Criss-crossed by more than one major river, home to forests of Miombi woodland, the Matopotopo Swamps and Mdonya Gorge, Ruaha National Park’s central spine – and the reason for its huge range of habitats – is an enormous watershed, whose two contrasting features (a dramatic green escarpment and great undulating plains) generate the conditions for supporting a large range of animals.
Inaccessible, except by plane, Ruaha is home to a huge population of elephant (8000), to buffalo, lion, spotted hyena, cheetah, leopard and the African hunting dog. Given its incredibly dry climate (particularly between June and November, when daytime temperatures reach 40 centigrade), much of the park’s wildlife activity is set around river courses and permanent waterholes, making for very intense game viewing. During the dry season the Ruaha river virtually dries up, and the few remaining waterholes are occupied by crocodile and hippo. At this time, waterbuck, impala, monkey, eland, dik dik, zebra, gazelle and kudu, drawn by the need for water, are at their most vulnerable.
Known also for its numbers of roan and sable antelope, for between 400-540 species of bird*, and for the fact that it is the only area in Tanzania where southern African and eastern African fauna and flora overlap, Ruaha National Park would suit those interested in something quite different.
*There seems to be no categorical agreement as to the actual number of species found in Ruaha. The most recent (10.10.2009) figures from Birdlife International claim 410 sightings but say that ‘this figure is almost certainly incomplete as only the main tourist areas are known.’ (www.birdlife.org)