Best Ruaha Safari tours
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Best Ruaha Safari Tours
Ruaha is now Tanzania’s largest national park and offers excellent wildlife viewing. It is particularly good for spotting predators, including very large prides of lion and the endangered wild dog. Elephants and a big variety of antelope species are another big draw to the park. It also has outstanding wilderness appeal, with limited exclusive, luxury camps available.
All big cats are regularly seen, and wild dog are the star attraction. They are especially easy to find when denning. Several antelope species that are rare or absent in northern Tanzania, such as greater and lesser kudu, roan and sable antelope, are often encountered.
Approximately an hour and a half flying time to the west of the Selous, Ruaha National Park is often paired with its neighbour and provides the perfect foil. Where the Selous is verdant and riverine, Ruaha is barren and sparse. Where the Selous has elephant, hippo and crocodile, Ruaha has lions, buffalo and leopard. In every sense, to step into Ruaha is to step into how Africa has existed forever
How to get to Ruaha National Park
Ruaha’s remote location means that it is difficult to access, but the long journey is rewarded ten times over by the secluded safari paradise that awaits. The Southern Safari Circuit is less popular, so flight connections are not as frequent.
You can reach Ruaha via plane or car, although we recommend the former for ease and comfort. If you do decide to drive, you’ll get a wonderful insight into rural Tanzanian life, and you can enjoy the changing landscapes that never fail to impress. If you decide to stop over in Morogoro or Iringa, you can even get a taste of traditional village life.
Ruaha is 625 km away from Dar es Salaam and the road journey takes around 9 hours. You can also drive from Iringa which is only 130 km away.
Tanzania National Parks on Map
Safaris at Ruaha
Morning game drives and walking safaris are the most popular activities at Ruaha. Night drives are not permitted. Walking safaris with an experienced ranger allow you to get even closer to the wildlife.
Safaris at Ruaha offer great wildlife photography opportunities. Visitor numbers in the park are much lower than in the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, which means you can feel like you have the park all to yourself.
Hot air balloon trips are another great way to discover Ruaha National Park, and they offer a unique perspective of the wilderness. These trips are quite expensive (around US$550 per person)
Southern Circuit Safari
The south and west of Tanzania are often overshadowed by the more famous and iconic Serengeti Safari and Ngorongoro Crater in the north. However these areas offer incredible game viewing and a range of safari activities such as boating/walking safaris and fly camping. The western parks, Katavi and Mahale, are even more remote and wild – and expensive to reach! – thus less frequented by travellers and more exclusive.
Things to do in Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park is a magical wildlife haven perfect for Tanzania wildlife safaris, the park is a home to one of the largest elephant concentrations on the continent of Africa, second largest population of lions on earth with 1000 individuals which is 10% of Africa’s remaining population and it is one of the only four cheetahs destinations with over 200 individuals. Other animals found in Ruaha National Park include
Mammals like topi, southern and Bohor reedbucks, grant’s gazelles, roan antelopes, hartebeests, Topis, Lichtenstein’s hartebeests, sable antelopes, zebras, elands, wild dogs, leopards, bat-eared foxes, jackals among others.
Reptiles – crocodiles, poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, monitor lizards and agama lizards.
Ruaha national park is perfect destination for Tanzania birding safaris, the park hosts a total of 574 bird species and attracts a number of migrant birds from Europe, Australian rim, Madagascar and from others parts of the African continent. Recently, one of Tanzania’s important birding areas (IBA) Usangu basin wetland was annexed to Ruaha national park adding on to the large bird population found in the park.
Some of the birds found in Ruaha national park include Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, Bateleur, Giant kingfisher, Collared palm-thrush, White-browed coucal, Spur-winged goose, African fish eagle, Ashy starling, Black-bellied bustard, Collared palm-thrush, Crested barbet, Eleonora’s falcon, Emerald-spotted wood dove, Goliath heron, Long-crested eagle, Namaqua dove, Southern ground hornbill, Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, White-bellied go-away bird, Yellow-collared lovebird among others.
Birds in Ruaha National Park are best seen during the period from November to April as migratory bird species join the resident species.
Ruaha national park is dominated by semi-arid type of Vegetation which is also one of the tourist attractions of the park, the vegetation cover consists of baobab trees, Acacia trees and over 1650 plant species. Ruaha national park is a point of transition from two vegetation zones that are Miombo vegetation which is characterized of miombo vegetation and Sudanian vegetation characterized of acacia vegetation.
