Ruaha River Lodge is perfectly situated on the banks of the Great Ruaha River, which runs like a lush green vein through the vast expanses of the Ruaha National Park in western Tanzania, the country’s largest national park. Surrounded by rocky outcrops, this stone and thatch lodge offers an affordable all-inclusive safari and comfortable accommodation in 24 chalets.
The camp’s location on the riverbank makes it a wonderful place for easy game viewing, particularly during the winter months, when animals - including cheetah, wild dog, lion, leopard, buffalo and a variety of plains game - are attracted to the water in droves. The camp’s daily game drives allow guests to explore large sections of the beautiful reserve, while the stay can be enhanced by special experiences such as bush breakfasts, private dinners at your chalet and sundowners on the riverbank. The chalets are vastly spacious, giving guests plenty of space to unwind.
Lying in a convergence zone where northern and southern hemisphere bird and mammal species overlap, Ruaha National Park is a vast wilderness area covering more than 20 200 square kilometres, making it the largest national park in Tanzania and one of the biggest in Africa.
From the high-altitude, cold, almost montane highlands in the west, to the low-altitude, hot valleys in the east, the variation in terrain across the reserve is huge. The biodiversity is startling too, with over 530 bird species and almost 100 mammals recorded. The Great Ruaha River is the lifeblood of the park, flowing from the magnificent Usangu Swamps all the way along the southern boundary. This waterway is a magnet for what is one of the largest elephant populations in East Africa, as well as lion prides, huge buffalo herds and healthy numbers of leopard, cheetah and wild dog.
There are three distinct seasons within the park: dry, wet and green. The dry season between June and October is best for game viewing, as the water becomes scarce, forcing the game closer to the river. The wet season extends from December to February, turning the land into a lush, green paradise. Storms are usually brief, followed by bright sunny skies that make for great game viewing. The green season runs between March and May with the big rains having left the rivers flowing and the plains verdant.
With its 24 double ‘bandas’ - most of which can be converted into triples - Ruaha River Lodge is one of the largest lodges in the park, but effort has been made to ensure that guests are still afforded privacy. The airy communal areas are split into two different dining and lounge areas, meaning that the atmosphere is kept peaceful and intimate. The first area is situated at the riverside, while the second commands stunning views from the top of a rock outcrop. There is also a campfire where guests can sip drinks after an exciting afternoon safari. At the small book exchange shop, guests can buy postcards, clothing and mementos.
Plenty of natural stone is used throughout the lodge, giving it a pleasantly rustic feel. However, this does not mean that the accommodation is not comfortable. The chalets are hugely spacious, featuring a large bedroom and lounge area, a big verandah and en-suite bathrooms with twin basins and a shower. Water for the shower is solar-heated, in keeping with the lodge’s environmentally-friendly philosophy.
A stay at Ruaha River Lodge will revolve around the game drives, which take place in the early morning and the late afternoon. Guests will most likely have already spotted a few animals at the river on the short walk to the main lodge. Transitioning from lush riverside greenery, to arid scrubland and grassy plains, the drives connect guests with a wide variety of different habitats that will yield an equally wide variety of game. Serious wildlife enthusiasts can take full-day trips deep into the park, with sustenance provided by a very ample picnic lunch. The guides here are very professional, and are trained on an annual basis in order to keep their people skills and wildlife knowledge sharp.
For a deeper connection with the bush, walking safaris or the fly camping experience are great options, with guests who opt for the latter being accompanied by a host, guide and chef. Those who want to make their stay extra special can have bush breakfasts, private dinners and riverside sundowners arranged. Children of all ages are welcome at Ruaha River Lodge, and babysitting can be arranged.