Ruaha National Park, in Central Tanzania, is a very impressive park with an abundance of wildlife. In addition, due to the park's remote location, it is not on the main tourist circuit, and so visitors can enjoy viewing the wildlife without competing with hordes of other tourists.
The park is home to very large prides of lions, giraffes, herds of elephant and many other wild animals. The road network follows the Ruaha River, where the animals congregate in the dry season.
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.
Flora and fauna
- Lions, cheetahs, buffalo, wild dogs, hyenas
- A population of 10,000 elephants
- Kudu (greater and lesser)
- Sable and Roan antelopes
- Hippos, crocodiles, impalas, jackals
- A large variety of bird life
Ruaha National Park is generally hot and dry. Its temperature does not vary so much all year round because of its location near the equator. All year-round, the nights are warm. October to March are the warmest months, while the coolest are from June to August. The altitude variations within Ruaha range from 720 to 1886 m (2362 to 6188 ft) which results in a variation in temperatures. For every 1000 m you climb, temperature drop by approximately 6.5 °C (43.7 °F).
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 temperature is between 28 °C (82 °F) during the day and 17 °C (63 °F) at night.
- Self-drive. The most direct route to the park is from the town of Iringa on the main Zambia-Dar Es Salaam trunk. A dirt road traverses west to the northwest to the park entrance. The road is in reasonable condition and can be travelled by a two-wheel drive vehicle.
Petrol can be bought at tye Park headquarters for a relatively high price, so better fuel up in Iringa.
- Hire. From Iringa, you are looking at US$120 per day to hire a 4x4 to get there and drive around the park (this includes a driver and the cost of the fuel). This may seem like a lot of money but the drivers are excellent spotters of the game and avoid you the misfortune of missing some interesting and hidden animals.
Upmarket tourist resorts ferry their guests directly to the lodge via light aircraft. The landing strip is near the main camp on the Ruaha River.
Fees and permits
Permits are obtainable at the gate.
- International travellers. US$60 per vehicle and US$30 per person. (2006).
- Tanzanian passport holders. A reduced fee in local currency.
Self-drive or join an organised safari.
- Guides can be hired for about US$10 -- recommended to increase game spotting and for orientation in the park.
An impressive display of fauna and flora.
- Mdonya Old River Camp. www.mdonya.com
- Ruaha River Lodge.
- Jongomero Camp.
- Bandas. The Bandas are basic but clean with mosquito nets. They are beautifully situated near the River and have a self-catering kitchen Warm showers a fireplace and you can do some game spotting right from huts on the river bank. Reservations through park headquarters +255756144400. Price about US$20 per person/night. Basic local meals can be obtained at headquarters canteen, 1 km from the Bandas.
- Mwagusi Camp. The price is US$70 per person per night for local visitors and US$500 per person per night for foreign tourists. Price includes accommodation and meals but not drinks. The accommodation is made up of self contained traditional bandas with hot solar showers and flushing conveniences scattered along the Mwagusi Sand River. Inside the banda is the sleeping “tent” fitted out with comfortable bed, desk for writing your journal, etc. Every banda has a veranda overlooking the sand river where you can watch the game wander by in the early morning and evening in unbridled comfort.
A typical day at Mwagusi can consist of the following:
- 07:30 Coffee served in your banda
- 08:00 Early morning bird walk
- 09:00 Breakfast (juice, fruit, toast, coffee, tea, eggs, etc.)
- Game Drive
- 11:00 Morning coffee and pastries (if required)
- Game Drive
- 13:00 Lunch (3 courses – e.g. gazpacho, buffet, dessert and coffee); afternoon game drive
- 16:00 Afternoon coffee and pastries (if required)
- Game drive
- 18:00 Return to camp, hot shower
- 19:30 Cocktails in Sand River around a camp fire, evening meal (5 courses) set in Sand River surrounded by elephants and lions within touching distance
It is also possible to arrange a day's walking safari, although this definitely not for the faint hearted as the guides don’t like to carry guns (make sure you know how to climb a tree)!