What is the allure of Ruaha National Park?
I have to admit that Ruaha, in southern Tanzania, has always confused me. I have never quite ‘got it’ but I have always known that it must be somewhere very special, as so many guides I know rave about it. At 20,226sq km, it is the country's largest national park but it has very few camps, which is a huge attraction in itself. So, finally I was able to experience it for myself – and now, I definitely ‘get it’.
There is something so excitingly fresh and wild about this place, particularly in the southern section of the park, where I started my journey. During my time at one of our favourite bush hideaways, Jongomero, we had spectacular sightings of lions and spent over an hour with a large family of elephants, watching them struggle up and down the banks and in and out of the deep wells they had dug to find water. And we shared these encounters with no one, something that is sadly becoming more and more of a challenge in many of Africa's parks and reserves.
The scenery itself is something of a wonder – stunning baobab and acacia forests and bright-green euphorbia candelabra set against a dusty floor, beneath vast, blue skies. The snaking, dry riverbeds, some of which give the beaches on the coast a run for their money, and the tributaries with banks of grass that look freshly mown, make the landscape even more picturesque.
The park’s terrain is ideal for walking safaris and fly-camping, which are some of the highlights of any stay here. Who could resist a night under the starlit sky – strolling into your own mosquito net tented camp, set on a sandy riverbed cocooned by its banks, with a fire blazing and a table set up under paraffin lanterns? To me, this is Africa at its best.
The game-viewing is surprisingly good too, with countless elephant, giraffe, buffalo and zebra, among others. Lions are also common here and there are some four prides in the southern section alone. We were quite literally ‘lioned’ out!
So, here is my advice: we, at cazenove+loyd, encourage people to spend time in both the south and north of the park. They are so vastly different in terms of their landscapes. The south, to me, reflects the typical terrain of Southern Africa, whereas in the north, you find scenes more reminiscent of East Africa and have the chance of seeing cheetah because of the more open plains – never guaranteed but this is certainly a pull. Moreover, given it is a two and a half hour flight from Dar es Salaam to Ruaha, we suggest staying as long as you can to make the most of the game drives, fly-camping and walking on offer.
Ruaha could work for anyone – whether you are an Africa old hand looking for a more remote, wild experience or a first-time safari-goer, as the game-viewing is very impressive and the walking, quite spectacular. I have no doubt at all that, like me, you will be blown away by this enchanting park.
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