Ruaha National Park : The Tanzania Southern Safari Circuit’s other most well-known park is Ruaha. However, compared to other more accessible parks, Ruaha is a difficult park to get to, and flight costs make this a pricey option. Tanzania Safaris in the south are more likely to be reached by scheduled flights, in contrast to the northern safari circuit, where the majority of safaris are completed by traveling long distances by car. Additionally, the Zanzibar Beach Extension is easier to access from the Southern Parks. One benefit of visiting Ruaha is that it is a very quiet park because of its accessibility issues.
A 10% portion of the world’s lion population may be found in this park, which is teeming with wildlife. Wild dogs and cheetahs can also be found here. This is a popular park for elephants and buffaloes. Ruaha is home to an abundance of species, but the breathtaking, ever-changing scenery gives the entire trip a certain mystical quality. A vacation with so much variety and excitement is made possible by the baobabs that dot the steep hillsides, the cool green shade along the river, and the broad, grassy plains.
Animals are lured to the Great Ruaha River and other water sources during the dry season, when game viewing is at its peak. Elephants are aware of subsurface water sources in the now-dry sand rivers (including the Mwagusi and Mdonya rivers), and they frequently dig holes to access this sweet water, which is also used by other animals.
It is lush, green, and quite picturesque with full rivers during the wet season. After the rainy season, the park is covered in a fresh coat of grass and leaves, and wonderful flowers of all kinds, including pink cleome, yellow daisies, and vast swaths of vividly colored ipomoeas and hibiscus, adorn the landscapes. It would be great to visit the park more than once so that you can observe the significant changes that occur due to the excellent seasonal variations.
The History of Ruaha National Park
The earliest known trade routes passed through the centre of Ruaha National Park, which is steeped in history. Arab commerce caravans began using this route during the early 19th century. By 1830, these coastal traders started taking routes that passed through what is now known as Dodoma and continued farther north of the park. Later, Burton and Speke (1857–58) and other early European explorers followed these paths as well.
German East Africa was the name given to Tanzania when it fell under German rule in 1886. The Wahehe people, led by the illustrious Chief Mkwawa, were the dominant tribe in the Ruaha region. From Njombe in the south, to Kilosa and Mpwapwa in the north, and from the Ruaha River to the Kilombero, he held major control over these regions. These people gained notoriety for their courageous and effective combat strategies against the German occupiers. Chief Mkwawa was forced into hiding in 1894 after a series of fights, but he persisted in his guerilla campaign for an additional four years, unfazed. It is believed that many of these hiding places were in what is now Ruaha National Park. His authority was finally overthrown by the Germans in 1898, but the legend of this great chief endures, and his secrets are still hidden within this ancient, untamed region.
The Saba Game Reserve was established on a portion of the land that is now the park in 1910, under the German occupation. The British then declared this area to be expanded and gave it the name Rungwe Game Reserve. Finally, the southern part of this reserve was designated the Ruaha National Park in 1964, and a modest addition to the park was made in 1974 to the south-east of the Great Ruaha River. Finally, in 2008, the Usangu wetland was added to the park’s limits, completing them exactly as they are now. Additionally, Ruaha National Park is lucky to be almost completely surrounded by wildlife reserves, which makes the entire ecosystem a vast, essentially uninhabited wilderness area covering more than 45,000 square kilometers (an area larger than Denmark).
The single rainy season in Ruaha National Park typically lasts from the end of November to the beginning of May. The Msembe HQ area in the Rift Valley experiences an annual rainfall of 500 mm, whereas the western high plateau region of the park experiences an average rainfall of 800 mm. Rainfall has a significant impact on the park’s ecology, which is reflected in the vegetation and animal migration.
The best time to visit Ruaha National Park is often from late May through the end of July, when daytime highs of 300 °C and nighttime lows of 80 °C are the norm. The next several months see a gradual rise in temperature, with November and December typically being the hottest, with daily highs of +/-400 °C and overnight lows of about 250 °C, right before the rain starts to pour.
Ruaha national park attractions and Highlights:
- It is the largest park in Tanzania.
- Msembe and Jongomero airstrips are located within the park.
- It is home to 10% of the world’s lion population.
- Hippos, crocodiles and otters can be found on the banks of the River Ruaha.
- It has a great wilderness with a high concentration of animals and birds.
- A guided walking safari
- Exclusive and less crowded.
Other Park Attractions includes:
Animals of Ruaha National Park
Due to the fact that this is the southernmost limit for smaller Kudu, seeing both lesser and greater Kudu is one of the unique attractions of Ruaha National Park.
Additionally, it is the southernmost extent of the Grants Gazelle, as well as Sable and Roan antelopes, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Topi, both Southern and Bohor reedbuck, and Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest.
