Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in Tanzania. The addition of the Usangu Game Reserve and other important wetlands to the park in 2008 increased its size to about 20,226 square kilometres, making it a candidate for one of the largest national parks in Africa.
The park is situated in central Tanzania between latitude 7 and 8° S and longitude 34 and 35° E about 130 kilometres west of Iringa. The park is a part of the 45,000 square kilometres Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem, which includes Rungwa Game Reserve, Kizigo and Muhesi Game Reserves, the Mbomipa Wildlife Management Area, and several other protected areas.
The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its southeastern margin and is the focus for game-viewing.
The park is noted for its large population of elephants, with about 10,000 roaming the park. More than 571 species of birds have been identified in the park. Among the resident species are hornbills, kingfishers, and sunbirds. Many migratory birds visit the park, e.g., the white stork. Other noted animals in Ruaha are the African wild dog and the sable antelope. Rhinoceros were last sighted in 1982 and are most likely extinct in the park due to poaching. The best times to visit for predators and large mammals is during the dry season (May–December) and for birds and flowers, during the wet season (January–April).
Permits are obtainable at the gate.
Upmarket tourist resorts ferry their guests directly to the lodge via light aircraft. The landing stip is situated near the main camp on the Ruaha River.
The most direct route to the park is from the town of Iringa on the main Zambia-Dar Es Salaam trunk. A dirt road traverses west to northwest to the park entrance. The road is in a reasonable condition and can be travelled by two wheel drive vehicle. Petrol can be bought at Headequarters for a relatively high price so better fuel up in Iringa.
From Iringa, you are looking at US$120 per day to hire a 4x4 to get there and drive round the park (this includes a driver and the cost of the fuel). This may seem like a lot of money but the drivers are excellent spotters of game and avoid you the misfortune of missing some interesting and hidden animals.
There is a wide selection of accommodation in or near the park. The only lodge inside the park is the Ruaha River Lodge. There are also permanent or seasonal tented camps inside the park. There are also several park-operated public and special campsites, a hostel, self-catering bandas, and cottages. Just outside the park boundaries are several accommodation facilities.
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