African elephants are an incredibly common sight in Ruaha National Park towards the end of the dry season © Ariadne Van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library
It is Ruaha’s wild and untrammelled feel that sets it apart, and that has made it the favourite of many regular East African safari-goers.
One of East Africa’s most biodiverse and rewarding safari destinations, Ruaha also now ranks as the largest national park in Tanzania, protecting a wild 20,220km² tract of wooded rocky slopes, open plains and seasonal wetlands that drain into the Great Ruaha River. Famed for its large numbers of elephant, which are still substantial despite recent poaching, Ruaha only ranks a short way behind the Serengeti-Mara when it comes to lion and other big cat sightings, and it is one of the few places anywhere on the continent to a support a viable population of the endangered African wild dog. Other attractions include an unusually varied selection of ungulates, and some excellent birdwatching. But above all, perhaps, it is Ruaha’s wild and untrammelled feel that sets it apart, and that has made it the favourite of many regular East African safari-goers. This wilderness feel is reflected in the park’s limited accommodation, which comprises half-a-dozen small and exclusive permanent camps and a few semi-permanent ones, scattered far more widely than their counterparts in Selous. Ruaha’s remote location – more than 600km from Dar es Salaam, including a rough and dusty 100km drive west from Iringa – means than the overwhelming majority of visitors fly in to one of these camps, which generally offer all-inclusive upmarket packages incorporating expertly guided game drives and in some cases guided walks. But Ruaha is also becoming a popular target for more budget-conscious travellers thanks to a proliferation of small lodges that lie between the main entrance gate and Tungamalenga 18km to its east and offer day safaris into the park. Ruaha is best visited between July and November, when animals concentrate around the river. Internal roads may be impassable towards the end of the rainy season (March to May).