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Ruaha National Park





"About the Park"

Ruaha national park, in southern Tanzania, has an area of 20,380 sq km. It is the largest park in Africa. Established in 1910 as part of the saba Game Reserve, Ruaha was later declared a National park in 1964. This big chunk of land gets its name from the Great Ruaha river which flows along the entire eastern border of the park for about 160 km.


It is from Ruaha river that most of Tanzania gets its electricity. The power is generated at kidatu on the river. The capital city of Dodoma gets its power from the same river, further upstream, at mtera.


The park is part of Ruaha ecosystem which also includes the Rungwa- kizingo Game Reserve to the north – west. The ecosystem, which covers an area of about 45,000sq km, protects a large part of the water catchment for the great ruaha and mzombe rivers.


joins the ulanga to make the rufiji stretch; there are rocky rapids alternating with deep pools and in some places,  it becomes a shallow river of many channels wondering between numerous sandbanks.


Ruaha, like the mahale mountains, represents a transition zone where eastern and southern African species of fauna and flora overlap. There are several ecological zones in the park. The four main ones are:The main river valleys with their stands of tall fig trees Areas of open “ black cotton” grassland.


The miombo or Brachystegia woodlands. And the undulating country which is dominated by the baobab trees, but  which mainly consists of combretum and commiphora trees and shrubs. Within  these habitats, are different animal species in order of tolerance and preference.


The elevation of the park varies from 750 metres in the great ruaha valley, 1,700 metres at the summit of Datambulwa mountain in the south, and 1,900 metres on ikingu mountain in the west. On the other hand, the rainfall varies from an average of 520mm per annum at msembe, the park Headquarters, to more than 800mm per annum above the escarpment in the miombo country.


It falls during the months of November, December, January, February, march and april. The coolest month of is july with a daytime maximum temperature of 30C. dropping to 15.C at night; temperatures then rise until it starts raining in November or later. A good all weather road connects Iringa and the park Headquarters via mloa by passing through Idodi. Bridge has been built at Ibuguziwa within the park to enable visitors and vehicles to cross the Ruaha River.


Formerly, ferry services were being provided. Although the distance can be covered in less time, it is best to allow at least four hours from Iringa to reach the park comfort. The park Headquarters at msembe is 120km from iringa; 615km from Dar es salaam; 322km from mikumi; 369km from Dodoma; 502km from mbeya and 807km from Arusha. It is exactly half way from the Tanzania Zambia border town of Tunduma to Dar es salaam; hence a visit to the park is a perfect reason for breaking an otherwise tiring journey.


The best months for visiting the park are from july to November. The grass is long from February to june, thus restricting game viewing. January, February and march are wet months and many tracks become impassable, while animal density, especially along the rivers, thins out. However, the besgt time for bird watchers to visit the park, is  between January and April.



The name Ruaha which has been burrowed from the river and applied to the park as a whole is a corruption of the word: “ Luvaha”, which simply means “great”, in the Hehe language.

Ruaha national park enjoys a good climate and indeed it is a photographer’s paradise. To be able to see both Greater and Lesser Kudu, roan and sable antelope in the same park is one of the special attractions of Ruaha. The area is also one of Tanzania’s largest elephant sanctuaries.



More than 400 species of birds have been recorded in Ruaha. Its geographical location means that it is visited by both northern and southern migrants. Ruaha also has a great variety of resident species due to the diversity of habitats in this transition zone.


For instance baobabs exist throughout the park, but are most common in rift valley and along the mzombe river. These magnificent trees may live for up to 3000 years and are remarkably resilient; most of the big ones you are likely to encounter during your safari are between 100 and 800 years old.


The trees produce white flowers  just before the onset of the rains; the resultant fruits are rich in “ ream of tartar” and are eaten by people and animals. They are also a rich source of honey.


Baobabs are surrounded by all sorts of legends and superstitions such as the well known tale that God erected them upside down.The exciting Great Ruaha River offers the major attraction of course, especially during the dry season.