Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
This isolated and little explored park is Tanzania’s second largest National Park. Infested by the biting Tsetse fly, this huge area of woodland and grassland has remained undisturbed by man and his cattle and has remained virtually unchanged through centuries.
The large Ruaha River forms the eastern border of the park, and is also the main water supply. The river flows through sandy soils, consisting of intertwining little channels of barely moving water during the six-month dry season, and raging torrents of water during the rains of January to March.
Ruaha’s woodlands consists mainly of the tall, wide open canopies of the Brachstegia tree, specially adapted to the infertile soils and one rainy season of this part of Tanzania. These trees form the majority of the miombo woodlands that provide a wide range of habitats to over 1,600 species of plants and 400 species of birds. Those with keen eyes will spot the violet-crested turaco, pale-billed hornbill, Dickinson’s kestrel and racquet-tailed roller.
The Great Ruaha River is the showpiece however, as it wanders through the woodlands and out to the grassy plains. Clawless otters play in the shallows, crocodiles lurk on the sandbanks, and reedbuck, waterbuck and buffalo come down to water edge to drink, keeping out a wary eye for the lion, hunting dog, leopard and spotted hyena.
Skimmer birds swoop along in search of tiny minnows and hippos cavort in the deeper pools. Eurasian migrant birds flock along the banks, to shared feeding grounds with the resident kingfishers, bee-eaters, and sunbirds, whose iridescent blue, yellow, purple and green colours sparkle from branches and are reflected in the waters.
In the grassland borders of the park, greater and lesser Kudu, eland, impala, dik-dik, zebra, mongoose, wild cat, warthog, porcupine and civet cats abound, with a small but slowly growing population of tusk-less elephants. This small group of elephant is not a target for poaching and their numbers have increased over the years.
During the long dry season, Ruaha is covered in small bush fires, leaving the landscape a surreal mixture of the living pale greens and yellows, with stark outcrops of the black, bronze and red of the burnt trees and grasses.
Little known and even less often explored, the Ruaha National Park is a haven for wildlife and a superb safari experience for the adventurous.
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