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THE RUAHA NATIONAL PARK

 


Ruaha Bird List   I   Ruaha Butterflies    I    Ruaha Conservation Fund


The Ruaha is an enormous undeveloped wilderness whose beautiful open landscape is especially rich in elephant,
buffalo and lion. This national park is for people looking for a genuine,
off-the beaten track, round-the-campfire experience.

   

Great Ruaha River, dry season

The Great Ruaha, Rainy season


This is the largest National Park in Tanzania, with an area of more than 20,000 sq km. It comprises a transition zone between the southern part of Africa's miombo ecotype and that of northern Tanzania, which is of the Maasai Steppe ecotype. Thanks to the large variety of environments the number of plant, bird and animal species is enormous. The landscape is magnificent with red hills interspersed by flat open areas of grassland and by thicker areas of Combretum and Brachystegia. The Great Ruaha River fascinates with its variety of mammals and birds coming to drink. The best period in which to visit the park is from June to February. The short rains of December are followed by an enchanting flush of greenery which appears almost overnight. You may have to add to the adventure the possibility of pushing the car out of mud. This is one of Tanzania's least accessible parks and as result it is totally untouched and therefore one of the most exciting game-viewing areas in the world.

The Park was established in 1910 as part of the Saba Game Reserve, though it’s present boundaries were demarcated in 1964. It is part of a much larger 45,000 sq. kms ecosystem which includes Rungwa and Kisigo Gamer Reserves. The central spine of the Park is the watershed between the Nzombe and Ruaha rivers, with its dramatic escarpment above which are large stretches of miombo woodland. Below this lie undulating plains with vegetation ranging from dry bush to treeless grasslands, swamps and evergreen forests intersected by the many sand rivers that are such a feature of this area. In all some 1,650 plant species and over 571 bird species have been recorded within the park itself and even today , new species are still being seen there - an indication of how little known the park is. Ruaha is known for its large elephant and buffalo herds and one of its principal attractions lies in being able to see greater and lesser kudu as well as the majestic sable and roan antelope within the same area. As well as an abundance of lion, leopard and cheetah it is also home to the increasingly rare African Hunting Dog. Ruaha is a great all year round park due to its good all weather road network. The South West area of Tanzania where Ruaha is located has the lowest rainfall in Tanzania. June to November is driest with the focus of wildlife viewing around the river courses and permanent waterholes.

Ruaha Pearl-spotted Owlet     Sable Antelope      Leopard in Ruaha

 


Overview

Ruaha offers palpably different safaris to Northern Tanzania; because it's remote it's visited by far fewer tourists for a start, so it feels very unspoilt and much of the game is completely different to that in the north. It's also a great contrast to Selous which is why it works so well to combine these two areas. Like the Selous it's a place that isn't to be rushed. Three days are a sensible minimum and in five you still have plenty to see. This is a very large park, only around 5 percent is regularly driven by tourists and there are many areas which only an experienced Ruaha guide will know about.

 


Activites and Special Interests

Bird watching, photography, walking safaris (not all camps offer walking safaris, including Mdonya Old River), and game viewing from a vehicle (4 wheel drive).

 


Wildlife

Most of the big game: Elephant; Buffalo; Hippo; Crocodile; Lion; Cheetah; Leopard; African Hunting Dog (though rarely seen at present); Zebra; Greater and Lesser Kudu; Roan and Sable Antelope and Impala. Also, a fascinating diversity of smaller animals can be seen. The prodigious numbers of buffalo are relentlessly trailed by some very large prides of lion, which can number over 20 individuals. 38 species of fish have been identified in the Great Ruaha River. They traditionally provide an important part of the diet of people living along the river. Within the Park crocodiles have apparently increased in recent years and now some very large ones can be seen along the riverbank. There are also many hippos that use the river by day and come out to graze at night on the surrounding grassland.

The Great Ruaha River
(or Lyambangari as it is known in Kihehe, the local language) and it's flood plains form only a small part of the park in terms of area, but are not surprisingly the most significant part of the park in terms of game viewing. The river rises in the swamps to the west of the park and more or less forms the southeastern boundary, running from south west to north east. Just outside the park it is joined from the north by the Mzombe River and eventually flows into the Rufiji River a short distance above Stiegler's Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve. The Ruaha River is rarely full these days, apart from at the height of the rains in April and in the driest months it all but stops flowing, so that it resembles a wide sand river. The banks of the Ruaha are lined in places with tall stands of acacia, tamarind and other riverine forest. To the north east of Msembe the river lies within wide open grassy plains and is eventually joined by the Mwagusi Sand River en route to Lunda on the eastern edge of park.

 

Location
Ruaha National Park sits roughly half way between the Selous Game Reserve and Katavi National Park in southern Tanzania. It's about 300 miles southwest of Dar es Salaam, a flight of around one hour and forty five minutes. It is bordered by the GreatRuaha River to the south and the Mzombe River, which forms the boundary with Rungwa Game reserve to the north.

 


Climate
The average rainfall at Park headquarters is about 500mm and usually comes between November and April. The coolest month is normally July with a daytime max. of 30º C dropping to 15º C at night; temperatures then rise until it rains in November or later. At that time temperatures can reach 40º C in the day and only fall to 25º C at night.

 

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