Ruaha National Park is one of Tanzania’s famous wilderness areas where one can have a rare experience of game viewing coupled up with the fascinating landscape. Watered by the Ruaha River, this park is probably Africa’s largest sanctuary for Elephants. Whilst the park is huge, only a small section has been developed for visitors.
The park history dates back to 1910 when it was gazetted Saba Game Reserve by the Germans then the name was changed by the British to Rungwa Game Reserve in 1946. In 1964 the southern portion of the Game Reserve was gazetted as Ruaha National Park and in 1974 a small section of South Eastern part of the Great Ruaha River was incorporated into the park.
The name “Ruaha” originates from the Hehe word “Ruvaha”, which means “river”. Ruaha National Park is part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem which covers more than 45,000km2. In 2008 Usangu Game Reserve and other important wetlands in Usangu basin were annexed into the park, making it the largest park in Tanzania and East Africa with an area of about 20,226km2.
What to see and do
Ruaha National Park has a high diversity of plants and animals including elephants, buffalos, antelopes and some of rare and endangered species like wild dogs. The park serves as water shade both for wildlife and human being. This makes it to be economically significant as it supports agricultural activities downstream and contributes to hydro- electric power (HEP) for the country at Mtera and Kidatu dams.
The park is one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise reported to have more than 571 species, some of them being migrants from outside Africa. Migrating species from Europe, Asia, the Australian rim and Madagascar have been recorded in the park. Species of interest in the park include Ruaha red-billed hornbill (Tokus ruahae) which is dominant in the area. The recently annexed wetland, the Usangu basin is one of the country’s important bird area (IBA) as recognized by Birdlife International. Though birds can be seen all the year around, the best time for bird watching is during the wet season.
Ruaha is believed to have the highest concentration of elephants than any national park in East Africa. It is also a place where, magnificent mammals like Kudu (both Greater and Lesser). Sable and Roan antelope can easily be spotted in Miombo woodland. The male Kudu have beautiful spiraled horns while male Sable antelope have impressive curved horns. The park is also a habitat for endangered wild dogs. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, eland, impala, bat eared foxes and Jackals.