Sable, Roan, and Hartebeest sightings are frequent along the higher escarpment, known as the Miombo woods, although they can also be spotted during the dry season in other places, such as Makinde Springs and in the direction of Lunda. On the other hand, topi are only present in the Usangu marsh plains. In addition to this, Ruaha National Park boasts a healthy population of wild dogs, leopards, lions, cheetahs, buffaloes and elephants, not to mention all the other species, of which there are plenty.
Birds of Ruaha national park
It’s challenging to visit Ruaha National Park and not be awestruck by the quantity and variety of birds you observe, with 574 species documented there. This is facilitated by the wide variety of vegetation kinds and altitudes. Here in Ruaha National Park, the Ruaha Red-billed Hornbill and the Ruaha Chat were discovered for the first time and given their names. However, it is now recognized that these two species are widespread in regions to the west of Ruaha. Additionally, Ruaha National Park’s position ensures that both southern and northern migrants visit. People who are not particularly interested in avifauna cannot ignore the richness of bird life at any time of the year.
Mapenza, the Gogo Chief, is buried at the park. Even though it is on the way to Mpululu, getting there from Msembe involves a full-day trip. It is advised that you bring a guide with you when you travel. Ganga la Mafunyo, Nyanywa, Chahe, and Painting Rock are examples of other historical and cultural places to visit in Ruaha national Park. Ismila pillars near Iringa town, Kalenga, Mlambasi, Lugalo, and God’s bridge are only a few of the historical landmarks close to the park.
Physical Features and Vegetation of Ruaha National Park
The Great Ruaha River and the Usangu Wetlands are located at a usually low altitude of 750 m to 1000 m, but there is a large range of altitude. Then, it rises up an escarpment in the north and west, rising to an average height of 1,400 m. The Isunkaviola plateau, in the park’s western corner, rises to a height of 1,868 meters. Though formerly believed to be a finger of the Great Rift Valley, the low-lying regions of the Ruaha National Park and the Great Ruaha River basin are really an older fault than the Great Rift Valley system.
Ruaha boasts an unusually large range of plants and animals due to its location at the point where northern and southern flora and fauna meet. The Ruaha Valley’s vegetation spans from open grassland to vast regions that are mostly made up of lovely mixed-species Brachystegia woods.
Two Drypetes forest regions are found on high hills in the western part of Ruaha’s Isunkaviola Plateau, where there was formerly mixed riverine forest in the Kilola Valley. The wetlands and plains of Usangu are also fantastic resources for the park.
With its wide variety of habitats, including highland forest, Miombo forests, lowland savannah with acacia, and mixed woodland, this area is a complement to the remainder of Ruaha. A wide variety of water birds call the vast wetlands and plains home.
Tourist Activities in Ruaha National Park
- Short-and long-distance walking safaris are available through Wilds of Africa Tours in this pristine park. The number and length of walking safaris will be greatly influenced by how long the tour lasts.
- On request, night game drives are offered. The park ranger will also accompany you on the nocturnal game drive.
- Wildlife drive: various habitats, a variety of prey, and game. In addition to numerous species of antelope, zebra, giraffe, cheetah, hyena, and wild dog, four of the Big 5 can be found here (rhinos are absent).
- Fly-camping is an option at Jongomero Camp during the dry season if you’d want to experience sleeping outside beneath the stars.
- With over 575 species recorded, bird watching in Ruaha is extremely rewarding. From November through April, migratory birds can be found here. Here you can see some endemic Tanzanian species like the Ashy Starling and Ruaha Hornbill.
- You will undoubtedly come away with thousands of pictures thanks to the magnificent, diverse scenery and the abundant wildlife.
- Other activities in Ruaha National Park include picnicking, bird viewing, balloon safaris, game drives, and bush lunches.
When to Visit Ruaha National Park
Although May can get a little rain, it is still a wet month in Selous, which is frequently associated with Ruaha on Tanzania wildlife safaris, hence fewer flights come here in May. The greatest months for wildlife watching are May to early/mid-November, which is the dry season. (We still believe May will be a lovely, lush month, provided you don’t mind the possibility of a little bit of rain.) In the dry season, there is less vegetation, especially after July, when animals also begin to gather at water sources.
The green season lasts about from late November to early April, however throughout this time, some months are typically worse than others, with March frequently being one of them (though it still tends to be drier than Selous). Although showers can come later in the month, November is often one of the driest and hottest months.
How to get to Ruaha National Park
By Air Transport: The Park has two airports, and a flight from Dar es Salaam would take two and a half hours to complete. While the other is located at Jongemero, the primary air strip is located at Msembe, next to the park headquarters.
By Road transport: The park is located 120 kilometers from the town of Iringa, and the road is in good condition. The travel time is only two hours. Driving from Dar es Salaam city to Iringa will take you about 8 hours, and another 2 hours from there. 4×4 wheel drive is recommended.