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Located in the heart of the country, Ruaha is the 'other park' on the Southern circuit. Ruaha's relative inaccessibility has resulted in a park that takes far fewer tourists than the Selous and far fewer than any park in the Northern circuit. The rewards of travelling this far are a wild landscape with baobab studded hills and rocky escarpments, playing host to excellent levels of game including superb predator concentrations, huge elephant and buffalo herds and a cross over of game from southern and Eastern Africa.
Ruaha is certainly a wilder park than its neighbour the Selous, and ultimately has the better game viewing, albeit at the lack of any boating safaris. A huge plus of Ruaha is that there are very few lodges and yet the park is Tanzania's largest National Park. Overall an incredibly rewarding place to be on safari and although we consider Katavi to be Tanzania's best kept secret, Ruaha is certainly a more affordable contender and an amazing addition to any Tanzania safari holiday.
We absolutely love this park! The game viewing here is some of the best you will find in the country with very few tourists and offers superb value. The park is a superb contrast to the Selous and gives visitors a much wilder experience to what they would have experienced elsewhere. What you can guarantee from Ruaha is great game in a truly wild and authentic environment; Ruaha is absolutely huge and yet still so very untouched. The lion viewing around the Mwagusi area is especially good and general predator concentrations across the park are better than many of the other parks in the country. Overall an absolutely superb and affordable place to be on safari!
Ruaha: What game
Ruaha has all the predators on show, with very good lion, leopard and cheetah as well as wild dog and hyena. Buffalo and elephant herds are found throughout the park but it is the park's ability to throw up species from east and southern Africa together that excites wildlife enthusiasts. It is not uncommon to see Grant's gazelle, greater and lesser kudu in the same area as east Africa's common species such as zebra, defassa waterbuck, impala and giraffe. Put in the hours and travel across the park to find sable, roan, hartebeest and over 500 species of bird!
The main activity in Ruaha is daytime game driving. Night safaris are not permitted. Due to the high numbers of elephant in Ruaha some camps have chosen not to operate walking safaris. Those that do (Kwihala, Jongomero and Kigelia) have some superb guides and can offer amazing walking safaris. Jongomero is the only camp to operate fly camping trips with adventurous nights spent out under the stars. Led by their head guide Molly, these are some of the best fly camping trips in Africa.
Ruaha: When to go
Like the Selous, Ruaha is a classic dry season park. Game gets progressively better towards the end of the end of the season as the water holes and rivers dry up and the game concentrates around water. Like the Selous, travelling to Ruaha out of season will virtually guarantee that you see no other people whilst on safari, and there are pockets in the park where the game concentrations are good at any time of the year. The birding from December through to March is exceptional.
Ruaha: Where to stay
There are a couple of great top end camps in Ruaha, with Jongomero leading the way for luxurious accommodation. It’s a very beautiful, remote safari camp that is probably one of the best camps in Tanzania. Mwagusi is the oldest lodge in the park and when the owner Chris Fox is in camp, this place can provide a safari experience to knock you sideways. The less expensive Kwihala Camp is a very affordable luxury tented camp whereas its sister camp Mdonya Old River is a great option for the adventurous with less of a budget. Ruaha River Lodge is by far the largest of camps in Ruaha in a superb location, though is not up to the standard of the others.
Recommended lodges in this area:
A fantastic camp situated in the remote wilderness of the Ruaha National Park. It has a formidable reputation as a true safari camp that offers its guests a very authentic experience. It offers a ‘rustic luxury’ that gives you everything you need in a true Tanzanian style. Run by the inimitable Chris Fox, who has spent his entire life in the park; it’s real safari, in a great park with awesome guides. It helps that the food and service are also brilliant.
Jongomero is an absolutely exceptional safari camp. It is one of our favourites in the whole of Tanzania, which is not a compliment we hand out easily. It is the most luxurious camp in the park as well as offering fantastic service, the most remote location and guiding so good it borders on genius. Jongomero really is a firm favourite and one we highly recommend.
Ruaha River Lodge is the cheapest accommodation in Ruaha National Park, which actually offers a good value stay. The setting is exceptional, right on the banks of the Ruaha river and the backdrop with the rolling hills is great. The only drawback is that the lodge is quite big and isn’t built out of brick and stone.