Ruaha National Park: Self Drive Trips -Car Rental Tanzania

Ruaha national park in the center of Tanzania takes its name from the hehe word for ‘river.’ the eponymous great Ruaha river serves as a lifeline for the park’s wildlife. Although it’s the largest national park in the country and rich in wildlife, Ruaha is one of the least busy places to visit in Tanzania, so safaris here feel remote and exclusive.

In the dry season, visitors can expect to see golden Savannah studded with baobabs and misty hills stretching along the horizon. With the annual rains, the grasslands become a lush green and the baobabs bloom. Water buck, impala and gazelle come to the river to drink and predators are never far behind. You may spot lion or leopard prowling watchfully along the banks, or cheetah lying in wait on the plains, while skulking jackal and hyena are on the lookout for an opportunity to catch their next meal. Ruaha is easily combined with a Serengeti safari or Zanzibar beach break. It also partners well with the Selous.

Best time to visit Ruaha national park

Ruaha national park is a typical dry season park, with the best time to see larger mammals and predators being between mid-May and December. As water becomes scarce toward the end of the dry season, the game gathers around available water sources, offering unbeatable game viewing opportunities.

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Tourist attractions in Ruaha national park

Ruaha national park is a magical Tanzania wildlife safari destination located in the remote region of south- central Tanzania and lies in the east (great) rift valley, Ruaha national park covers an area of 20,226 square kilometers comprising of a variety of landscapes ranging from the great Ruaha river, the rolling hills, rocky escarpments and vast open plains dotted with iconic baobab trees. Ruaha national park is recognized as the largest protected area in Tanzania, as a national park and a great Tanzania safari destination, Ruaha national park hosts a number of tourist attractions are as listed and detailed below.

Wildlife: Ruaha national park is a magical wildlife haven perfect for Tanzania wildlife safaris, the park is a home to one of the largest elephant concentrations on the continent of Africa, second largest population of lions on earth with 1000 individuals which is 10% of Africa’s remaining population and it is one of the only four cheetahs destinations with over 200 individuals. Other animals found in Ruaha national park include

Mammals like topi, southern and bohor reedbucks, grant’s gazelles, roan antelopes, hartebeests, topis, Lichtenstein’s hartebeests, sable antelopes, zebras, elands, wild dogs, leopards, bat-eared foxes, jackals among others.

Reptiles – crocodiles, poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, monitor lizards and agama lizards.

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Birdlife: Ruaha national park is perfect destination for Tanzania birding safaris, the park hosts a total of 574 bird species and attracts a number of migrant birds from Europe, Australian rim, Madagascar and from others parts of the African continent.  Recently, one of Tanzania’s important birding areas (iba) Usangu basin wetland was annexed to Ruaha national park adding on to the large bird population found in the park.

Some of the birds found in Ruaha national park include Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, Bataleur, giant kingfisher, collared palm-thrush, white-browed coucal, spur-winged goose, african fish eagle, ashy starling, black-bellied bustard, collared palm-thrush, crested barbet, Eleonora’s falcon, emerald-spotted wood dove, goliath heron, long-crested eagle, Namaqua dove, southern ground hornbill, Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, white-bellied go-away bird, yellow-collared lovebird  among others.

Birds in ruaha national park are best seen during the period from November to April as migratory bird species join the resident species.

Vegetation cover and spectacular landscape: ruaha national park is dominated by semi-arid type of vegetation which is also one of the tourist attractions of the park, the vegetation cover consists of baobab trees, acacia trees and over 1650 plant species. Ruaha national park is a point of transition from two vegetation zones that are Miombo vegetation which is characterized of Miombo vegetation and Sudanian vegetation characterized of acacia vegetation.

Ruaha national park one of the breathtaking areas perfect for Tanzania scenic viewing safaris, the park  has breath taking landscape consisting of plains, wetlands, rolling hills, rocky escarpments and the great ruaha river. Some of the beautiful hills in ruaha national park include Kilimamatonge, Nyamasombe, and Nyanywa, chariwindwi, Igawira, Mwayiui, Kibiriti, Magangwe, Ndetamburwa and Isukanvyiola. These hills act as kopjes thus creating a good habitat for animals living in the park such as klipspringer among others.

