Ruaha National Park
Ruaha national park is famous for its raw wilderness characteristic, a place to have a rare experience of game viewing spiced up by the fascinating landscape. The park is rich of plants and animals such as Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) which cannot be found in any other national parkin Tanzania. The park boasts of her almost untouched and unexplored ecosystem, making visitors’ safari experience very unique.
Ruaha National Park has a wide variety of plants and animals including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and some of rare and endangered species like wild dogs. Ruaha is believed to have high concentration of elephants than any national park in East Africa. It is also a place where, magnificent mammals like Kudu (both Greater and Lesser), Sable and Roan antelopes can easily be spotted in Miombo woodlands. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, elands, impala, bat eared foxes and Jackals.
The park has more than 571species of birds and some of which are migrants from within and outside Africa. Migrating species from Europe, Asia, Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. Species of interest in the park include Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae) which is dominant in the area. The recently annexed wetland, the Usangu basin is one of the country’s important bird area (IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International. Though birds can be seen all the year around, the best time for bird watching is during the wet season.Apart from large animals, the park also harbors a number of reptiles and amphibians such as crocodiles, poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, monitor lizards, agama lizards and frogs.
The park is characterized by semi-arid type of vegetation, baobab trees, Acacia and other species. There are over 1650 plant species that have been identified. The park is the transitional point of two vegetation zones, the Zambezian (characterized by Miombo vegetation) and Sudanian (characterized by Acacia vegetation).
There are several historical and cultural sites in the park which offer a visitor a chance to explore the Southern Tanzanian tribes. The early trade routes used by the Arab caravan crossed here. In 1830 these coastal traders expanded their routes northward, and in year 1857 to 1858 other European explorers such as Burton and Speke used these routes too. Chief Mkwawa used the same routes to visit his chiefdoms in Sangu and Gogo.
The park area often hailed as the land of the brave Chief Mkwawa, the Chief of the hehe people who resisted against the German attack in the late 19th century. The fierce and successful battle tactics against the German invasion made the Hehe tribe famous in the Southern highland of the then Tanganyika (Tanzania). The Hehe tribe under the leadership of chief Mkwawa was dominant around the Ruaha area. Some of the outcrops in the area are known as hiding places of chief Mkwawa who went into hiding after the fall of his empire (kalenga) to the German in 1894.
In brief, it is believed that, this ancient land (Ruaha National Park) holds many secrets of chief Mkwawa.
Some of the cultural sites that were used for rituals are “Ganga la Mafunyo”, Nyanywa and Chahe, Painting rock at Nyanywa, the “Gogo” chief “Mapenza” grave at Mpululu and “Mkwawa” spring area believed to be used by Chief Mkwawa. Other historical sites near the park include Isimila pillars near Iringa town, Kalenga, Mlambalasi, Lugalo and God’s bridge.
Ruaha National Park has a wide range of physical features from the Great Rift Valley, river systems, natural springs, wetlands, hot water springs, and kopjes to the beautiful rolling hills and mountains.
The river systems and watershed are of economical, social and ecological significance for the park itself and country at large. Main rivers include the Great Ruaha, Mzombe, Mdonya, Mwagusi and Jongomero.
The Great Rift Valley crosses the park. The escarpment wall along the western valley side is about 50-100m high in the north-eastern parts, increasing in height to the southwest. It is considered that, the valley of the Great Ruaha River is an extension of the Great Rift Valley. The Great Ruaha River flows for 160km long along the entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.
They occur throughout the park and they are associated with the base of the Western Rift Valley escarpment, most notably Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde and Majimoto springs. These are dry season refuge for wildlife and when most of the rivers get dry.
The park has undulating land and hills including kilimamatonge, Nyamasombe, Nyanywa, Chariwindwi, Igawira, Mwayiui, Kibiriti, Magangwe, Ndetamburwa and Isukanvyiola. These act as kopjes creating good habitat for animals such as klipspringer which normally can be seen in some of these hills.
What to do:
long and short wilderness walking safari,
bush meals (break-fast, lunch, dinner) in the untouched bushes.
The wet season (January –April) is best for bird watching, lush scenery and wildflowers. The male Greater kudu is most visible in June which is their breeding season.
How to get there
There are both scheduled and chartered flights into the park mainly from Arusha, Dodoma, Kigoma and Dar-es-salaam. Park’s airstrips are located at Msembe and Jongomero
It is about 130km drive from Iringa town and 625km from Dar-es-salaam city.
The road into the park is passable throughout the year.
There are park and privately owned facilities
– Self catering tourist bandas
– Special camping sites
– Public camping sites
– Rest house
– Hostel for school groups
– Park cottages
– Family cottage
– Single room with sitting room
– Single room without sitting room
Private facilities Inside the park
- Luxury tented camps
- Safari Lodges
Outside the park