Ruaha National Park

Clawless otters in Ruaha National Park slide into shallows, and king-sized crocodiles bask with open jaws on sandbanks of the Great Ruaha River which forms the southeastern border of this second-largest Tanzanian national park, little changed over the past million years. With Kizigio and Rungwa reserves bordering it on the north, the Ruaha ecosystem represents a protected 9,884 square miles (25,600 km2) as wild and remote today as any in Africa. A wildlife magnet is the river where an 800-foot (240-m) escarpment ecologically divides the valley from western high plateau and miombo forest where sable antelope browse. Most of the elephant population— sizable despite poaching—along with 30,000 buffalo, 20,000 zebras, giraffes, warthogs, spiral-horned kudus, elands, and roan antelopes find their way to its rushing, rocky gorges and acacia-fringed streams, as do leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. Among 400 bird species are colorful sunbirds, bee-eaters, kingfishers, and specialties such as Dickinson’s kestrels, violetcrested turacos, pale-billed hornbills, racquet-tailed rollers, green wood hoopoes—and, spring and fall, thousands of Eurasian migrants.

Park office at Msembe is 70 miles (112 km) by 4WD from Iringa (there’s also an airstrip). Best times are drier July–November. There are two luxury tented camps and a hotel built into a rock kopje along the river.

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