Tanzania has a lot of beauty to offer in the form of natural parks, and Ruaha National Park definitely fits the bill. Not only is it the home of a wide variety of fascinating wild animals, but it also benefits from a gorgeous natural landscape that anyone would be lucky to admire. The park features many species exclusive to it, whether it comes to animals, birds or plants. Every aspect of Ruaha is gorgeous and impressive through its untouched, unexplored natural beauty, which makes it unique among Africa’s many national parks. Hills, plains, rivers and springs are also here to be admired, with wild animals like crocodiles, hippos, fish and elephants depending on them for survival.
- +Viewing of a wide range of wild animals
- +The chance to see a high concentration of elephants
- +Bird watching
- +Walking safari
About Lake Manyara National Park
While it is just as beautiful and impressive as any other national park in Africa, what brings people to Ruaha National Park is its extremely high concentration of elephants, which is thought to be the greatest in East Africa. In addition to elephants, Ruaha is also the home to a variety of other wild animals, including cheetah, jackals, elands, lions, bat eared foxes, zebras, leopards and impala. Some of its more impressive animals include the endangered wild dog, as well as Roan and Sable antelopes, and the Lesser and Greater Kudu.
Ruaha also hosts other categories of animals besides mammals, like amphibians and reptiles, including monitor lizards, frogs, crocodiles, agama lizards and snakes (both poisonous and not).
If birds are what you are really after, then there is no better place than Ruaha National Park, which hosts over 571 species. These include African species, as well as migrating ones from all over the world (Madagascar, Asia, Europe, Australia). Notable sightings include Tokus ruahae or the Ruaha red-billed hornbill. In fact, the park has recently added the Usangu basin to its territories, which is one of the most important bird areas in the country. Should you decide to go bird watching, the best time to visit is during the wet season.
Natural vegetation is also beautiful in Ruaha National Park, with more than 1650 plant species, including Acacia and baobab tries, as well as other types specific to semi-arid vegetation. Hills, valleys and plains are also available, for sight-seeing, walking around or relaxing in silence.
Wetlands, rivers, and springs abound in Ruaha, with the main rivers being Mwagusi, the Great Ruaha, Mdonya, Jongomero and Mzombe. It is said that Mzombe and the Great Ruaha are the habitat of choice of crocodiles, so head that way if you’re eager to see one.
Ruaha National Park can be accessed either by road or by air. The main road into the park is accessible all year. The drive to get there is 625 km from Dar es Salaam and 130 km from Iringa.
Alternatively, chartered and scheduled flights are available from Dar es Salaam Arusha, Kigoma and Dodoma. The airstrips for the park are at Jongomero and Msembe.
When to Go & Weather
- May-December: this period is the best, if you want to view wild animals, as it is during dry season
- January-April: the wet season is deal for bird watching, as well as enjoying the beautiful landscape and vegetation
Temperatures stay pretty consistent, with average annual temperatures hitting around 28 degrees Celsius. During dry season, they can escalate to around 35 degrees Celsius. Annual rainfall is of about 500mm-800mm.
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The park began its existence in 1910, at the Saba Game Reserve, as named by the Germans. After that, the British changed the name in 1946, to Rungwa Game Reserve. The southern part of the reserve was renamed Ruaha National Park in 1964, while, in 1974, a part of the South Eastern area of the Great Ruaha River was taken over by the park.
The Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem incorporates Ruaha National Park, and it extends over 45000km2. The Ruaha National Park received several annexes in 2008, including wetlands in Usangu basin and the Usangu Game Reserve. It is now Tanzania’s and East Africa’s biggest park, covering around 20226km2. The name of the park, “Ruaha”, comes from the Hehe word designating a river, which is “Ruvaha”.
Ruaha has the highest elephant concentration in all East Africa’s national parks. It also includes plenty of other beautiful animals, such as: Roan antelopes, Sable antelopes, Lesser Kudu, Greater Kudu, elands, Jackals, leopards, zebras, lions, wild dogs (which are an endangered species), cheetah, bat eared foxes, impala, etc.
As for birds, over 571 species found their home in the Ruaha National Park, including migrating species from all over the world: Madagascar, Asia, Europe, the Australian rim, etc. If you are interested in bird watching, the wet season is the time to visit Ruaha National Park, because, during that time, you have the highest chances of seeing the greatest number of birds.
In addition, the Usangu basin was named by Birdlife International as one of the most important bird areas in the country. Here, you can admire the famous Ruaha red-billed hornbill, for example, but also hundreds of other species. For bird watching, the wet season is by far the best time to visit the Ruaha National Park.
The Mzombe River and the Great Ruaha River are great places to see some crocodiles since that is their ideal environment. Other amphibians and reptiles that can be spotted here are frogs, snakes (both poisonous and not), agama lizards and monitor lizards.
Where flora is concerned, the park presents more than 1650 species of plants. It is rich in semi-arid vegetation, such as Acacia and Baobab trees. An interesting fact is that the Ruaha National Park is at the cusp of two different zones of vegetation, the Sudanian, represented by Acacia vegetation and the Zambezian, represented by Miombo vegetation.
The park has been in existence for more than 100 years as a sanctuary for wildlife, both flora and fauna. Throughout its life, the aim of Ruaha National Park, in all of its incarnations, has been to protect the environment and the natural habitat of all these species of animals, endangered or not, and offer them a natural, authentic life in the wilderness that is left undisturbed by human activity. This Tanzanian park is meant to conserve life, as well as the history and culture left behind by the people who settled in these parts. This is obvious in the cultural sites that have remained within the park, said to be former lands of Chief Mkwawa.
Among the conservation efforts made in this national park, we have to talk about the Ruaha Carnivore Project, which is meant to find strategies for the effective conservation of carnivores, especially lions. Ruaha National Park sustains as much as 10% of the total remaining number of lions in Africa. In addition, it also supports wild dogs, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs and is actively trying to decrease the decline in numbers that these species have suffered over the years. Ruaha is a crucial region for carnivores, which is why it is especially important for conservation efforts to be concentrated here.
- The Ruaha National Park offers multiple cultural sites for visitors to see. These valuable historical locations can help give you insight into the fascinating Southern Tanzanian tribes’ lifestyle and customs. In addition, you can also see the trade routes used by the early Arab caravans. These are the routes that were also used by Chief Mkwawa to visit Gogo and Sangu.
- In fact, this region where the Ruaha National Park stands today is said to have been ruled by Chief Mkwawa, who was the leader of the Hehe tribe. Various locations in the park are said to hold hiding places or secrets of Chief Mkwawa
- Many of the cultural sites in the park are known to have been used for rituals. Among them are the Gogo chief Mapenza grave at Mpululu, Ganga la Mafunyo, the Mkwawa spring area, the Painting rock at Nyanywa, and Nywanywa and Chahe. Additional such locations are Lugalo, the Isimila pillars, God’s bridge, Mlambalasi or Kalenga.
- Ruaha National Park sees the most visitors during the dry season, but it is still a destination that is not often chosen; at least not when you compare it with the parks in the north. Consequently, there are entire areas of the park that are not explored.