Ruaha National Park is often cited as Tanzania’s best-kept game viewing secret, as indeed the sheer volume and variety of wildlife on show can be truly spectacular. Particularly during the end of the dry season (August – Oct), when elephants seem to lurk around every corner.
Ruaha lies in the southwest of Tanzania and receives far less visitors than the parks in the Northern Circuit. You are likely to have things to yourself, adding more to the wilderness feel.
Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park and truly a wilderness area. It is a large ecosystem covers about 40,000 sq km and is home to one of Tanzania’s largest elephant and hippo populations, as well as the kudu, a species of antelope not seen in other parks. Ruaha’s bird life is extraordinary, with over 580 species sighted in the park. There are large populations of black-collared lovebird and ashy starlings, fish eagle and falcons, and plenty of water birds like herons, storks and even the red-billed hornbill. Ruaha is also famous for its striking topography with rocky outcrops, stands of baobab, mountains towering in the South and West and seasonal rivers running through the park.
Ruaha receives far less visitors than the parks in the Northern Circuit and you are likely to have things to yourself, adding more to the wilderness feel. Park permits are only US$ 30 per person and camping is US$ 20 per person. If you want to stay inside the park, the new park bandas ($50 pp), are a good deal. If you dare to go bush camping, Ruaha might be the best place. The camps have a spectacular setting overlooking the Great Ruaha River, with hippos… and a big chance you will be home alone – with no other human visitors, that is…
When to go and how to get to Ruaha with your Roadtrip car?
The best game viewing in this National Park 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, when migrant birds swell the numbers.
Ruaha is remote and off the beaten track. Iringa town, some 310km southwest of Morogoro along the Tanzam Highway, is the gateway to the park. Starting from Iringa, the journey takes about 3+ hours. It is a gravel road and a bit technical to drive. The surface is eroded – washboard ribbons – and dangerous when speeding, so drive slowly!