Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park

Relatively unknown compared to the Serengeti, Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest national park. Here you’ll find mostly European visitors, as opposed to the predominantly American tourists in the Serengeti. Given it’s remoteness, there are only a handful of camps within the park. The Kwihala Tent Camp is one of Asilia’s more basic tents. Like all Asilia’s camps, ninety-nine percent of the camp’s electricity runs on solar.

Don’t judge a tent by it’s exterior
The interior is actually quite comfortable
Bathroom
Bush shower on demand – the room attendant will mix warm water for you when you’re ready for your shower.
Light lunch at the lounge

What the camp lacks in luxurious accommodation is made up by its warm hospitality, which would explain its high customer return rate.

No other camp would gather it’s entire staff to greet us upon arrival and departure.

Our “butler”, Elia, even took the time to teach us some Swahili phrases and the African board game Bao.

A game of Bao requires a bit of strategy
Useful Swahili phrases we got to use throughout our trip.

The staff would also haul food and drinks into the bushes for unbeatable experiences.

Breakfast with elephants
Egg station in the river bed
Elia manning our sundowner bar on the river bank

Ruaha National Park is named after the Ruaha River, that takes on the form of a sand river during dry season.

Ruaha river from the sky

Despite there not being any visible signs of water, animals flock here during dry season because water does exist. You just have to know where to find it.

This isn’t just a herd of elephants standing in the river bed.
Upon closer look, you’ll see elephants digging through sand for water before siphoning the water through their trunks, and transferring to their mouths.
Fashioning watering holes other animals can later use
Here, the baby elephant is swinging it’s trunk, not knowing what to do with it. It takes a year for a baby elephant to learn how to gain full control of its trunk.

The Ruaha National Park consists of 2 vegetation zones – the miombo woodlands typical of Zambia, and the acacia vegetation seen in northern Tanzania and Kenya, creating a varied landscape.

Giant baobabs
Candelabra tree
Sausage tree named after the sausage like pods
The pods are about arm’s length with a good heft.
Combretum
Giraffes are partial to its flowers

Compared to Nyerere National Park, animal sightings in Ruaha came easier in the open grassland. In addition to the big lion and elephant populations, there were herds of other animals.

Herds of Cape buffalos
More than just one hyena
In fact, there were seven of them facing off against a lioness guarding the second giraffe carcass.
Troops of yellow baboons
With their ever curious young ones.
Hyraxes huddling together atop rocky outcrops to stay warm. We would later get a close up of these fur balls at our next camp.
A beautiful female Greater Kudu
Dik-dik – the tiniest of all antelopes

And let’s not forget the birds…

Oxpeckers atop a buffalo
Guinea fowls, AKA bush chicken as they were everywhere.
Hamerkop, so named for the hammer shaped head.
Lilac-breasted roller, possibly the most colorful bird in the world.
African fish Eagle, the national bird of four African countries – Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The way to distinguish the male saddle-billed stork from the female is to look for the yellow tear dropped saddle that hangs below the base of the beak.
Egyptian geese
Of course, no game drive would be complete without seeing the elusive leopard.
Closeup
From the other side
It decided it wasn’t coming down the tree for us.
Finally, to cap off an eventful stay in Kwihala, an elephant wandered into camp on the morning of our departure.

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