Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest national park and almost 50% bigger than Serengeti – but with only a tenth of visitors. The park’s name derives from the Hehe word “Ruvaha” which means “river” and refers to the Great Ruaha River which flows through the park and is the source of life for a large variety of wildlife.

This remote and untouched wilderness is located in the heart of Tanzania roughly 625 km from Dar es Salaam and 130 km from Iringa. Its geographic location is the main reason why it is only visited by few tourists. Ruaha is one the best kept secrets – a hidden gem, in fact – that offers a very personal and private safari experience. Game drives can be combined with outstanding walking safaris!

If you step into Ruaha, you step into an authentic and spectacular wilderness. A wealth of landscapes and an unbelievable array of wildlife awaits the few visitors who make it this far. Look forward to an excitingly high concentration of predators, large herds of elephants and buffaloes and a huge variety of cross-over game from Southern and Eastern Africa.

Main Facts

established in 1964 with a size of 20,226 km²

Best Time

all year around – best during dry season: June to October

Common Animals

Antelopes: eland, kudu, sable and roan antelopes
Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion
Birds: more than 530 species
Cats: cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs (rarely seen)
Mammals: giraffe, hippo, warthog, zebra
Primates: baboon, vervet monkey

Activities

game drives
hot air balloon ride
walking safari

Expectations

largest population of elephants of East Africa
nearly 10% of African lion’s population call Ruaha their home
incredible vistas with ancient baobab trees and the Great Ruaha River
rarely seen, but possible to spot are the endangered wild dogs
fantastic opportunities for walking safaris and hot air balloon rides
intimate and private safari experience away from the crowds

Further Details – Ruaha National Park

Vegetation

Ruaha National Park is part of a comprehensive ecosystem that includes the game reserves Rungwa and Usangu as well as several other protected areas. It is a botanical paradise with more than 1650 identified plants. Ruaha also represents a transition zone where the flora and fauna of eastern and southern Africa overlap.

Large parts of the park are dominated by an endless savanna, which is reminiscent of Serengeti, and rolling hills overgrown with the baobab tress that are typically found in Tarangire. Other parts of the park include riverine forests and Miombo woodlands which are more common for southern Africa. A wide range of topographical characteristics!

Wildlife

Just as the flora and fauna of eastern and southern Africa overlap, so does its wildlife. While Grant gazelles and lesser kudus are common all over the northern parks, roan and sables antelopes as well as greater kudus already belong to the southern part of Africa. Ruaha is home to all of these. In term of antelope density, this park is second to none.

And there is even more to discover: large herds of buffaloes and the highest concentration of elephants in East Africa. Families of more than 200 elephants can often be spotted grazing under giant baobab trees or searching for water in the dried-up river beds. Other animals that populate the park are giraffes, elands, impalas, reedbucks and waterbucks.

Ruaha is also an excellent destination for travelers who are looking for lots of predator interaction. Large prides of lions with up to 25 or even 30 members are common. Leopards and cheetahs are often found hunting in the open plains here and the endangered African wild dog is not an unusual sight either. Spotted hyenas and black-backed jackals are commonly seen predators.

Boasting more than 530 sighted species, ornithologists will love Ruaha. Keen birdwatchers should visit Ruaha from November to May when many migratory birds crowd the park. These include the endemic Ruaha red-billed hornbill, kingfishers, starlings, sunbirds but also water fowl along the rivers including bateleurs, fish eagles and saddle-billed storks.

Ruaha’s source of life is the Great Ruaha River…

The Great Ruaha River, of which roughly 160 km flows directly through the park, is Ruaha’s most characteristic feature. Together with its tributaries Jongomero, Mdonya, Mwagusi, Mzombe and various natural springs, they provide the source of life for many animals. Visitors can expect unforgettable wildlife encounters.

During the rainy months the rivers are richly filled. Deep pools of grunting hippos and sand bars featuring sunbathing crocodiles are a common picture. From June to October, the river system seems to dry up completely. Nevertheless, a few waterholes and underground water streams do their part to sustain the local wildlife.

As the river gets drier and drier, the animals will congregate around the remaining waterholes. Predators lay silently in wait, well-covered by the riverine vegetation, and ready to pounce. They know that thirst will drive animals to the waterholes. Spectacular sightings and action-filled encounters await you.

Which travelers will particularly enjoy Ruaha National Park?

  • travelers who like to travel off the beaten track
  • travelers who are looking for a quiet, lonely and wild adventure with fewer visitors
  • travelers who want to stay in one place for a longer time and explore the park in-depth
  • travelers who are looking for outstanding game drives and incredible bush walks