This month’s feature is on Ruaha National Park in Tanzania

Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in Tanzania, and possibly one of the least known! It covers an area of about 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 sq mi). It is located in the middle of Tanzania about 130 kilometres (81 mi) from Iringa. The park is part of a more extensive ecosystem, which includes Rungwa Game Reserve, Usangu Game Reserve, and several other protected areas.

The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its south-eastern margin and is the focus for game-viewing. The reserve is remote, but Safari Air Link operates daily scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar to Ruaha also linking it with Selous, Mikumi, Katavi and Mahale.  For Ruaha River Lodge you would land at Msembe airstrip.

TZNP_map

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 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 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. There is a real mix between species more commonly associated with northern areas of Africa, and species which are widespread in the south such as; buffalo, zebra, Defassa waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, giraffe, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, greater kudu (some of the most handsomely horned males you’ll come across anywhere in Africa) also the more elusive roan and sable antelope. Grant’s gazelle and lesser kudu are also found here and are good examples of game that is more typically associated with areas further north. (It’s also one of the few places where you can see both greater and lesser kudu in the same area.) Ruaha National Park is also home to the largest elephant population found in any of Tanzanian national parks, with some 12,000 elephants migrating through the greater Ruaha ecosystem each year.

It is also an excellent park for predators. Lions are not only numerous and very habituated to vehicles, but the prides tend to be unusually large, often numbering more than 20 individuals. Cheetah can often be seen hunting on the open plains; and the park has a particularly good reputation for leopard sightings. It is one of the last major strongholds for African wild dog populations with more than 100 found here. Black-backed jackal and spotted hyena are both very common and easily seen, and the rarer striped hyena, though seldom observed, also lives here.

There are six main lodges in Ruaha: Tandala Tented Camps, Mwagusi Safari Camp, Mdonya Old River Camp, Ruaha River Lodge, Kwihale and Jongomero Camp.

Ruaha River Lodge is set on one of the most stunning stretches of the Great Ruaha River. Designed around natural kopjes (rocky hills), the lodge has been built out of local stone and thatch and capitalises on it’s exceptional position on a bend in the river. Each of the 24 chalets has stunning views from a large veranda out the front, while the huge interiors feature a sitting area, writing desk and either twin or double beds. At the rear of each chalet is a large bathroom decorated with found timber, a shower and double basins.

Ruaha River lodge