RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
Ruaha is an astonishing park which can provide even the most experienced travelers with something new. The undulating topography, glorious river and majestic trees combine to produce one of Africa’s most captivating landscapes.
Situated in central Tanzania, the Ruaha National Park is the second biggest park in Tanzania covering about 13,000 sq kms. Ruaha’s spectacular scenery includes rolling hills, large open plains, groves of skeletal baobabs and, along its southern border, the wide Great Ruaha River, and since visitor numbers are comparatively few, it possesses a true wilderness atmosphere.
Ruaha’s ecosystems represent a transition between the miombo woodlands and the more open savannah. This is evident in the park’s vegetation, which is thick in some areas and yet wide open in others. The variation in altitude and topography has given rise to wide diversity of plants and wildlife, which is greatly enhanced by the permanent water of the Ruaha River.
Enormous baobab trees are a key feature of the park, where Ruaha’s huge elephant populations relish the succulent bark of Baobab trees. Other remarkable trees that can be found in Ruaha include Tamarind, Jackalberry, Wooden Banana, Pod Mahogany and Newtonia.
Almost all of Africa’s large mammal species are to be found in Ruaha. It has the largest elephant population than any Tanzanian national park. Large carnivores are well represented, populations of lions doze in sandy riverbeds, leopards are wide spread, and cheetahs are often seen hunting on open plains. Spotted hyena and wild dogs can be seen throughout Ruaha. The park is also famous for its huge buffalo herds and variety of antelope species including both greater and lesser kudu, roan, sable, Grant’s gazelle and eland.
For birdwatchers, Ruaha’s birdlife is extraordinary, with over 500 species recorded including goliath herons, saddle-billed storks, white-headed plovers and the white-backed night heron. There are six species of both vultures and hornbills, and raptors abound.
The best time to visit Ruaha National Park is probably in the dry season between June and October. As a simple rule, the drier it gets, the fewer places there are for the game to drink and the more the animals congregate around remaining water sources. Of course this makes life much easier for lions and other predators as they simply have to hide in a bush near such a water source and try not to fall asleep.