National Park is part of Rungwa-Kizigo –Muhesi ecosystem which covers more than 45000km2. In 2008 Usangu game Reserve and other important wetlands in Usangu basin have been annexed into the park, making it the largest park in Tanzania and East Africa with an area of about 20226km2.
Ruaha National Park has a high diversity of plants and animals including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and some of rare and endangered species like wild dogs. The park serves as water shade both for wildlife and human being. This makes it to be economically significant as it supports agricultural activities down stream and contributes to hydro- electric power (HEP) for the country at Mtera and Kidatu dams.
The Great Ruaha River as other rivers like Mwagusi, Jongomero and Mzombe save as the life line of the park. During dry season, these rivers become mostly the main source of water for wildlife. There are few natural springs saving the same purpose.
In the pick of dry season, elephants obtain water from dry sand rivers using their front feet and trunks. The remaining water falls along the Great Ruaha River are also important habitat for hippopotamus, fish and crocodiles.
What to see and Do
Ruaha National Park is home to an enormous variety of animals, plants and birds with an estimated 20 000 elephants in the park. The birding is spectacular with a recorded 530 different species of birds, which is almost half of all bird species found in Tanzania.
The park has one of the biggest counts of large mammal species compared to any other park, as well as having the second largest population of wild dog in Africa. The park's wildlife includes elephant, huge herds of buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala, eland, hippo, crocodile, lion and leopard. Sable antelope can sometimes be seen in the Miombo areas and in the springs in the Western part of the park. Roan antelope are also sometimes seen in the eastern area of the park.
In Ruaha, guests can enjoy superb walking safaris with an armed guides from one of the lodges and gain huge insight into the ecology of the area. Classic game drives take place on a daily basis and guests will find there are not many other visitors in the park at one time.
The main rainy season, or the 'long rains', lasts during March, April and May. Afternoon downpours are the norm, which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30s (degrees Celsius).
The long dry season lasts from June to October, during which time the rainfall is unusual. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it's usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather.
During November and December there's another rainy season, which is known as the 'short rains'. These are much lighter than the long rains and less reliable. If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months in January and February, which is Tanzania's 'short dry season', before starting to rain again in earnest in March.
Where to Stay
Jongomero Camp is positioned along the banks of the Jongomero River which flows strongly in the rains, but is usually just sand during the dry season, however, elephants frequently wander past in the dry riverbed. The 8 canvas tented rooms are raised up on wooden platforms, and have great views across the river.
Kigelia is a small, discreet camp secluded in a grove of Sausage trees. It operates in a socially and environmentally responsible way, placing a minimal footprint in these precious areas of natural beauty. The 6 luxury tents are spread out along the riverbank and constructed of the same cream canvas as the communal areas, which seem to disappear into the bush.
Mdonya River Camp is a traditional safari camp with basic facilities and the emphasis here is on offering the best in safari basics and a superb experience rather than the luxuries around it. Traditional tented accommodation; with no electricity add to the authenticity and true bush-feel of this camp and large verandas offer spectacular views.