Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park in Tanzania is second only to the Serengeti as Tanzania’s largest national park. Ruaha covers a territory of about 10,300 km² and falls within an area about five times larger; a collection of six other protected areas – further increasing Tanzania’s huge accolade of vast, unbroken conservation zones. Considered one of the best game-viewing spots in the country, Ruaha certainly delivers.
Apart from having many elephant (over 12,000), the park is excellent for lion, leopard, cheetah, African wild dog and other predators, as well as the huge numbers of prey required to support such a large host of carnivores. Prides of lion tend to be abnormally large and as a result hunt often, whilst the numbers of rare African Wild Dog present here are almost unprecedented. Sightings of the dog are best during June or July, in the Mwagusi area.
In terms of birds, 450 species have been identified, with a good selection of endemic species – of particular interest are the beautiful black-collared lovebirds and ashy starlings that are commonly visible. During the rainy and green summer season (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, March), the migrant birds return, some from as far away as the Russian Steppes! Most notable are the cuckoos who arrive anytime from October onwards. They wreak havoc among the other birds, laying eggs in other nests and ultimately dooming the particular family who’s nest they’ve placed their egg into. Amur falcons return in their thousands at this time of the year, taking advantage of the emerging termits escaping from their mounds in the millions after the rains.
Similarly in terms of antelope, Ruaha hides several that are not present (or at least are very rare) in other parts of the country, and with luck roan, sable and greater kudu can be seen here.
Ruaha is typically hot and dry – temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius are common over October and November, although the national park is not very humid and the heat isn’t as bad as may be expected. The best game viewing is between May and November, although those interested in scenery photography may wish to visit during the early part of the year, whilst birders would do well between late December and April.
Access is typically by air, and there are daily scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam and the Selous. The Ruaha really needs several nights to fully explore its offerings, and we’d recommend making it one of the “iconic” sections of a trip to Tanzania – the game is truly spectacular, the popular big cat sightings are good and accommodation is of a high quality.
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