Ruaha national park one of the breathtaking areas perfect for Tanzania scenic viewing safaris, the park has breath taking landscape consisting of plains, wetlands, rolling hills, rocky escarpments and the great Ruaha River. Some of the beautiful hills in Ruaha national park include Kilimamatonge, Nyamasombe, Nyanywa, chariwindwi, Igawira, Mwayiui, Kibiriti, Magangwe, Ndetamburwa and Isukanvyiola. These hills act as kopjes thus creating a good habitat for animals living in the park such as Klipspringer among others.
Ruaha National Park comprises of several historical and cultural sites and because of the sites, the park has become an excellent site for Tanzania cultural safaris and historical tours. The area of Ruaha national park is hailed as “the land of the brave chief Mkwawa” the chief of the hehe people who resisted against the German attack/influence in the late 19th century. The area of the park was part of the Hehe community which was under the leadership of Chief Mkwawa, in process of resisting the Germany colonial influence of successful and fierce battle tactics were used against the Germans and some of the rocky outcrops in the park were used as hiding places. These out crops are famously known as the hiding places of Mkwawa who went into hiding after the fall of his Kalenga Empire to the German in 1894.
Many believe that the area of Ruaha national park holds many secrets of chief Mkwawa and there are many cultural sites in the park such as
Mapenza grave – Mapenza grave belong to the Gogo chief who has a burial site in the park and it is located on the rout leading to Mpululu, visiting this grave is a full day guided excursion from Msembe.
Idinda rock paintings – this site consists of rocky paints and traditional materials believed to have made by the ancient people.
The Ganga La Mafunyo rock – is a ritual site for the local people of Pawanga villages.
The Nyanywa rock paintings – historical site hosting various ancient painting made by ancient people and many other historical things.
Visiting Ruaha national park offers an opportunity to explore the tribes found in the southern Tanzania and early trade routes used by the Arab caravan which crossed over the area. These trades came into existence as a result of the Arabs expanding their routes northward in 1830, also in 1857 – 1858 European explorers such as Burton and Speke used these routes during their exploring expeditions.
Ruaha national park encompasses of a grand river systems which are not only one of the attractions in the park but also watershed feeding the park’s ecosystem, some of the main rivers in Ruaha national park include the Great Ruaha river, Mzombe river, Mdonya river, Mwagusi river and Jongomero river.
The Great Ruaha River is the major tourist attraction in Ruaha national park and the most significant river running along the eastern boundary of the park. The river is about 457 kilometers long and its tributary basin has a catchment area of 68,000 square kilometers, the river flows through the Usangu wetlands then eastwards through the park to join the Rufiji River.
The Great Ruaha River is fed by many other river and some of the Majors Rivers include Lukosi, Yovi, Kitete, Sanje, Little Ruaha, Kisigo, Mbarali, Kimani and Chimala. Small rivers include Umrobi, Mkoji, Lunwa, Mloboji, Ipatagwa, Mambi and Mswiswi rivers.
The Great Ruaha River is an excellent sight for Tanzania bird watching safaris as well as game viewing, the vegetation along the river banks host many water birds and the river its self is usually crowded by many animals in attempts of quenching their thirst most especially in the dry season.
Ruaha national park is crossed by the Great Rift Valley creating spectacular scenery in the park, the rift valley in the park consists of an escarpment wall of about 50 – 100 meters high in the north-eastern parts along the western valley side and its height increases to the southwest.
The valley of the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha national park is considered to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley, this valley is crossed by the Great Ruaha River flowing for approximately 160 kilometers along the entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.
Among the spectacular attractions in Ruaha national park are the hot springs, these hot springs are associated with the base of the western rift valley escarpment. Hot springs in Ruaha national park are many but the notable ones include Mkwawa, Mwayembe, Makinde and Majimoto hotsprings. Majimoto hot spring is the most interesting hotsrping offering tourists an opportunity to touch naturally hot water and it situated in Jongomero area approximately 20 kilometers from Jongomero tented camp.
These hot springs are a great site to visit during game viewing experience in Ruaha national park most especially in the dry season as many animals gather around them to drink water.
Where to Stay in Ruaha Nation Park
Jabali Ridge: Managed by Asilia Africa, this luxury lodge offers comfortable, stylish accommodation. Overlooking the Mwagusi River, the lodge offers great views of elephant and buffalo during the dry season. Jabali offers 8 suites, including Jabali Private House for travellers who value their own space. The lodge also provides hammocks, an infinity pool, and a spa which offers hot stone massages.
