Most visitors travelling to Tanzania to experience a safari head to the Northern Circuit, where highlights like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater await them. I agree, these parks have an unmatched reputation, but there even more amazing places you can visit.
The south of Tanzania is home to the Ruaha National Park one of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets.
Covering some 20,226 square kilometres, it is not only the largest national park in Tanzania, but one of the largest in East Africa. Ruaha is part of an extensive area of game reserves covering a total of more than 45,000 square kilometres. The park itself is located in southwest Tanzania some 130 kilometres from the town of Iringa.
What’s so special about the park, you ask? Well, Ruaha is home to some of the largest herds of elephants in the country. Not to mention the incredible landscape, named after the great Ruaha River which cuts through the heart of the park. This lifeline dries up to a few pools in the dry season and swells up to raging masses of water in the rainy season.
Ruaha is a predator’s paradise. The park is home to plenty of lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs and other smaller predators. It is also one of the only national parks in the country where both the greater and lesser kudu co-exist.
In Ruaha, you will find yourself in a transition zone where both eastern and southern flora and fauna can be found.
If it’s birds you are after, Ruaha is the place to be. It is home to more than 520 different species some of which are endemic to the area, for example the Ruaha red-billed hornbill.
I was lucky enough to go on a camping safari to the south recently where we visited the Ruaha National Park. After we had completed the entry formalities, our guide opened up the sunroof of our Land Cruiser and the fun began.
We headed straight to the Ruaha River which was fairly dried up. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by countless herds of elephants, enjoying their breakfast on the banks of the river.
We also managed to see some massive crocodiles basking in the morning sun. Heading towards the heart of the park we spotted again more herds of elephants – it seemed as if there was an endless number of them.
By the time we had spent a couple of hours in the park, I was left speechless by the number and diversity of animals we had seen in only a short time!
The baobabs dotted across the park reminded me of the Tarangire National Park in the north.
We managed to spot a fairly large pride of lions chilling on the sand banks of the river, probably hoping that a thirsty animal would come down to drink. I had previously heard that the lions of Ruaha have specialised in hunting giraffes! Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to witness this rare behaviour.