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Rukwa Travel Guide | Rukwa Safari Tours

Rukwa Travel Guide | Rukwa Safari Tours

Geographically speaking, Rukwa is situated between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa. The region boasts an abundance of wildlife including elephants, lions, hippos, and crocodiles. Visitors can also explore the vast savannahs and lush forests that make up much of the landscape.

When it comes to tourist-relevant sights in Rukwa, there are many must-see places to visit. One such place is Katavi National Park which offers visitors an opportunity to witness some of Africa’s most incredible wildlife in their natural habitat. Another popular attraction is Kalambo Falls – one of the highest waterfalls in Africa with a drop of over 200 meters.

The region is bordered to the north by the Katavi Region, to the east by the Mbeya Region, to the south by Zambia, and to the west by Lake Tanganyika, which forms a border between Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Best Safari tours from Rukwa

Often overlooked by many safari operators in favour of the northern parks, the southern parks of Nyerere National Park (formerly the Selous Game Reserve) and Ruaha National Park are worth serious consideration and are the preferred destination for most who are really keen on their safari. 

The benefits of heading to the south is that, where the very north of the Serengeti gives the numbers of game, along with some seclusion, the southern parks are still very much “frontier” parks and so are noticeably less busy (they also feature the same spread of species as the north, but more like a thousand, rather than 2 million). 

The second important point is that, where the average lodge cost in the north is around $700 per person per night, the lodges in the south, where they offer a similar experience, are around $2-300 less.

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The south and west of Tanzania are often overshadowed by the more famous and iconic Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in the north.  Some agents feel that the south and west are better suited to the seasoned safari-goer and don’t recommend them for a first timer  –  however we would disagree! We have sent thousands of first timers to southern Tanzania where they have had an excellent safari experience.

Rukwa Travel Guide

Rukwa region is endowed with abundant tourist attractions which comprise wildlife reserves, cultural tourism, and historical sites.

MV  Liembe is one of the oldest  operational ship in the World, which makes it a significant tourist attraction in this region. 

Other attractions include Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world, Kalambo waterfalls, the second deepest waterfalls in Africa, and un disturbed Mbizi forest where red colubus  monkeys are found.

The region’s name derives from Lake Rukwa which has the largest concentration of crocodiles in Africa.

Historically the region was formed in 1975 by the first president of Tanzania, the late Mwalimu Julius KambarageNyerere after joining Sumbawanga which was part of Mbozi district in Mbeya region by then and Mpanda district which was part of Tabora region.

The name Sumbawanga, originates from a Fipa word,  Sumbu- wanga which simply means-  ‘Throw- away witch craft”.   The word was formerly used by a chief or “ MWENE” of Wafipa tribe  who was ruling the area between 1914-1920. Sumbawanga was regarded as a home to “witch craft” and traditional healers. And through such beliefs it gained its popularity. The Mwene used to tell all Wafipa who wanted to follow him from Kisumba to throw away witchcraft into river lwiche  if they wanted to stay with him. Before that, the word sumbawanga never existed at all. So the history of Sumbawangatownship began from 1929, at a time when the “BOMA” was shifted from Nkasi to the old Sumbawanga. In 1930-1940 this township was under the Authority of Native Africa Authority, later on in 1950 the Ufipa district council was established and was based at IZIA,  BANGWE and MAZWI areas  along the Mpanda -Tunduma highway.

Due to rapid growth of township, the government decided to raise the status of the township into a town council and later  on  01/07/2005 the sumbawanga town council  was further lifted into a municipal council and  is surrounded by Sumbawanga district council and Nkasi.

The region has 3 administrative districts namely sumbawanga, Nkasi and Kalambo. The region is estimated to have  the population of over 1004,539 people,  a dependable work force for the regional economic development. Its area is 27,765 km2 comprising 3 administrative districts with 4 local government authorities (LGAS).  

Today,  Mpanda is the headquarters of the new  KATAVI  region which was formed recently. The main productive sectors in the region of RUKWA are Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forestry, Tourism and Mining. Rukwa region is about 1,200 km by  road from the commercial and administrative capital of Dares-Salaam.

  Also the region will be linked with central and Southern african countries such as the Democratic republic of congo(DRC),  Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa. There is a good network of roads connecting Tunduma and Sumbawanga  andKasanga via Matai and Sumbawanga to Mpanda in Katavi region via Namanyere.

Beautiful beaches on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the Kalambo river waterfalls, the unique environment of Lake Kwela, the oldest Mv. Liemba and several historical sites.


The magnificent waterfalls are found at Kapozwa village in Kalambo district council, one of the four councils that form the famous Rukwa region. The impressive waterfalls situated in Kapozwa village across the border with neighbouring Zambia, a  two and half hour’s drive from Sumbawanga municipal.

This spectacular jet of waterfalls drops in a singleuninterrupted stream of 235 metres  down into the gorge below and then on into Lake Tanganyika.

They are the second highest falls in Africa and the twelfth highest in the world. The falls, whose perfect view is only on the side of Tanzania,  is one of the most desired and valued tourist destination in the south-western Tanzania, is the only place in Africa where there are several rich records of human inhabitation and activity. The waterfalls which are number two after the Tugela Falls in South Africa, lure tourists in the country.


Kalambo waterfalls can be accessed by travelling by the Tanzania- Zambia Railway(TAZARA) from Dares- Salaam to Mbeya and by bus from Mbeya- Sumbawanga- Matai,  the headquarters of Kalambo distinct and then to Kapozwa village, where waterfalls are located. There is reliable transport  and life is made easier as Sumbawanga- Kasanga road stretch is being tarmac and will be easier to access the spectacular Kalambo waterfalls.

Alternatively, you can access Kalambo waterfalls by using ferry from Lake Tanganyika,  the falls enters to Gombe stream National Park. The area falls within the category of high rainfall belts of the country.


Best time to visit Kalambo waterfalls is wet season which is between January through April.  This is the perfect time to visit and watch Kalambo waterfalls because of the high speed flow of its water. The area receives annual rainfall of approximately  1200mm and rainy season last normally- November –April  and minimum temperatures are experienced in July ranges from 5-7 degrees centigrade while maximum temperatures  are experienced in October that ranges to 20 degrees to 25 degrees centigrade. The Kalambowaterfalls inhabits chimpanzees as those of Mahale Mountains National Park. After visiting the waterfalls, you are free to go back to Sumbawanga for accommodation, or got o Kasanga where you can stay at the famous Liembe Hotel or aboard a boat to the fabulous Lake shore lodge at Kipili village or Lupita Island, in Nkasi district.