Ruaha National Park

Ruaha is one of the most unspoiled and remote national parks in east Africa. It has an ecosystem as big as the Serengeti yet it has few foreign visitors in comparison. It covers an area of 10,300sq Km, and it Tanzania’s second largest national park. The Park derives it name from the Ruaha River, which flows through the eastern section on the lowest level of the Great Rift Valley. Ruaha national Park is part of a much large ecosystem, which includes two further protected areas, the Rungwe and Kizigo Game Reserves.

Establishment

Established in 1910 and gazette as a national park in 1964 the park is part of the Ruaha ecosystem which also includes the Rungwa-Kisigio Game Reserve to the north-west, totalling an area of 26,500 km.

Location

The Ruaha National Park lays 112 km from Iringa, and is accessible by road, up to ten hours drive situated a long the road going westwards out of Iringa. It is about 2 and a half-hour flight from Dar-es-salaam. By Air access is to one of the airstrips close to the Park Headquarters at Msembe, Charter flights are from Dar-es-salaam, Mikumi, Iringa and Arusha.

Fauna

This vast area protects both the Great Ruaha and Mzombe rivers. It represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of fauna and flora overlap. The park forms the most southerly range where grants gazelle, lesser kudu and the striped hyena are to be found. Also to be seen are greater kudu, sable, eland and roan antelope – all more southern African species. Lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog are all found here together with a number of smaller predators. Ruaha’s 8,000 resident elephants remain the largest population in east Africa. Giraffe, zebra, impala and buffalo are all to be found along with a vary of other species. Ruaha also boasts one of the last remaining strong holds for African wild dog. Large packs roam the park hunting down their quarry along the riverbeds. Large rock pools are left swarming with large numbers of huge crocodiles and grunting hippo fighting for space.

Flora

Huge baobabs dominate the landscape. Parts of the river are lined by some of the most stunning trees in Africa. The park is full of undulating hills with rocky Kopjes and the great Mpululu Mountains in the distance.

Time to visit

The best months to visit are from July to November when the animals congregate around the water holes, but the park is stunning all year round. The best month to visit the park for predators and large mammals is from June-December. The wet season January-May is good for bird-watching, lush scenery and wild flowers, in this season March, April and May the long rains close off many of the tracks.

Birdwatching

More than 400 species of birds have been recorded here its geographical location means that it is visited by both northern and southern migrants. Ruaha also has a great variety of resident species due to the diversity of habitats to be found here. The best birding is between January and April.

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