Quietly approaching elephant on foot in Ruaha National Park

Evening on the banks of the Mwagusi Sand River, Ruaha

Southern Tanzania: Ruaha and Mafia

Superlative wildlife viewing, small bushcamps, walking & flycamping

We're an adventurous family - we want our safari to be a journey, away from the tourist hotspots with an excellent guide. We are very willing to give up creature comforts to achieve this!”

The Cooke Family

What we recommended and why

Ruaha in the dry season offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Tanzania and it's an eye-opener for families who want to experience a sense of wild Africa. Not only is it visited by a fraction of the people who travel to the better known parks in the north, it's also somewhere that bristles with action, particularly between June and October.

Massive herds of buffalo graze the flood plains of the Ruaha and Mwagusi Rivers, drinking en-masse in the river beds in the mornings and evenings. At these moments interactions between the buffalo and Ruaha's very large prides of lion are common. The two enemies are rarely far from each other and marauding attacks (successful or otherewise) are a regular feature of this park.

The riverlines and rocky terrain in Ruaha provide exceptional cover for it's leopard population and the park has deservedly built a reputation as one of the best places to see this illusive predator.

Elephant are a major feature, with large breeding herds gathering in the sand rivers to dig for water during the dry season, while groups of bulls feed their way from Tamarind to Acacia hoovering up nutricious seed pods during the heat of the day. They're also a regular feature in many of the camps; waking to find a bull elephant gently feeding a few feet from your window makes for a truly unforgettable (if slightly sleepless) night.

Ruaha also has good cheetah and wild dog as well as a good number of the more unusual species if you're really lucky, such as Aardwolf (small bushy hyena-type creature) Zorilla and Caracal, all of which are present, if rare.

The camps in Ruaha tend to be small, authentic bush camps which was just what the family were looking for. We also recommended a walking safari, flycamping for a night or two for that extra frisson of excitement for the children. They spent four nights in a quiet area of Ruaha, well away from other tourists, walking and flycamping under the stars. They had superb game viewing while they were there, with the highlight being a male leopard that posed for about 20 minutes for them.

For the coastal section we recommended Mafia Island for its great snorkeling and diving, well away from the main tourist hotspots and only a short flight, which kept travelling times to a minimum for the children.

The journey

Days 1-3

Ruaha National Park


The dry season in Ruaha rivals any location in Tanzania for sheer action and variety. If your principal objective is a safari to...

Day 4

Kichaka Fly Camp

Ruaha National Park

If you're finding that the plunge pools, personal butlers and sommeliers that increasingly elbow their way onto the safari scene...

Days 5-11

Pole Pole

Mafia Island

Pole Pole is a little slice of Italy on the edge of Chole Bay on the eastern coast of Mafia island. Just seven thatch bungalow...

thank you so much for all your help and insight in creating another fantastic holiday for us in Tanzania. After the tree nest experience of 2013, I was a bit sceptical that Ruaha could be better - but it was! ”

The Cooke Family

Start your journey...

Speak to one of our experts about planning a trip like this for you.

Catherine Ronan
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Our team

Our experienced travellers include:

Catherine Ronan
Andrea Hulme
Rod Tether

It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary. All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.

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