Rift Safari
Travelling along the Rift Valley: Ruaha National Park
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Ruaha National Park with its 20.000 square kilometres is the largest park of Tanzania after the Selous without considering the surroundings protected game areas with which it forms a 45.000 square kilometres wildlife territory with no human settlements.

The park, crossed by the important Ruaha River, lies partly on the Great Rift Valley and partly on the plateau, beyond the Rift escarpment including a great variety of habitats and ecosystems: the plateau is rich in forest of Miombo while the Rift Valley bed alternates acacia and baobab forests, wetlands, hills, meadows and evergreen forest, with palms and sycamore fig trees dotting rivers and seasonal streams riverine. That is the transitional zone between central and south Africa encompassing features of both.
Beyond the Great Ruaha River other seasonal streams cross the park ...
Mwagusi, Mdonya, Jongomero ... the water flows during the green season, starting from December, while in dry season they are just a sandy corridor nevertheless hiding water in depth and it is normal to spot elephants digging wells which will then serve also other herbivores.

The rich variety of flora [1400 species] results in a rich variety of wildlife and Ruaha hosts all species of the northern circuit except rhinos. Among antelopes you are likely to sight eland, Kirk dik dik, greater and lesser kudu [this is the only park in East Africa to host both species of kudu], sable antelope and roan antelope [very rarely sighted or not found in other parks in Tanzania. The park is reknown to host a great population of elephants [estimates speak of 12,000 individuals], large herds of buffaloes, crocodiles and hippos. Predators are also around and, although you should not expect the same high number of sightings of Serengeti, lions are regularly encountered on a daily basis, leopards are common with sightings every two or three days. Less numerous but still present both in green and dry season are cheetahs preferably sighted in the open savannas at the foot of the escarpment, around Lunda, but also nearby Mwayembe swamps. Ruaha is also supposed to host a population of over 100 african wild dogs but sightings have dramatically dropped in the last 5 years.

As far as birding is concerned Ruaha is also very interesting: about 500 species have been registered up to now including both resident and migratory ones. Among migratory one could sight the sooty falcon who breeds in the Sahara region or the Eleonora's falcon breeding on the Mediterranean sea shores. Among resident bateleur, martial eagle, the rare eagle of Verraux and fish eagle, herons, bee-eaters and nectarines, hornbills, saddle-billed storks to name only a few.
Best time to spot both species goes from November to March.

Accommodation in Ruaha:
Classification of facilities in Ruaha is very simple. Mwagusi, Kwihala, Kigelia
cover the upper-medium market segment and are all located on the north-eastern sector of the park, a prime game viewing area. Although quite a low number of visitors reach Ruaha, in high season most of vehicles tend to concentrate here.
Mdonya Old River Camp and Ruaha River Lodge cover the mid-market segment. Mdonya allows to explore both the central and north-eastern sector. Ruaha River Lodge focus mainly on the central sector..
Jongomero covers the high specification market and it is located located on the south-western side of the park on the banks of the seasonal Jongomero river. That's the only camp in this area and do not suffer at all of vehicles concentration but wildlife here tends to be slightly lower when compared to the north-east sector. If you are interested in the rare sable or roan antelope the Mkawa springs, where these animals are most likely to be found during dry season [June to November] can be easily reached from here.


WHEN TO VISIT RUAHA

Ruaha from June June to November:
That is traditionally considered the best time to visit the park, corresponding to dry season.
As for Katavi and Tarangire the almost absolute lack of other water sources forces herbivores and their predators [who in green season were scattered in a vast hinterland] to concentrate along the only source of water still available: the Great Ruaha River and the dry bed of seasonal streams where elephants are regularly sighted digging wells which will then be used also by other herbivores. At the same time vegetation should be bare. The combination of these factors makes for high and reliable sightings compared to green months. Sable and roan antelopes come down the plateau and can be found nearby the Makindi and Mkwawa springs.
This is certain
ly the best time of the year for walking safari and night game drive.
The great variety of bird unfortunately does not include
Eurasian migratory species.

Ruaha from December to May:
Rains in Ruaha follow a peculiar pattern different from both the coastal and northern highlands one
. They usually start by the end of November reaching their peak between January and February and start then to gradually decrease until they come to an end usually before May which can be considered dry season like the following months up to November. Hence in December the landscape start to change turning more and more green. Vegetation start to put on new leaves and seasonal rivers start to flow again. Sightings start to decrease but in a way quality compensates quantity since that's the time when mammals have their young. If lucky you might also witness a birth. Sable and roan antelopes will now remain in the highlands which is not accessible due to lack of viable roads. In April and May most of the camps are closed mainly because they need a break and prefer to make it coincide with the closure of camps in Selous.

Ruaha pros and cons:
Ruaha wilderness, the high number of species hosted, the relatively low number of visitors, the availability of highly professional guides especially at Mwagusi e Kwihala makes of Ruaha a safari lovers preferred choice.

The lack of roads forcing a relatively low number of visitors and vehicles to concentrate in the same sector of the park
creating high traffic situations in peak season, wildlife dispersal in green season, the high costs to reach the park and to overnight in it, makes of Ruaha a less attractive choice compared to a northern circuit safari.

In recent years the establishment of a number of rice plantations in the south western sector of the park nearby the springs where Ruaha River originates from have caused the river to stop to flow toward the end of the dry season with dramatic consequences for wildlife. In 2010 the government has annexed part of the springs area to the park which should help the situation to recover.


RUAHA WEATHER
weather ruaha, rainy days weather ruaha, sunshine hours
Ruaha temperatures Ruaha temperatures

Temperatures:
Ruaha
lies partly on the Great Rift Valley and partly on the plateau.
Temperatures hence vary according to the area considered. The above charts show the seasonal average for the entire park area. Consider that towards the end of the dry season [October - November] temperatures in the valley can reach up to 40°C in the hottest hours of the day while in the coldest months [June to August] they can drop to 6°C in the plateau [Mwagusi Lodge].

NOTE: as for the rest of the world in Tanzania the climate is changing. The charts above should be taken as a reference guide therefore with no absolute value.

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