Ruaha National park overview

Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s second-largest park after Nyerere National park (selous). Situated in the heart of the country, Ruaha is a predator-rich is far off the beaten track. Few visitors make it to the beautiful destination due to it being not as accessible as the other national parks, although the scenery and wildlife make the trip worth it.

Ruaha National Park covers over 20,000 km² of land. Due to its vast size, and the fact that there are not many camps in the park, Ruaha is known as one of Tanzania’s best-kept secret safari spots, promising unhurried, uncrowded game viewing.

The park was established in 1910 by the Germans and initially called Saba Game Reserve. In the late 1940s, the British took over, renaming it Rungwa Game Reserve. In 1964, it was finally named Ruaha National Park, after the Ruaha River, and gazetted. Ruvaha in the local Hehe language means ‘river’. The Usangu Wildlife Management Area was included as part of the park in 2008.

Ruaha National park is known for its huge elephant population (estimated at over 10,000) and healthy populations of predators. Especially notable, are the large pride of lion (up to 20 together), leopard, and cheetah. With over 500 species of bird (both seasonal and permanent), Ruaha National park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Again, the variety of birds is spectacular, including waterbirds and raptors from both the south and north.

Wildlife in Ruaha National park

Ruaha National park is an outstanding safari park due to the fact the park showcases a crossover of East and Southern African species in terms of flora and fauna. One reason for the hordes of animals in Ruaha is the Great Ruaha River, a vital water source throughout the year but especially during the dry season. The reliability of the river owes much to the success of game drives in this destination, as animals congregate predictably on the long shores.

Lion live here in large pride, often numbering over twenty individuals! Leopard and cheetah love hunting on the open plains, while many smaller species are equally at home here – serval, caracal, civet, genet, and banded wildcat. Cheetah is remarkably common making seeing the three main cat species very likely – something that’s rare anywhere in Africa nowadays.

Other mammals also thrive in Ruaha in abundance. The park’s elephant herds are absolutely humongous! Buffalo are plentiful too, as are zebra, giraffe, hippopotamus, and an exciting assortment of antelope species such as roan, sable, eland, impala, gazelle, reedbuck, hartebeest, klipspringer – and the largest population of greater kudu in all East Africa! Predators, in addition to the cats, include the black-backed jackal, spotted hyena, and (less common) striped hyena. The park is also an important area for wild dogs, hosting over a hundred dogs at last count.

When to go to the Ruaha National park

Ruaha National Park is a typical dry season park, with the best time to see larger mammals and predators being between mid-May and December. As water becomes scarce toward the end of the dry season, the game gathers around available water sources, offering unbeatable game viewing opportunities.

During the wet season from January to April the bush becomes lush and green and many migratory birds arrive from the northern climes, making it an idyllic bird watching paradise.

What to do in Ruaha

Visit Ruaha National park and go for Game drives to spot the diverse game. Birdwatching, especially during the wet season (European winter, when the migratory birds are here). Some camps offer walking safaris to get as close to nature as possible. Bush breakfasts or sundowners. Fly camping; real, wild, African bush camping. Visits to numerous historical and cultural sites in and around Ruaha. Marvel at the Great Rift Valley which traverses the park.

Climate in Ruaha

Ruaha National park is generally hot and dry. Its Temperatures do not vary so much all year round and this is basically because if its location near the equator crossing. All year-round, the Nights are warm, and from October to March, those are the warmest months while the coolest are from June to August. The altitude variations within Ruaha range from 720m to 1886m / 2362ft to 6188ft which results in a variation in temperatures. For every 1000 meter, you climb temperature drop by approximately 6.5°C or 3.5°F/1000 ft. This variation may not greatly affect tourists since the majority of the accessible area at lower altitudes.

Dry season (May to October); May, June, July, August, September, and October are the coolest months of the year and the temperatures range from 27°C/81°F during the day and at night 14°C/57°F. the sun is at its peaks while the skies are clear with very few clouds.

The wet season from November to April; In November it begins to rain although it is not easy to predict the exact timing. The wet season is usually hot and humid while the Average temperatures are between 28°C/82°F during the day and 17°C/63°F at night.

Getting there

By car – Ruaha National park is 625 km from Dar es Salaam and 130 km from Iringa. Travel time depends on the traffic and state of the roads but is around 9 hours from Dar.

By air – Daily scheduled flights fly into the park’s two airstrips (Msembe and Jongomero) from Arusha, Dodoma, Kigoma, and Dar es Salaam. Chartered flights can also be booked.