Ruaha Safari Holiday Guide – Great Diversity and Ruaha River

Ruaha National Park is named after the river that runs through the southern portion of the park. The word Ruaha is a corruption of ‘luvaha’, which means river, brook or stream in Kihehe, the local tribal language of this area. The real name of the river is Lyambangari, but this is largely forgotten except by the very eldest of tribesmen.

The area that is now known as Ruaha National Park was originally part of the Saba River Game Reserve which was established in 1910; following on from this it became part of the larger Rungwa Game Reserve (est 1946). It was only gazetted as a ‘National Park’ in 1964 and has recently been extended to create a much larger ecosystem including the original Rungwa Game Reserve which adjoins the northern boundary and the Kizigo Game Reserve which continues on north east.

The Ruaha River valley is commonly thought to extend from the Great Rift Valley and it runs for the entire 160 km boundary of the park, which takes it through rugged gorges and open plains. To the south and west the land rises to 1000m and 1830m respectively and there is corresponding differences in rainfall with an average of 500mm in the flat areas to 800mm on the escarpments.

Highlights of Ruaha National Park

Tanzania’s largest National Park offers a real diversity of habitats.
An impressive array of large predators can be seen with lion, leopard and wild dog.
3 The park has a fine network of game-viewing roads following the Great Ruaha River.

Wildlife and Habitats in Ruaha National Park

As would be expected with such a variety of habitats, the vegetation changes from treeless grasslands and swamps to evergreen forests. The varied topography also results in a correspondingly varied diversity of species so that there are 1600 plant species compared to 600 in the Serengeti and now over 500 bird species which approximates to half that found in the entire country.

Roan antelope, Sable antelope, Greater Kudu, Lichtenstein hartebeest can be found in the park, all of which are rarely found further north and yet at the same time can find Lesser Kudu and Grant’s gazelle not common further south. Predators including Lion, Cheetah, Striped and Spotted Hyaena, Leopard, Side Striped Jackal, Black-backed jackal, and agood populations of Wild Dog can be found.

No major game migration occurs in Ruaha such as those found in the northern parks so game can be seen in Ruaha at any time of the year. Although the game is most concentrated along the river during the long dry season the park becomes a different world after the rains in December with the trees erupting into leaf and the Great Ruaha River swelling into a bursting torrent while the bird population explodes with migrants from both hemispheres visiting Ruaha.

A visit during this time will open your eyes to a completely different Africa to the one you thought you knew well. The road infrastructure is excellent and all-weather.

Safaris in Ruaha National Park

Game driving is the predominant activity in Ruaha National Park. The park has a vast network of all weather roads, so large tracts of the park are accessible to visitors. Not only does this increase the chance of seeing more animals, it also disperses the vehicles more evenly around the park so that you will not meet many other vehicles.

Game walks are available at certain times of year. This is determined by National Parks. The walks are accompanied by a guide and also a National Park ranger.