When it comes to truly special, wild safari destinations, Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania is certainly in the running. Located about 500 kilometers from the city of Dar es Salaam, Ruaha is the country’s largest national park. Even with its size – of over 20,000 km2 – and incredible wildlife density, it’s still one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets.

Several domestic airlines fly into Ruaha National Park, making it easy to combine with other parks. Combining the southern parks of Tanzania is a great choice for those who have done the more established parks like the Serengeti, the Kruger, and the Okavango Delta to name a few. Being off the beaten track, Ruaha’s secluded spot can be combined with the Selous Game Reserve to provide a contrast of landscapes and game viewing opportunities.

The landscape of Ruaha National Park is very different to the ‘picture-perfect’ open plains of the Serengeti. The climate here is very dry and arid. The red soil dominates the earth, and enormous baobab trees – some of the largest you may have ever seen – take center stage. The park gets is name from the Great Ruaha River which, when flowing, is impressive in every way. In the drier months, the riverbed holds plenty of nutrients and water below the ground, which makes it the perfect place for elephant, buffalo, and plains game to hang around.

The wildlife at Ruaha National Park is exceptional year-round, with huge large numbers of elephant, lion, leopard, giraffe, impala and hippo among many much more. The park is particularly known for its large buffalo herds, and rarer species of antelope like the greater and lesser kudu. Ruaha National Park is also home to the African wild dog, and sightings here, although still rare and unpredictable, are certainly on the rise.

All of the game drives in the park are done in open-sided vehicles, with professional safari guides leading the way. Some safari camps also offer walking safaris which are truly memorable. You will head out in small groups, accompanied with your safari guide and a qualified armed ranger. Although walking safaris are generally focused on spotting the smaller things, like identifying footprints and tracks, you do sometimes come across larger game like giraffe and buffalo. This is truly an exhilarating experience, and one which is limited to only a handful of national parks and reserves in Tanzania.

One of the reasons Ruaha National Park remains much quieter than other national parks in Tanzania is because there are much fewer safari camps and lodges. There are only a handful of luxury camps inside the park, which keeps the game viewing experience truly exclusive. The majority of the camps here are also small, luxury canvassed camps, offering an authentic and intimate experience. At night, you’ll often hear the resident lion prides or elephant tip-toeing around the camp.

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Best camps in Ruaha National Park

We would only recommend staying inside the park’s reserve, of which there are only a handful of safari camps. Staying inside the park means you are in the best area for game viewing – with areas around the Ruaha River and dry riverbeds being the most prolific. The beauty of the southern parks of Tanzania is their authenticity and intimacy. The majority of safari camps are tented, and have a maximum of around ten rooms which offers a very exclusive feel.

Some camps offer a more luxurious experience, with swimming pools, private plunge pools, and breath-taking views. These camps, like Jabali Ridge and Ikuka are great options for special occasions too, with unparalleled views and amenities.

 
Ruaha Elepants_wtg

When to visit Ruaha National Park

The period between June and October/November is the best time to visit Ruaha National Park. This is the driest time of the year, with minimal rainfall, which makes the vegetation shorter and conditions for game viewing better. This period is also the best time to go to nearby parks like the Selous Game Reserve and Zanzibar island – two destinations that are often combined with a Ruaha safari. Avoid the April – May period as this is the rainy season in Tanzania, and most of the safari camps close during this time.

The January to March period is also worth considering as this is known as the green season. During these months, the park is transformed into a lush oasis, with much thicker and greener vegetation. This season is also a fantastic time for those interested in birds, as there are plenty of migratory birds that come into Ruaha National Park from Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of Africa. During this time, there can be up to 550 species of bird found in the park.

 
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From

Gemma our African Specialist

How do I get to Ruaha National Park?

Ruaha National Park is in southern Tanzania. The closest international airport is in Dar es Salaam (east of the park), which is a great option to fly into and out of if you are combining the southern parks for your Tanzania safari. Ruaha National Park has a few airstrips inside the park, which domestic operators like Auric Air and Coastal Aviation use. This makes it easy to combine with other safari destinations, like the Selous Game Reserve or the Serengeti National Park. All of our safaris are private and personalized, so get in touch with our experts to start planning!

Which safari is better – Ruaha National Park or the Serengeti National Park?

These destinations are both very different so it’s hard to compare safari experiences. Both national parks will give you an incredible and captivating safari, but there are pros and cons to both. For example, although you won’t see the Great Wildebeest Migration in Ruaha National Park (which you can see from the Serengeti), there are still thousands of resident wildebeest that you will see, as well as a host of other unique antelope like the greater and lesser kudu. You can also do other activities in Ruaha National Park like fly camping and walking safaris – offering a well-rounded safari.

What game viewing activities can I do in Ruaha?

Like most safari destinations, the main activity is game drives. These are done in open-sided 4×4 safari vehicles, with a driver/guide. These vehicles have a maximum of 6 people, and will be other guests from the camp. You will have the same safari guide throughout your safari and by the time you leave, they’ll often be regarded as a friend. Some safari camps also offer walking safaris which are guided walks through the bush, paying particular attention to the smaller things like flora, fauna and footprints. Fly camping is also an option which is an opportunity to sleep under the stars in the bush – usually with just a mosquito net around you. This is an incredible special experience so do ask your specialist about this to find out more.

What is Ruaha National Park famous for?

Ruaha National Park is famed for its red and dry landscape. In terms of wildlife sightings, Ruaha National Park has particularly good leopard and lion sightings. The national park and the game management zone bordering the park homes approximately 10% of the world’s lion population so during a 3-night safari, you are very likely to see resident lion prides.

 
 

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