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Ruaha Na. Park

Lounging under the shade of a baobab tree, a baby elephant eagerly awaits her afternoon snack. Her mother, the matriarch, tears off a branch to the delight of the infant. Ruaha has the highest concentration of elephants anywhere in East Africa. Here, you’re at crossroads between southern and eastern safari ecosystems.

At 12,226 square kilometres (7,457 square miles), the pristine and untouched Ruaha National Park is the largest National Park in Tanzania. Ruaha is bordered in the north by the Kizigio and Rungwa River Game Reserves and together they form a 26,500 square kilometres (10,230 square mile) conservancy, one of the biggest in East Africa.

The focal point of the reserve is the Great Ruaha River, with its deep gorges, swirling rapids and excellent fishing. The river is an excellent fishing destination. With over 10,000 elephant, 30,000 buffalo, 20,000 zebra and huge populations of lion and leopard (not to mention more than 400 bird species), Ruaha is a wildlife enthusias’ts paradise.

Ruaha National Park, at a glance

Located in central to southern Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is around 130km west of Iringa. Covering an area of 20,226km², Ruaha National Park is the largest protected area in Tanzania and East Africa.The park derives its name from the Great Ruaha River which flows through the south-eastern section of the park and attracts a broad range of wildlife.

Ruaha is an integral part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem. The ecosystem spans across an area of 45,000km², and it includes the Rungwa Game Reserve, the Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserves, and the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area.The Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem fuses the best of Southern and East African nature.

In 1910, the German colonial regime created the Saba Game Reserve, and the British colonial authorities renamed it as the Rungwa Game Reserve in 1946. In 1964, the southern part of the reserve was elevated to national park status.

Ruaha has a stunning and diverse landscape with a vast savannah, a river which attracts a plethora of wildlife, and mountains in the south and west. Ruaha is home to rare species, including wild dogs, cheetahs, and leopards.

 

Where does Ruaha National Park fit into my Tanzanian adventure?

Ruaha is often overshadowed by its bigger sisters on Tanzania’s northern safari circuit. This – in many ways – is one of its biggest strengths. 

At Ruaha, you can experience Tanzania’s wilderness without the drone of surrounding safari engines. Its remoteness – and utter vastness – is what makes it so compelling. Ruaha is part of Tanzania’s southern safari circuit, often combined with Selous.

Although Ruaha does not contain rhinos, it is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Tanzania, lions, and even crocodiles on the shores of the Great Ruaha River.

Ruaha National Park Mini Guide

Ruaha’s remote location means that it is difficult to access, but the long journey is rewarded ten times over by the secluded safari paradise that awaits. The Southern Safari Circuit is less popular, so flight connections are not as frequent.

You can reach Ruaha via plane or car, although we recommend the former for ease and comfort. If you do decide to drive, you’ll get a wonderful insight into rural Tanzanian life, and you can enjoy the changing landscapes that never fail to impress. If you decide to stop over in Morogoro or Iringa, you can even get a taste of traditional village life.

Ruaha is 625 km away from Dar es Salaam and the road journey takes around 9 hours. You can also drive from Iringa which is only 130 km away.

By plane, the journey is a lot shorter. There are frequent flights from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, the Serengeti, Kigoma, and Dodoma to the local airstrips, Msembe and Jongomero.

Coastal Aviation and Safari Airlink operate flights from Dar es Salaam. Private flights can be booked on request.

If you have booked your adventure with us, all transport will be arranged for you. 

Like most other Tanzanian national parks, it is best to visit Ruaha during the long dry season from June to October. It is relatively cool during this period compared to the hot dry season from mid-December to mid-March.

The dry season also provides great conditions for wildlife viewing because animals are drawn to the dwindling water sources and the grass is too short for them to hide.

For bird enthusiasts, the European winter months (December to April) are the best time to visit as migratory birds make their way down to Tanzania. Some lodges close in the long-wet season (March-May), so you will need to be flexible when you are finding your accommodation.

Morning game drives and walking safaris are the most popular activities at Ruaha. Night drives are not permitted.

Walking safaris with an experienced ranger allow you to get even closer to the wildlife. There’s nothing quite like getting within metres of a 6-tonne elephant. 

Safaris at Ruaha offer great wildlife photography opportunities. Visitor numbers in the park are much lower than in the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, which means you can feel like you have the park all to yourself. 

Hot air balloon trips are another great way to discover Ruaha National Park, and they offer a unique perspective of the wilderness. These trips are quite expensive (around US$550 per person), but soaring above the wild plains of East Africa is an experience few can put claim to, and is worth every penny. 

Ruaha has the largest concentration of elephants in East Africa with a population of around 10,000 of these gentle giants. Ruaha is also home to 10% of global lion populations.

You also have a chance of seeing leopards, cheetahs, zebras, elands, giraffes, impalas, bat-eared foxes, snakes, crocodiles, and jackals.

Ruaha’s unique position on the verge of Southern Africa means that it is home to species from Southern and Eastern Africa. The greater and lesser kudu can both be found at Ruaha. Whilst the greater kudu is traditionally found in Southern Africa, the lesser kudu is found in East Africa.

Ruaha is home to dozens of rare species, including the sable and roan antelopes.

Cheetahs and leopards are difficult to spot in most places, but they are often sighted as they pursue their prey in the open plains of Ruaha. The wild dog is endangered worldwide, but around 100 wild dogs live in the park.

Ruaha is a birdwatcher’s paradise and 571 bird species have been sighted at the park. Ruaha also has beautiful landscapes which are dotted with acacias, baobabs, and over 1,650 plant species.

Take a break from game drives and experience some cultural tourism in Iringa, one of Tanzania’s largest cities.

Iringa has a fascinating history, and the legacy of its German colonial architecture is still visible. Ruaha has also been shaped by the influences of more recent Tanzanian architecture, giving the city an authentic feel of Tanzanian town life.

Iringa is a great place to buy souvenirs, try local street food, and learn about Tanzanian culture with the help of a local guide. The town has fascinating ancient history and there is spectacular rock art at Igeleke which dates to the Iron Age. It has been established as a site of protected cultural heritage.

The Isimila Stone Age Site dates back even further to 1.5 million to 200,000 years ago. Both sites provide fascinating insights into pre-historic Tanzania, and they are captivating alternatives to exhibits about Tanzania’s colonial history.

 

Located in central to southern Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is around 130km west of Iringa. Covering an area of 20,226km², Ruaha National Park is the largest protected area in Tanzania and East Africa.

Until recently, Ruaha National Park only had a few basic lodges. However, the range of accommodation has increased in recent years. Ruaha has a great balance of luxury and modest accommodation.

You can reach Ruaha via plane or car, although we recommend the former for ease and comfort. If you do decide to drive, you can take in the landscapes of rural Tanzania and see traditional housing during the journey. If you decide to stop over in Morogoro or Iringa, you can even get a taste of traditional village life.

Ruaha is 625 km away from Dar es Salaam and the road journey takes around 9 hours. You can also drive from Iringa which is only 130 km away.

By plane, the journey is a lot shorter. There are frequent flights from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, the Serengeti, Kigoma, and Dodoma to the local airstrips, Msembe and Jongomero. Coastal Aviation and Safari Airlink operate flights from Dar es Salaam. Private flights can be booked on request.

Ruaha National Park is the Biggest reserves park in East Africa