South Tanzania Wildlife Safaris
inc flights from Dar or Zanzibar
Ruaha National Park is now Tanzania's and East Africa's largest national park. Originally it covered 10,300 km², but in 2008 the Usangu Game Reserve and other wetland habitats were absorbed into Ruaha bringing its total area to over 22,000 km2.
Ruaha is far from international flight access points to Tanzania, meaning that it is not first choice for most travellers. For its size it is little known or visited, but with some breath taking landscapes and wildlife which includes Tanzania's greatest density of elephants and an incredible 567 species of bird, it deserves its description as 'Tanzania's Best Kept Secret'.
Ruaha is home to an estimated 8,000 strong elephant population, which we can often appear in herds of 100 or more in the western half of the park. There are even larger herds of buffalo and a full range of predators including lions, leopards and cheetahs through to more elusive cat species such as genets, which mix stripes in their tails with spots on their body. A small population of the highly efficient, yet much endangered African hunting dogs also exists in Ruaha. They are a rare treat for those who see them.
Of antelopes, both greater and lesser kudus appear in the Ruaha whose beautifully curled horns are a joy to see. Sable and roan antelope are also here, whilst impala are widespread, as are the much smaller dik dik which are one of the benefactors of the tree breaking habits of elephants, which can bring leaves from the giraffe grazing heights to theirs.
The dry season, which is usually between June and early December, is the best time to spot mammals, with wildlife concentrating around Ruaha's rapidly evaporating Great Ruaha River. Hippos and some huge Nile crocodiles congregate in pools along the river, which is often fringed with Acacia robusta, the odd Borassus palm, some ever uniquely formed baobab trees and beautiful meadows. Here you can often see waterbuck grazing alongside waterside birds such as the tall yellow billed stork, Hadada ibis, huge nest-building hammerkops and the world's tallest herons: the Goliath heron.
Bird watching is always good in Ruaha, but is best late November to March when large numbers of birds such as Eleonora's Falcon, arrive on migration from Europe. This reserve is particularly good for spotting raptors overall, with species such Pel's fishing owl, the African hawk, bateleur, long crested, martial and snake eagles all being found here. Endemics include the only recently identified Ruaha red billed hornbill, Ruaha chat and creatively named yellow collared lovebird.
Eastern Ruaha is served by the Msembe air strip. We have the choice of a few camps here and a great benefit of this area is that the habitats include areas of open grasslands which provide easiest game viewing in the park. Don't be surprised to see giraffe on the Msembe runway as you arrive, or an elephant moving amongst the trees beneath you as you fly in.
Served by Jongomero airport, there is currently luxury lodge space for just 14 people in Western Ruaha which provides you with a true wilderness in style opportunity. Here you have in effect, got half a national park to a very small number of people. We can make your experience here even more remote by taking you on a 2 night 'fly camping' walking safari - a never to be forgotten experience deep in African bush.
Ruaha on its own
Ruaha is worth visiting on its own or in combination with other parks. On its own you would want to consider flying, since it takes at least 11 hours to drive there from Dar. If you have not been on safari before, then the eastern section provides best opportunity for seeing the Big Five minus without rhino, but with good chances of cheetah and reasonable chances for leopards.
If you have been on safari before then western Ruaha is highly recommended because of its exclusive sense of wilderness, either on its own, or in combination with eastern Ruaha in order to increase your chances of seeing predators.
Ruaha in combination with other parks
If you prefer to fly, then Ruaha there is a high chance your flight will put down in the Selous Game Reserve, so a combination of these parks works very well. You can also connect easily with a flight to Arusha, which opens you up to the whole northern park areas.
If fancy an overland experience then you can experience huge variety of landscapes and species diversity by combining Ruaha with the Mikumi National Park and the Udzungwa Mountains. We operate these safaris with a private driver guide and in addition to wildlife, you will be able to experience something of rural African life and some lovely scenery along parts of the section between Mikumi and Ruaha. We always recommend that you fly back from Ruaha to Dar, or onwards to other parks such as Selous, whilst your guide takes the long drive back to base.