Day 31 – 32: Ruaha NP


165 km Kisolanza to Ruaha NP

278 km game drives within Ruaha NP

8 272 km trip to date

We travelled along the Zam-Dar road for another 50 km before turning away towards Ruaha NP at Iringa (another large, busy town). From there we drove through rural TZN on a very corrugated gravel road for more than 120 km.  We spent more than 4 hours on the road travelling the total distance of 165 km.

Ruaha NP is the biggest game park in Tanzania and East Africa at 20 226 sq km. It has a wide variety of antelope species and more than 12 000 elephants and a big lion population according to wikipedia.

Camping in the Tanzanian parks is REALLY expensive. We paid $30 pppn camping, $30 pppn park entry fee and they asked for the weight of the vehicle. If more than 2 tons, the entry fee is $150 per night for the vehicle. Our Cruizer registration paper states a weight of 2118 kg. We just entered it as 2 tons on the form, they viewed it as an ordinary passenger vehicle and charged us the smaller amount of $40 per night. (We are waiting to see what will happen at the other parks we intend to visit regarding this issue, as this rule is valid in all the TZN parks). And 18% Vat added onto the total – $188.80 per night for camping under the only tree in the camp with basic, not-maintained ablutions with cold water only. However, the location of public campsite 1 is superb, as it is on the banks of the Ruaha river.  Ample firewood in the camp provided by the park.

Public campsite 1

The permit allows you 24 hours per day in the park – time of entry printed on the permit. If you enter at 11h52 you have to be out of the park on the day of exit before 11h52, otherwise you pay for another day.

We decided to make the most of 48 hours and criss-crossed all the roads in the park on long game drives. Again we were a bit disappointed in the small variety of animals that we were able to spot. They mentioned lots of sable and roan antelope as well as large herds of buffalo.  Elephant and impala were all over the park, but the other species were scarce.  It is dry season, and the landscape is not dense, so where are all these animals everyone has been writing about?

On their official map the park admits that the river is not flowing as it should due to over-utilisation of the Ruaha river upstream from the park and that the river is running dry for 3-4 months every year during the dry season. The Rungwa Game Reserve extending from the north of Ruaha (no fence between the two parks) is also a popular big game trophy hunting area. These two factors would definitely influence the wildlife population in Ruaha NP.

The Great Ruaha River running from north east to south west through the park is the area where the animals gather during the dry season. The river was dry with small pools here and there. Two other rivers also run through the park, with a few small pools with water.

Ruaha river hippo pool
Ruaha river
Elephant in the Ruaha river

The landscape is beautiful, with Miombo woodlands and the plains have lots of huge baobab tree clusters.

Ruaha landscape
Ruaha landscape


Baobab tree clusters

Along the Ruaha river the elephants had ring-barked lots of old, large trees which died and subsequently fell over.

Dead trees along the Ruaha river
Ring-barked and dead trees

For the last afternoon drive we went towards the most north-eastern corner along the Ruaha river, and the veld was greener on the large plains. We saw a lot more animals during that drive than earlier the day and the previous day.

Wildlife we saw:

  • lion – 2 large males and 2 large females walking in the river just beneath the bank seen during the last afternoon drive
  • greater kudu – many sightings – in Tanzania seen only in Ruaha NP
  • eland – once seen during the last afternoon drive
  • giraffe tippelskirchi (with a different skin pattern than our southern giraffe) – many sightings
  • Grant’s Zebra – also without shadow stripes, but the black and white stripes are wider than those of the Crawshay’s zebra we saw in South Luangwa – many sightings
  • Kirk’s dik-dik: one seen in the woodlands
  • elephant: plenty all over the park – in the dry river bed, in the woodlands and on the plains
  • Defassa waterbuck – without the white ring – many sightings
  • yellow baboons – in the river gathering food and drinking water and some also passed our camp, but they are wild and kept away from us
  • warthog – many sightings
  • dassie – plenty on the rocky outcrops all over the park
  • banded mongoose – many sightings
  • impala – plenty all over the park
  • hippos – in the pools in all three rivers
  • crocodile – in the pools
  • small-spotted genet – seen from sitting at the campfire
  • hyena – none seen, but heard quite near while sitting at the campfire
  • sable and roan antelope – none
  • buffalo – none
Impala with impressive horns
Giraffe tippelskirchi – note the skin pattern
Black-backed jackal
Greater kudu
Grant’s zebra


Lions in the river bed

There are lots of birds in the park and apart from the normal small birds, we also saw the following large birds:

  • fish eagle
  • marabou stork
  • vulture
  • wattled crane
  • crowned crane (Mahem)
  • hadeda
  • ground hornbill
  • egyptian goose (kolgans)
  • sand grouse
  • guinea fowl
  • variety of eagles
  • ostrich
  • Tanzanian/Ruaha Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus ruahae) – this species is only found in Central Tanzania in savannah and acacia woodland in Ruaha NP and surrounding areas. It is distinguished from both the northern and southern red-billed hornbills by the black facial skin surrounding the eye.  This characteristic led to these birds being declared a separate species.  Five distinct species of red-billed hornbills are now recognised: western, northern, Tanzanian, southern and Damara.
Tanzanian/Ruaha Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus ruahae)
Red-headed agama lizard – 25 cm head to tail end

Temperature: 36+ degrees celsius with high humidity as it was building up to rain every afternoon, but it did not rain.

Elevation: 800 m above sea


  • mosquito: plenty during the night
  • tsetse fly: plenty in the veld when driving around, but none in the camp

The park has beautiful landscape and vegetation. It is relatively undeveloped and we passed one other private vehicle and two game drive vehicles, each with one guest. So the amount of visitors is also small. We have always wanted to see the Tanzanian parks and this is a fine example of them.

Where we are now…

Next: to Udzungwa Mountains NP – Hondo Hondo camp


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