Jongomero Camp: Seamlessly blending into its stunning surroundings, this camp is situated on the banks of the seasonal Jongomero River, an important water source for a plethora of wildlife. Its bar and restaurant are situated on an open wood terrace and their furniture is crafted from reclaimed dhow wood.
Kichaka Expeditions: Choose between 3 eco-friendly camps which combine a rustic feel with luxury. Kichaka’s camps are located within the heart of the wilderness and Kichaka prides itself on the remote locations of its camps. Kichaka Frontier is the main base of Kichaka Expeditions.
When to go
Like most other Tanzanian national parks, it is best to visit Ruaha during the long dry season from June to October. It is relatively cool during this period compared to the hot dry season from mid-December to mid-March.
The dry season also provides great conditions for wildlife viewing because animals are drawn to the dwindling water sources and the grass is too short for them to hide.
For bird enthusiasts, the European winter months (December to April) are the best time to visit as migratory birds make their way down to Tanzania. Some lodges close in the long-wet season (March-May)
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
Ruaha Safari tours FAQ's
Located in central to southern Tanzania, Ruaha National Park is around 130km west of Iringa. Covering an area of 20,226km², Ruaha National Park is the largest protected area in Tanzania and East Africa.
Until recently, Ruaha National Park only had a few basic lodges. However, the range of accommodation has increased in recent years. Ruaha has a great balance of luxury and modest accommodation.
You can reach Ruaha via plane or car, although we recommend the former for ease and comfort. If you do decide to drive, you can take in the landscapes of rural Tanzania and see traditional housing during the journey. If you decide to stop over in Morogoro or Iringa, you can even get a taste of traditional village life.
Ruaha is 625 km away from Dar es Salaam and the road journey takes around 9 hours. You can also drive from Iringa which is only 130 km away.
By plane, the journey is a lot shorter. There are frequent flights from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, the Serengeti, Kigoma, and Dodoma to the local airstrips, Msembe and Jongomero. Coastal Aviation and Safari Airlink operate flights from Dar es Salaam. Private flights can be booked on request.
Ruaha National Park is the biggest national game park in East Africa, and it covers an area of 20,226km². Ruaha is an integral part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem.
The ecosystem spans across an area of 45,000km², and it includes the Rungwa Game Reserve, the Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserves, and the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area.
The Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem fuses the best of Southern and East African nature.
Ruaha National Park is famous for two important reasons: it’s the biggest wildlife conservation area in East Africa, and it boasts scores of unique wildlife species and ecosystems.
The park’s unparalleled predator sightings recently put Ruaha into the spotlight. The Big Cats of Ruaha documentary by National Geographic aired a saga of three lion families sharing hunting grounds in an idyllic oasis along the Mwagusi River known as ‘the Glade’.
Established in 1964, Ruaha is one of the newer reserves in East Africa situated in an area of the world known for its endless horizons, sprawling plains and all-encompassing wildlife arenas. Ruaha is neighboured on the south by the largest national park in Africa, Selous Game Reserve.
Ruaha has within the last few years earned the right to call itself the largest protected area in all of Tanzania. Having recently incorporated the Usanga Game Reserve into its borders in 2008 and several other wetland areas, Ruaha now spans an area covering an enormous 20,226 square kilometres.
Although the biggest, Ruaha is by no means the most frequented area of Tanzania and it attracts a relatively smaller number of tourists. In doing so, the Park has maintained a glorious aura of mystery and intrigue about it as one of the untouched lands of Africa.
A safari to Ruaha National Park costs anywhere from $150 per person to $1750 per person. This is for safari expenses like flights, park entrance fees, accommodation, meals, and additional activities like game drives and hot air balloon rides.
Trips to Ruaha National Park tend to be pricier due to its location in the heart of Safari Country in Southern Tanzania. Its remoteness also means less foot traffic from other tourists in the area, which makes for a more exclusive safari experience.
The best times to visit Ruaha National Park are split into two seasons – the dry season (June-October) is great for safaris while the wet season (November-April) is great for bird-watching.
The best time for safaris
Safaris are most prolific in the dry season due to the animals congregating at river edges and watering holes. Although more popular for tourists, the park is remote enough that even in the height of the optimal game-viewing season it remains wonderfully peaceful and unspoiled by diesel engines.
Another benefit of the dry season is fewer mosquitoes and a reduced chance of catching malaria.