Ruaha National Park
In 2008 the Usangu Game reserve merged its borders with Ruaha transforming it into Tanzania’s largest national park; it now covers more than 20,000km². Despite the size of the park there are still only a handful of camps found here, which has built Ruaha’s reputation as Tanzania’s best kept game viewing secret. Ruaha’s wild and untrammelled feel is what sets it apart from other reserves, making it a popular choice for regular east African safarigoers.
Best Time to Go: June to October
High Season: June to October (Ruaha rarely experiences crowds)
Size: 20,220km² / 7,807mi²
Altitude: 721-1,863m / 2,365-6,112ft
Introduction to a Ruaha Safari
Ruaha is well known for its varied dramatic scenery, which includes rolling hills; large open plains; groves of skeletal baobabs and along its southern border, the Great Ruaha River, from which the park gets its name. This is by far the most dominant geographical feature of the national park and, for the wildlife it is the most important. Ruaha has a hot, dry climate which means the animals don’t tend to stray too far from dependable water sources. This makes predicating game movements far easier particularly in the dry season.
The best game viewing in this national park is generally from May to November, but the bush is greener and prettier from January to June, and birding peaks during the European winter months of December to April.
Access to Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is relatively far from Dar, which is part of the reason why so few visitors come here, having said that it is still reasonably accessible. It is served by daily flights with Coastal Aviation and Safari Airlink from Dar es Salaam. These usually cost around US$380 per person. When you land at the local airstrip in Ruaha you will be collected and transferred by a representative from the lodge where you are staying.
History of Ruaha National Park
Ruaha does not have an extensive history like other areas in Tanzania. It is thought that early permanent settlers were dissuaded by the semi-arid climate and the high concentrations of tsetse fly. (Conservation efforts have recently reduced the levels of tsetse fly making visiting here a more comfortable experience today!) The transformation of this vast area into a national park was first proposed by George Rushby (a Senior Game Ranger) in 1949. Two years later all the residents were forced out of this protected area and in 1964 Britain elevated Ruaha to full national park status. In 2008 the Usangu Wildlife Management Area was incorporated into the park creating the 20,000Km² Ruaha National Park that we know today.
Best Time to Visit
The heat is less intense in the Dry season (May to October), though plenty of dust is kicked up as you move around the park. This is also when the resident animals are more often glimpsed, unable to hide in the sun-withered bush. Safaris can get uncomfortably steamy in the wetter months, and some roads may be inaccessible at this time.
There are park and privately owned facilities
– Self catering tourist bandas
– Special camping sites
– Public camping sites
– Rest house
– Hostel for school groups
– Park cottages
– Family cottage
– Single room with sitting room
– Single room without sitting room
Inside the park
There are several luxury tented camps operating in the park such as Jongomero, Kigelia, Mwagusi safari, Old Mdonya River, Kwihala and Flycatcher and one lodge namely Ruaha River lodge. These are privately owned.
Outside the park
There are several accommodation facilities just outside the park: these are hill top lodge, Sunset lodge, Tandala tented camp to mention a few.