Ruaha National Park became the largest national park in Tanzania in 2008. It covers an area of about 20,226 square kilometres making it the largest protected area in Tanzania and East Africa at large. It is in the centre of Tanzania about 130 kilometres from the city of Iringa. The park is part of a more extensive ecosystem, which includes Rungwa Game Reserve, Usangu Game Reserve, and several other protected areas that make up a total of 45,000 square km. The park’s name is derived from the Great Ruaha river which is an important water source for the wildlife.
The dry season is the best time of viewing wildlife in the park as the Ruaha, Mwagusi and Mzombe rivers become the main sources of water to the animals meaning larger concentrations of all sorts of animals along these water sources. The blooming flowers of the miombo woodlands and the beautiful scenery add up to the wildlife to create an amazing safari paradise. Migrating birds increase in the months of November to March making them great months for birders to visit.
Species and diversity:
The Great Ruaha river, which flows along its south eastern margin provides water for a great diversity of animals and birds. Ruaha National Park homes approximately 10% of the world’s lion population and has the 3rd largest population of wild dogs in Africa. Other animals found in Ruaha include greater kude, elephants, buffalos, antelopes, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, elands, impalas, bat eared foxes and jackals, crocodiles, snakes, monitor lizards, agama lizards and frogs. The great deal of fauna, over 1,650 species from the baobab to the acacia create a beautiful scenery to view.
There are over 500 species of birds here some of which are migratory like the red billed wood hoopoe, racquet-tailed roller, purple-crested turaco. Other local ones such as the black-collared lovebird, ashy starlings, hornbills, and vultures also add up to the high number of species making Ruaha a great birding destination.
Size and accessibility:
The largest protected area in East Africa covers 20,226 square kilometres.
Ruaha National Park can be accessed from various parts in Tanzania by both air and road.
From Iringa town, the 130km drive can last between 2-3 hours while from Dar-es-Salaam City, a 625km distance, a drive can last about 7-9 hours. The road into the park is passable throughout the year.
The park has airstrips located in Msembe and Jongomero that can be accessed by both scheduled and chartered flights mainly from Arusha, Dodoma, Kigoma and Dar-es-salaam.