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Ruaha National Park

Located about 130km (81 mi) west of Iringa, the Ruaha National Park, in the Southern Tourism Circuit of Tanzania, is an unspoiled wildlife sanctuary. It sprawls over a wild expanse of 20,226 sq. km (7,457 sq. mi), making it the largest national park in Tanzania.

The Ruaha National Park is fringed on the northern side by the Kizigio and Rungwa River Game Reserves. This park forms part of the 45,000 sq. km (17,000 sq. mi) Rungwa-Kizigio-Muhesi ecosystem. This vast ecosystem comprises of the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area, the Rungwa Game Reserve, as well as the Kizigio and Muhesi Game Reserves. The combination makes it the largest conservancy in the East African region.

The Great Ruaha River, from which the park derives its name is the essential component of this wildlife sanctuary and is also the main hotspot for game viewing.

Ruaha means, “river” in the language of the Hehe people, one of Tanzania’s more than 120 ethnic tribes.

Despite being an expansive park and arguably with an abundance of various animal species, the Ruaha National Park is among the least visited parks in Tanzania, making safaris to the area exclusive and quite remote.

As part of the Southern Tourism Circuit of Tanzania, the Ruaha National Park safari is often combined with that of the Selous Game Reserve.

Main Rivers in Ruaha National Park

There are two main rivers in the national park: the Ruaha and the Njombe rivers. These two water bodies are essential components of the park’s ecosystem.

The 475 km (295 miles) long Ruaha River, from which the park gets its name flows along the southeastern border of the Ruaha National Park, and it also a good fishing destination.

Its source is the Kipengere Mountain range, and it flows through the Usangu Wetlands and the Ruaha National Park then eastwards into the Rufiji River. It traverses and marks the boundaries between the regions of Iringa, Dodoma and Morogoro.

The other main river is the Njombe which meanders through ravines and rocky landscapes.

During the dry season, hordes of different animals are draw the riverbeds to find drinking water making these spots great game viewing places.

Crocodiles are a common sight along the banks of the rivers.


In 1910, the Germany gazetted the Saba Game Reserve, however, 1946, the British colonialists changed that name to Rungwa Game Reserve.

The southern section of this reserve was elevated and accorded full park status in 1964.

The park is managed by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA).


Central to southern Tanzania, about 130 km (80 miles) from Iringa, and 625 km (389 miles) from Dar es Salaam, the port city and commercial capital of Tanzania.


The park can be reached gravel road from Iringa. A drive to the park is challenging but the reward is in the exciting and enchanting changing landscapes of wild Tanzania.

Furthermore, there are two airstrips: one at Msembe, the park headquarters, and another at Jongomeru close to the Ranger Post.

Chartered flights can be arranged from main airports located in places such as Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Arusha and Zanzibar.

Nearest town



There is a wide variety of accommodation facilities in Ruaha National Park. These facilities range from Budget lodges, mid-range lodges and all the way to luxury lodges.

Best period to Visit

Although there is something enchanting in this sanctuary throughout the year, the dry season, from June to October, is undoubtedly the best period to visit the Ruaha National Park.

The vegetation during the dry season is sparse, making animal visibility easier and the roads and trails are comparatively accessible.

Due to the dwindling water sources during the dry season, animals are easy to locate as they gather near the available water sources.

On the other hand, with the annual rains, the landscape is draped in lush green. The giant baobabs are blooming and grasslands and wildflowers flourish. The beauty of the landscape around this time offers an ideal photographic opportunity.

The rainy season also brings along the migratory birds from the northern hemisphere which makes it a great destination for bird enthusiasts. February to April is therefore the best time to for bird lovers to visit the Ruaha National Park.

The Wildlife in Ruaha National Park

The Ruaha National Park is famed for its diversity in wildlife as well as excellent game-viewing opportunities. It is an excellent safari destination especially that it has low numbers of tourist traffic as compared to other parks in the Northern Tourism Circuit of Tanzania.

The big cats and other predators are resident to Ruaha National Park. Cheetahs, leopards and lions prowl this wilderness.

The greater Ruaha area hosts about 10% of the global lion population and has been designated a Lion Conservation Unit since 2005. In this park, it is common to spot lion prides numbering up to 20.

The endangered wild dog, the black-backed jackal as well as the hyena too are resident to the Ruaha National Park.

Other animal species thrive in this sanctuary. Elephant abound, and so do antelopes, buffaloes, bushbucks, elands, giraffes, kudus, impalas and zebras among many others.

Predator and prey action are witnessed as the animals come to the river to drink water as the predator lurk within.

The Birdlife in Ruaha National Park

The birdlife of Ruaha Nation Park is rich in diversity. There are more than 570 documented bird species in this park. It boasts of both resident and migratory birds.

The migrant birds come from different parts of the globe such as Asia, Australia, Europe, and Madagascar. They come to Ruaha during the rainy season which fall between February and April.

The rare Eleonora’s falcon can be spotted between December and January.

Common resident bird types include, among many others, the following: raptors and rollers, waterbirds and ground birds such as hornbills.

Major Activities and Attractions in Ruaha National Park

The Ruaha National Park, despite being off the beaten track, has a number of adventurous activities and awesome attractions. Notable among them are the following:

Game Drives

Game drives, without any iota of doubt are a popular activity in this untamed wildlife sanctuary. They offer visitors a great opportunity to view wildlife as well as appreciate the park’s beauty.

These drives are normally done twice a day; in the early morning as the sun rises and in the late afternoon when the sun descends.

Guided Walking Safaris

A guided walking safari affords visitor an intimate interaction with nature. An up-close encounter with the flora and fauna of the pristine and remote Ruaha National Park creates a lasting and rewarding experience.


Birdwatching too, is a popular activity in this sanctuary that boasts of a diversity of more than 570 bird species.

A birdwatching experience of both the migratory and resident birds is a worthwhile activity.

Fly Camping

Camping out in the wild using basic tents is exciting, especially for the adventurous and those who care less for comfort.

Sleeping under the African skies in the wild certainly enriches the safari experience.

Cultural Visits

For visitors interested in cultural affairs, a getaway from the wild and into the nearest villages or the town of Iringa would be good for some cultural interaction.

The ethnic tribes of Tanzania have a very rich cultural heritage which is worth learning about.

The country boasts of more than 120 ethnic tribes that exist in perfect harmony despite their diversity.


The fact that Ruaha National Park is remote
Can never at all demote
Its place among the parks.
It is a sanctuary that scores great marks
On a number of aspects.
Tanzania Offroad Trips knows this place in all respects!
Go on and give us a call,
And in love with wild Tanzania, you will fall.



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