Ugalla River National Park was established in 2019, protects 3,865km² of an ex-hunting block, and owes everything to its eponymous river, which winds its way through the park, and serves as a natural border between the country’s remote western central regions of Tabora and Katavi. Despite the abundance of wildlife that the river supports year-round, the park is relatively unknown, and as a result untouched by mainstream tourism.
For millenia, the Ugalla River has shaped much of the area’s topography, as well as the annual cycle patterns of its flora and fauna. In some places, it has cut deep meandering valleys into the terrain, while in others its waters run level with the surrounding lowlands. During the wet season, this allows the river to nourish floodplains and Miombo forests, woodlands of large broadleaf trees. In the dry season, the Ugalla River is provides a lifeline to wildlife, which has returned to the area in great numbers since the made the transition from big-game hunting concession to national park.
Sightings of ungulates such as Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, sable antelope and roan antelope are now frequent here, as are elephant, buffalo, giraffe, and zebra. It follows, therefore, that the park is also becoming known for its high density of predators, including lion, leopard and hyena. The river, meanwhile, is home to hippo, Cape clawless otter, and some of the largest crocodiles recorded in all Africa. Birdlife is just as impressive and includes sought-after species such as shoebill, tawny eagle, southern ground hornbill, and wattled crane.
The land is also the ancestral home to the Nyamwezi, and Ugalla holds at least five sacred cultural locations within its boundaries, such as the Mfinula ritual site, which the Nyamwezi hope will benefit from heightened protections as a result of the area gaining national park status. That protection is largely supported today through sustainable non-consumptive tourism, which has paved the way for a return in wildlife numbers, and yet at the same time ensures that the park remains very much off the beaten path.
For accommodation in the area, we currently use the very wild, very remote, and very good Expeditionary Walking Camp.