Historical and cultural sites: ruaha national park comprises of several historical and cultural sites and because of the sites, the park has become an excellent site for Tanzania cultural safaris and historical tours. The area of ruaha national park is hailed as “the land of the brave chief Mkwawa” the chief of the hehe people who resisted against the German attack/influence in the late 19th century. The area of the park was part of the hehe community which was under the leadership of chief Mkwawa, in process of resisting the Germany colonial influence of successful and fierce battle tactics were used against the Germans and some of the rocky outcrops in the park were used as hiding places. These out crops are famously known as the hiding places of Mkwawa who went into hiding after the fall of his Kalenga Empire to the German in 1894.

Many believe that the area of ruaha national park holds many secrets of chief Mkwawa and there are many cultural sites in the park such as

Mapenza grave – Mapenza grave belong to the Gogo chief who has a burial site in the park and it is located on the rout leading to Mpululu, visiting this grave is a full day guided excursion from Msembe.

Idinda rock paintings – this site consists of rocky paints and traditional materials believed to have made by the ancient people.

The Ganga la Mafunyo rock – is a ritual site for the local people of Pawanga villages.

The Nyanywa rock paintings – historical site hosting various ancient painting made by ancient people and many other historical things.

Visiting Ruaha national park offers an opportunity to explore the tribes found in the southern Tanzania and early trade routes used by the Arab caravan which crossed over the area.  These trades came into existence as a result of the Arabs expanding their routes northward in 1830, also in 1857 – 1858 European explorers such as burton and Speke used these routes during their exploring expeditions.

Rivers :ruaha national park encompasses of a grand river systems which are not only one of the attractions in the park but also watershed feeding the park’s ecosystem, some of the main rivers in  ruaha national park include the great ruaha river, Mzombe river, Mdonya river, Mwagusi river and Jongomero river.

The great ruaha river is the major tourist attraction in ruaha national park and the most significant river running along the eastern boundary of the park. The river is about 457 kilometers long and its tributary basin has a catchment area of 68,000 square kilometers, the river flows through the Usangu wetlands then eastwards through the park to join the Rufiji River.

The great ruaha river is fed by many other river and some of the majors rivers include Lukosi, Yovi, Kitete, Sanje, little ruaha, Kisigo, Mbarali, kimani and Chimala. Small rivers include Umrobi, Mkoji, Lunwa, Mloboji, Ipatagwa, Mambi and Mswiswi rivers.

The great ruaha river is an excellent sight for Tanzania bird watching safaris as well as game viewing, the vegetation along the river banks host many water birds and the river its self is usually crowded by many animals in attempts of quenching their thirst most especially in the dry season.

Rift valley: Ruaha national park is crossed by the Great Rift Valley creating spectacular scenery in the park, the rift valley in the park consists of an escarpment wall of about 50 – 100 meters high in the north-eastern parts along the western valley side and its height increases to the southwest.

The valley of the great ruaha river in ruaha national park is considered to be an extension of the Great Rift Valley, this valley is crossed by the great ruaha river flowing for approximately 160 kilometers along the entire eastern boundary through rugged gorges and open plains.

Natural springs: Among the spectacular attractions in ruaha national park are the hot springs, these hot springs are associated with the base of the western rift valley escarpment.

Hot springs in Ruaha national park are many but the notable ones include Mkwawa, Mwayembe, and Makinde and Majimoto hot springs. Majimoto hot spring is the most interesting hot springs offering tourists an opportunity to touch naturally hot water and it situated in Jongomero area approximately 20 kilometers from Jongomero tented camp.

These hot springs are a great site to visit during game viewing experience in Ruaha national park most especially in the dry season as many animals gather around them to drink water.

What Extensions do you recommend?

A fantastic option to consider is to self drive in Tanzania’s national park, the best-recommended extension is Uganda or Rwanda for Primate Watching ( Gorilla trekking & Chimpanzee ).

Visit the primates with Car Rental Tanzania that offers a free gorilla permit  &  chimpanzee permits booking. Contact us: Whatsapp +256787471094.

You can also still sleep in your own rooftop tent should you prefer for an adventure of a lifetime!