Have you heard of Ruaha National Park?
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is dominated by the Great Ruaha River which takes its name from the Hehe tribe word 'Ruvaha', meaning River. The river flows through the Rift Valley on the eastern part of the National Park, creating spectacular gorges and slopes, and then joins the Rufiji River in the Selous Game Reserve. It is a vital source of water and generates hydro-electric power for much of the country.
The river, which has clearly shaped the park, has made Ruaha a National Park with extraordinary and breathtaking landscapes that are dominated by acacias and the iconic baobabs.
Location within Tanzania
This National Park is located in the centre of Tanzania, close to Iringa, and roughly 660 km west of Dar es Salaam and 850 km south of Arusha. Despite its remote location it is easily accessible by road (overnight stops in either Mikumi, Udzungwa or Morogoro are recommended). Several daily flights throughout Tanzania connect straight into the National Park. Onwards travel to Mafia or Zanzibar Island are also possible.
Ruaha makes a great staging point for safaris to the far west of Tanzania: to Katavi National Park or to Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Park for chimpanzee trekking.
Ruaha offers a large variety of wildlife and with its remote location it is one of the lesser visited destinations. Often guests do not see another vehicle on their game drive and the emphasis is wilderness pure! Lion populations are numerous and other commonly sighted predators include Leopard, Cheetah, Hyena and Wild Dog. Guests will also encounter large herds of buffalo and antelopes, such as Grant's gazelles, Roan, Greater and Lesser Kudu. The bird life is spectacular with more than 500 recorded species and plenty of migrants.
But what makes Ruaha stand out the most are the magnificent elephant encounters. Gatherings of over 150 elephants in the dried river beds have been seen as families come together. Ruaha is certainly worth the journey to experience its great wildlife.
Best Time to Visit
The park can be visited all year around as the roads within the park are good all-weather roads. The dry season from June to February is ideal to see predators and large mammals when the grass is less high, whereas the rainy season from March to May is best to view birds and enjoy the green savannah with its wild flowers –
an idyllic photographers background. Many camps and lodges as well as airstrips are closed during the rainy months, so driving safaris are advisable.
Throughout June and September, it can get very cold in the evenings and sometimes temperatures drop as low as 5 degrees centigrade on the thermometer! Early morning game drives can be chilly, but it is always very hot in the sun during the day!
The classic game drive is the usual way to explore the park. Guests can follow the river and watch game coming down for a drink, or go out early to search for leopards at Kilimatonge Hill. Different sun-downer viewpoints are available so that each day guests can soak up the beauty of the park. They have the flexibility to choose to go for morning and afternoon game drives and return for lunch to the camp or spend the full day in the bush with a picnic box.
A favourite way to explore the bush and the African wilderness is on foot during a walking safari. Guests are accompanied by their guide and an armed ranger and during their walking safari they will follow animals while keeping a safe distance. Being in the bush is about the small things: the smells, tracks and signs, the plants and grasses, beetles and butterflies and many more. With a thrilling walk guests, can really feel the pulse of the bush!
Geographic Highlight - Isimila Gorge
Driving safari itineraries can stop near Iringa to see the dramatic rock formations and important archaeological site of Isimila. Most findings at the site have been tools, which are estimated to be up to 100,000 years old! Guests with 1.5 hours to spare in their driving itinerary can visit the museum to see the artifacts and then walk down into the bottom of the gorge. Some of the paths are steep so we advise a moderate level of fitness.
Social Workshop - Neema Crafts Café
The Neema Crafts in Iringa is a fantastic place to break for lunch. The social project trains people with disabilities to become skilled artisans (carpenters, tailors, ceramicists, paper-makers, chefs and many more). They are able to support their families and put their children through school. The tour through the workshop takes up to 1 hour and the cafe is entirely staffed by deaf or mute employees, so sign language cards help guests to communicate.