Three elephants scatter from a pool in the dry riverbed as the plane banks over them to line up for the airstrip. We flash past a giraffe that barely moves its head and a small herd of impala trot off a little way as the plane touches down in Ruaha National Park.Ruaha National Park Highlights:
It was almost ten years ago to the day that I had fielded a call offering a management position in Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. It was with great excitement that my fiancé and I discussed the position. A remote reserve in a little-known area of Africa flamed my excitement!
The return call to confirm the appointment indicated the starting date as August. Our wedding was in October. And that was the end of the dream ..... until the day we landed in Ruaha.
After spending time in Ruaha in the 1970's the renowned ornithologist, John Williams, said of the park: "Of all the faunal preserves it is the park of the future". It was a future that was to remain untouched by development - but tainted by the rampant poaching - until the 21st century when Tanzania began to develop its tourism potential.
With iconic destinations such as Serengeti and Ngorongoro in the northern parts of the country, the southern parks of Tanzania remained free of any major developments. Recently, however, the country is seeing the benefits of tourism and, with many African safari travelers looking for new destinations, Ruaha is beginning to fulfill its role as the park of the future.
Ruaha may be remote but it has suffered environmental problems as much as other parks throughout Africa - with poaching and human development been the key issues.
Poaching was rife in the 1970's and 1980's with elephant and rhino suffering the most. The rhino population was poached to the brink of extinction - and the elephant population was drastically reduced. The elephant numbers have steadily increased since the poaching onslaught but rhino numbers remain dangerously low.
The Great Ruaha River, the lifeblood of the park, has recently been drying up in the dry season. The lengths of the periods of no water flow have been steadily increasing and now a four month dry period is the norm. This drying up is due in most part to the expanding rice cultivation schemes in the water catchment areas.