Ruaha is known not only for its rugged and magnificent landscapes or its remoteness and wild immensity but also its spectacular concentrations of game. Large herds of elephant and buffalo are a common sighting and lion and leopard are abundant. One of Ruaha’s principal attractions is its incredible antelope varieties among them eland, roan, oribi, grants gazelle and sable and it is the only park in Tanzania that is home to both the greater and lesser kudu. Ruaha also provides a safe haven to rare species such as African wild dog and the ever-elusive striped hyena. Ruaha’s boasts a huge variety of wildlife that can be found throughout the year, but specific sightings are more common depending on the season.
Ruaha is characterised by two distinct seasons – the lush “green” and dry “yellow” season. The green season starts in January and continues into April. It is during this time that the park is transformed into a green oasis with flowing rivers and thick vegetation. Spectacular volumes of birds can be seen with approximately 526 bird species found here (more than half of those found in the whole country!). Wild dog and cheetah sightings are more likely during this period and large aggregations of elephants are common showing pronounced breeding behaviour. Interesting insects, butterflies and blossoming flowers are abundant.
The yellow season usually runs for the remainder of the year, from May to December. This season brings with it dry, dramatic landscapes and dry riverbeds which form some of Ruaha’s most appealing natural features and are the focus of excellent wildlife viewing as the animals search for water. Lion are abundant and leopard and cheetah are seen often. Large herds of animals such as buffalo group together in numbers searching for water and safety. The lack of vegetation makes for good game viewing and the muted browns and yellows are pleasing on the eye.
For many years Ruaha has been known for it’s huge elephant populations and “big-tuskers” (old male bull elephants with gigantic tusks). The world’s second heaviest pair of tusks on record came from one of Ruaha’s big tuskers (one tusk weighing over 91kg). In 1970 there were an estimated 40,000 elephants in Ruaha. Sadly by the late 1980’s the elephant population had dwindled to somewhere as low as 4,000 due to ruthless poaching. With the help of an excellent park warden Ruaha was able to curb the poaching and now boasts a good elephant population estimated somewhere between 15,000 & 20,000.
Ruaha also boasts a high density of lions and large prides of females with cubs is a common sight. It is also possible to see one of the magnificent black-mane males that dominate some of the prides. Those who are lucky can catch a glimpse of their incredible hunting-cat abilities as they stalk and chase down their dinner, a large buffalo or giraffe. Tremendously exciting but not for the faint-hearted!
“Three leopards in one day…20 lions hunting 200 buffalos as well as learning the difference between male and female giraffe dung! This is the Africa you can only dream of.” - Amanda (UK)