As Tanzania’s largest national park, Ruaha National Park boasts of untouched and unexplored ecosystems at the center of Tanzania. The 20,226 sq km park is the watershed between the Mzombe and the Great Ruaha rivers, with a distinctive escarpment, above which are large stretches of miombo woodland. Below lie undulating plains of dry bush country to treeless grasslands, swamps and evergreen forests, all with sand rivers intersecting through them.
Given the park’s relative inaccessibility, visitors can appreciate the flora and fauna without interruption of other tourists. Over 570 bird species have been identified – December through March being the prime birding season – as well as 1,650 plant species. Some of the mammals found include the hippopotamus, elephants, buffalo, antelope, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and the Greater Kudu, which cannot be found in any other national park in the country. It is recommended to visit during the dry season (mid May-December), as game concentrates around the shrinking water holes and rivers.
Aside from the pristine nature with bird and wildlife sightings, there are a few historical and cultural sites in the park, such as Painting Rock at Nyanywa and “Mkwawa” spring – the park area is often hailed as the land of the brave Chief Mkwawa, the leader of the Hehe people. The name of the park, Ruaha, reflects the influence of the Hehe people and originates from the Hehe word “Ruvaha,” meaning “river.”
If you visit the park in the future, make sure to mention this last bit as I’m sure it would impress your tour guide – I know I would try it out.