Ruaha Nat'l Park

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A leopard descends down a tree limb preparing to make a leap to the ground down below in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania view larger image

Ruaha may be the most dramatic national park in Tanzania for its combination of spectacular vistas and variety of animals, including 400 bird species. The great Ruaha River is the lifeline supporting vast concentrations of buffalo, gazelle, kudu, roan and sable antelope, and thousands of elephant. The river harbors plentiful hippo and crocodile. Predators include lion, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog. Rarely, however, does one meet other vehicles on game drives in this little-explored landscape.

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A gorgeously colored African Pygmy Kingfisher clings to a blade of grass as it searches for food in Ruaha National Park, TanzaniaHerd of African elephants trundles across the countryside with a baby elephant in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania view image gallery

The Safari Experience

Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park, and with its remote location, it sees few tourists, providing a very exclusive safari experience. Like other parks in western and southern Tanzania, Ruaha is part of a large ecosystem including the Rungwa Game Reserve and a number of other protected wildlife areas, with little human impact and a very rich wildlife population amidst raw wilderness. The Great Ruaha River provides a constant water source for wildlife and only dries up in years with extremely low rainfall. The main safari focus is morning and afternoon wildlife drives by open 4x4 vehicles, as well as nature and wildlife walks with rangers and trackers, bird watching with a knowledgeable guide, and romantic meals in the wilderness set up and served by your guides. The scenery stuns with rolling hills and kopjes, bubbling natural springs and a rift escarpment rising up more than 300 feet above a broad valley below.

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Herd of African elephants trundles across the countryside with a baby elephant in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania view image gallery


Ruaha has very large herds of elephant and buffalo, and plenty of space to support them. About 8,000 elephant roam free here, compared to just over 2,000 in the Serengeti, for example. Endangered wild dog are resident here, along with lion, leopard, cheetah, jackal, bat-eared fox and all of Africa’s key plains wildlife, including giraffe, zebra, eland, impala and much more. Some of the more unique species found in Ruaha include the greater kudu (the males with their impressive horns being most prevalent in the June breeding season) as well as sable and roan antelope, found in the Miombo woodland. The area teems with bird life; 571 recorded species include migrant birds from as far away as Europe, Asia, Madagascar and Australia. Birding peaks during the wet season, and just a few of the species commonly seen are Ruaha red-billed hornbill and many kingfishers and sunbirds.

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An African wild dog or hyena gazes intently into the distance with its ears perked upwards for the slightest sound in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania view image gallery

How to Include Ruaha in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 3 nights
Photographers: 3 nights
Families: 3 nights
Active Travelers: 3 nights

Other Regions to Include

Ruaha National Park is located in the remote south of Tanzania, where the Great Ruaha River eventually flows into the neighboring Selous Game Reserve. These two far-removed locations combine beautifully, and Selous has the added interest of boating safaris on the Rufiji River, rewarding nature walks, and fly-camping in the wilderness for a truly wild experience. A natural way to begin a safari like this is to first fly from Arusha to Mahale Mountains National Park for chimpanzee viewing on the second deepest lake in the world, and Katavi National Park for impressive lion hunting, water birds and massive herds of animals. A short hop to Dar es Salaam will connect you onward for home, or a stopover in Zanzibar offers a relaxing beach extension and trekking to see endangered red colobus monkeys.

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