Here’s a pop-quiz.
Which is Africa’s most popular national park? Which is the biggest?
If you answered Serengeti to both questions, you’re wrong. Serengeti may well be the most popular but it’s not the biggest. The biggest is the Ruaha National Park, a whopping 40% bigger, to be exact. If it surprises you, you’re not the only one. It seems like when it comes to Tanzania, most people do not look beyond Serengeti. Could it be that it’s a question of doing what everyone else is doing? After all, Serengeti has a well-established eco-system around it and a glut of information surrounding it. It’s the easy option, and gives you a sense of comfort that things may not go wrong. There’s also a keen fear of missing out. After all, everyone is visiting it, shouldn’t you as well?
But this is the thing- if you’ve travelled all that distance, shouldn’t you make the most of the trip? See more, do more? And if you do want to make the most of the trip, you should travel to Ruaha, in the South of Tanzania. Not only is it 40% larger than Serengeti, but attracts only about 10% of visitors. Imagine the numbers if you will. Such a lot of space- 40,000 square kilometres- and hardly anyone to share that space with. Compare that to the chaotic scenes that take place in Serengeti during peak tourist season. Trying to jostle for space in a bid to see animals is hardly a way to see these magnificent animals.
Among its many, many attractions, Ruaha National Park boasts of a huge lion population, 10% of Africa’s total. Apart from this, you can see huge numbers of buffalo, birds and elephant (12,000 in number) too. You can see over 570 bird species, zebra, the greater and lesser kudu, wild dogs, and giraffe. In fact, you’ll find 4 of the Big 5 here, the rhino being the only absentee.
The park gets its name from the magnificent 475-kilometre Ruaha River that flows through the park. Animals gather at the river and this gives visitors many moments of looking at game. Keep an eye out for the hippo and the Nile crocodile. One of the striking features of the park are the baobab trees that fill it with their presence. The beauty of the park is further enhanced by these unique trees.
The ideal time is between late June and October. Rains cease in April and as the dry season advances, animals gather at the river in search of water. Fly to Jongomero and Msembe from Arusha, Dar Es Salaam and Selous depending on where you choose to stay during the holiday. Tanzania does have its share of tropical disease so make sure you get your vaccinations and protect yourself from malaria as well. Mosquito repellent should be a constant companion for the traveller. The weather is mostly dry and hot with not too much variation even in the night. There are many places to stay here, from simple safari camps to luxurious lodges. You can choose to stay inside or outside the park.