Why Travel Here?
The spectacular scenery is the most obvious attraction – however the fact that the Ruaha National Park is still relatively unknown and has only recently been developed for tourists makes it extra special. It is the second largest Tanzanian National Park and one of the wildest. It is renown for its elephant herds, and at 8 000 is the largest population of any National Park in East Africa. Unique combinations of mammals co-exist here – both the Greater and Lesser kudu, sable and roan antelope. Ruaha is the only protected area in Africa where the flora and fauna of eastern and southern Africa overlap.
Ruaha National Park lies in central Tanzania west of the Iringa highlands (128 km west of Iringa). The Park derives its name from the Ruaha River, which flows through the eastern section on the lowest level of the Great Rift Valley.
Ruaha National Park covers an area of 10,300 square kilometres. This is Tanzania’s 2nd largest Park and comparatively only slightly smaller than Northern Ireland.
There are over 8,000 resident elephant in the Park and other species found here include: cheetah, crocodile, eland, giraffe, Grants’ gazelle, hippo, African Hunting dog, impala, leopard, Lesser kudu, lion, hyena, jackal, roan and sable antelope, waterbuck and warthog.
An astonishing 465 species of birds have been recorded in the Park, including the following: African snipe, crested lark, Dickinson’s’ kestrel, Eleanoras’ falcon, greensand piper, pale billed hornbill, Pel’s fishing owl, racquet tailed roller, secretary bird, violet crested Turaco. Due to its geographical location both northern and southern migrant birds visit it.
The escarpment wall along the western valley side is about 50 -100m high in the north-eastern parts, increasing in height towards the southwest.
A variety of vegetation types from evergreen forests to treeless grasslands and swamps. The river valleys typically consist of tall acacia trees, tamarinds, fig species and some clumps of palms. There are also patches of treeless grassland. To the north and outside the valleys, baobabs are scattered in amongst Combretum and Commiphora woodland, with some flat-topped acacias. Above the escarpment typical deciduous woodland miombo species such as Brachystegia dominate.
Average rainfall at Park headquarters is about 500 mm and falls between November and April. The coolest month is July with a daytime minimum of 15 degrees celsius and maximum of 30 degrees celsius. The highest temperatures towards November will be a maximum of 40 degrees celsius during the day and 25 degrees celsius at night.
The best time to visit the Park is during the dry season between May and November during which months the animals are concentrated in the areas with available surface water. This is also the best time to see predators and large mammals. The best time for keen bird watchers is between January and April when lush scenery and wild flowers are an added spectacle.
Game drives, guided walking safaris and bird watching through untouched bush are the main activities available to visitors. There are also Stone Age ruins at Isimilia near Iringa, 120 km away but one of Africa’s most important historical sites.
Charter flights are available from Dar es Salaam, Iringa, Mbeya andArusha. The airstrip is close to the Park headquarters at Msembe.
Ruaha National Park is reached year-round by the westward-bound road out of Iringa and is 112 kilometres. Once at the Park boundary it is a further 9 kilometres to the entrance gate and a further 9 kilometres to the Park headquarters at Msembe. Journey time from Iringa is about 2,5 hours, and from Dar es Salaam by road is about 10 hours. Self-drive visitors should bring their own diesel as it is not always freely available.