Ruaha National Park : It is one of Tanzania’s national parks that is teeming with wildlife and other attractions, but it is the park’s pristine natural environment that allows visitors to experience the true essence of the African wilderness. In 2008, Usangu Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park merged to form Tanzania’s largest national park, encompassing more than 20,000 km2. Ruaha is Tanzania’s best-kept game-viewing secret, despite the park’s vast size and the limited number of sites. Ruaha distinguishes itself from other reserves due to its untamed and unspoiled nature, making it a popular destination for East African safari enthusiasts.
The Great Ruaha River, with its deep gorges, churning rapids, and excellent fishing, is the focal point of the reserve. The River is an excellent angling spot. Ruaha is a wildlife lover’s paradise, with over 10,000 elephants, 30,000 buffalo, 20,000 zebra, and significant populations of lion and leopard (not to mention over 400 bird species) to excite tourists on Tanzania Safaris Tours.
Sightings of large predators are extremely common in Ruaha National Park. According to research conducted by the 2009-founded Ruaha Carnivore Project, the park is home to 10% of Africa’s lions, including prides of twenty or more.
Where can you find Ruaha National Park?
Where is Ruaha National Park situated? Ruaha National Park is located 130 kilometers west of Iringa in the central to southern portion of Tanzania. Ruaha National Park was Tanzania’s and East Africa’s largest protected area, encompassing 20,226 square kilometers, a title now held by Nyerere National Park, which encompasses more than 30,000 square kilometers.
Climate of Ruaha National Park
The short season in Ruaha National Park begins in November and ends in February, while the long season begins in March and concludes in April. The average annual precipitation is between 500 and 800 mm, and the average annual temperature is around 280 °C. From June to October, when the temperature at Msembe headquarters exceeds 350 degrees, the park’s arid season occurs.
Ruaha National Park history
The park’s history begins in 1910, when Germany designated it as the Saba Game Reserve. In 1946, the British changed the name to Rungwa Game Reserve. In 1974, a small section of the Great Ruaha River was added to the 1964 establishment of Ruaha National Park. The Hehe word “Ruaha” signifies “river.” Usangu wildlife reserve and other significant wetlands in the Usangu basin were annexed into the park in 2008, making it the largest park in Tanzania and East Africa at 20226km2.
Ruaha National Park is home to elephants, buffalo, antelopes, and other uncommon and endangered species such as wild dogs. The park’s water sources are beneficial to both fauna and people. It is economically significant because it supports agricultural activities downstream and contributes to the generation of hydroelectric power (HEP) at the Mtera and Kidatu dams.
The Best Time to Visit Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is best explored during the dry season because fauna congregates around the Great Ruaha River. Ruaha’s rocky outcrops are dotted with the hiding places of Hehe chief Mkwawa, who escaped into hiding in 1895 after killing a German captain in an ambush. This ancient region conceals numerous species within its vegetation and harbors many secrets. During the arid season (May to December), when the vegetation dies back and the animals become more visible, their concealment is blown.
Attractions within Ruaha national park
With over 571 species, some of which are believed to be migrants from within and outside of Africa, the park is a birder’s paradise in Tanzania. Migratory species from Europe, Asia, the Australian border, and Madagascar have resided in the park. The Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae), the dominant species in the region, is one of the most fascinating species in the park. The Usangu basin, a recently acquired wetland, has been designated by Birdlife International as one of the country’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Birds can be observed throughout the year, but the rainy season is the best time to do so.
Ruaha, along with Tarangire and Amboseli national parks, is home to more elephants than any other national park in East Africa. Miombo woodland is also home to magnificent animals like Kudu (both Greater and minor), Sable, and Roan antelopes. Male Kudu antelopes have spiral-shaped antlers, whereas male Sable antelopes have curved horns. The park is also home to endangered wild canines. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, elands, impala, bat-eared foxes, and jackals.
Amphibians and reptiles
Crocodiles, noxious and nonpoisonous snakes, monitor lizards, agama lizards, and frogs are some of the reptiles and amphibians found in the park. Crocodiles prefer to reside in the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers, making Ruaha national park an ideal location for spotting them if you’re interested in seeing them on your Ruaha national park safari in Tanzania.
The park is known for its semi-arid vegetation, which includes baobab and acacia trees, among others. Within the park, over 1,650 plant species have been identified, making it an ideal safari destination for botanists. The park is located at the intersection of two vegetation zones: the Zambezian (characterized by Miombo vegetation) and the Sudanian (characterized by Sudanian vegetation), both of which are characterized by Acacia vegetation.
Historical and cultural sites
The park’s historical and cultural monuments enable visitors to learn about the tribes of southern Tanzania. Early Arab caravan trade routes passed through this area. These coastal merchants shifted their routes northward in 1830, and in 1857 and 1858, European explorers such as Burton and Speke utilized these routes.
The park is frequently referred to as the land of the valiant Hehe leader Chief Mkwawa, who fought the Germans in the late 1800s. The Hehe tribe gained notoriety in the southern highlands of Tanganyika for their aggressive and effective warfare against the German invasion (Tanzania). After his empire (kalenga) fell to the Germans in 1894, Chief Mkwawa fled into hiding, and several of the area’s outcrops are recognized as his hiding places.
It is believed that this ancient region (Ruaha National Park) contains many of Chief Mkwawa’s secrets.
The river systems and watersheds are economically, socially, and environmentally essential to the park and the nation as a whole. Ruaha national park is home to the rivers Great Ruaha, Mzombe, Mdonya, Mwagusi, and Jongomero.
Great Rift Valley divides the park in two. The escarpment wall along the western valley side is between 50 and 100 meters tall in the north-eastern portions and progressively rises to the southwest. The valley of the Great Ruaha River is believed to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley. Along the eastern frontier, the Great Ruaha River flows through rocky gorges and expansive plains for 160 kilometers.
The Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde, and Maj moto springs are scattered throughout the park and are connected to the base of the Western Rift Valley escarpment. These springs serve as refuges for wildlife during the dry season, when the majority of rivers are barren.
Tourist activities in Ruaha national park
The park’s tourism activities include game viewing, long and brief wilderness walking safaris, bird watching, picnics, and bush dinners (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in the unspoiled forest. During the wet season (January to April), bird watching, stunning scenery, and wildflowers are at their peak.
How to Get to Ruaha National Park
By air – The park is accessible via scheduled and chartered flights from Arusha, Dodoma, Kigoma, and Dar es Salaam. Msembe and Jongomero are the airstrips where your safari flight to Ruaha national park will arrive.
By road, Iringa is 130 kilometers from Dar es Salaam and 625 kilometers from Dar es Salaam. The park’s entrance road is accessible all year.