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An inside look at Ruaha
During a recent stay at Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha National Park, Matt got speaking to his guide Kahimba Zacharia about the uniqueness of Ruaha and the importance that tourism plays in protecting the wildlife. Here’s what Kahimba had to say…
Name: Kahimba Zacharia
Experience: 13 years guiding at Mdonya Old River Camp, Ruaha National Park.
Favourite animal: Elephants, because of their social structure and life style.
You have been guiding in Ruaha for 13 years – what makes this park so special to keep you here for so long?
The environment, eco-system, and landscapes of Ruaha National Park are the things that have kept me working here for such a long time.
You must have seen some incredible sights as a guide – what have been your most memorable sightings?
Since becoming a guide in Ruaha, I have had so many incredible sightings – I have seen so many wonderful things and some very sad sights also. For me, one of the things which sticks most in my mind was when I saw a big baobab tree which had fallen on a big male elephant. Unfortunately the tree had crushed the elephant, causing the elephant to die. It was awful to see, but unfortunately, that’s the way of the wild!
You’ve helped on many wildlife documentaries. Which journalists and film makers have you worked with?
I’ve worked with Owen Pruum – a filmmaker for National Geographic. I’ve also worked with Michelle Hofman from Adjunct Instructor – she’s a journalist in the United States. It’s great to work with people who are raising awareness of wildlife issues and conservation.
And if we want to come to Ruaha to see the same incredible sights that these filmmakers capture, when should we come?
The best time to visit Ruaha is from June to December – this is the dry season and is when you can see the most wildlife, as at this time of year it is easier to reach all the different areas of the bush.
You have a huge passion for wildlife conservation – can you tell us why this is so important and how visitors to Ruaha can help?
The passion I have for wildlife conservation is because the animals and their environment are so important. It’s vital that the visitors of Ruaha help protect the park, so that we keep this incredible and unique natural habitat.
Poaching is a problem affecting elephants in Ruaha – what impact do this have on the elephants and the rest of the eco-system?
The impact of poaching in Ruaha is huge – if it continues it will lead to the loss of the elephant gene pool in Ruaha. This can have a huge effect on the eco-system because elephants are key in the germination of seeds from plants and trees as well.
How important are tourists for Ruaha, and the flora and fauna of the park?
Tourists are very important in the protection of the flora and fauna of Ruaha. The presence of tourists in the park helps protect the animals against poachers to a certain extent, because it makes it harder for poachers to go incognito.
Can you sum up Ruaha in three words?
Authentic, diverse and wild.
What do you hope for the future of Ruaha?
My main hope for the future of Ruaha is that it manages to remain as it is. We need to keep the park unspoiled so it remains the best national park in Africa.
We’ve heard some incredible stories about the lions of Ruaha – what makes them so special?
The population of lions in Ruaha is great. Because there are so many of them, their behaviour starts to change and they start to hunt bigger animals, such as elephant, hippo, giraffe, and crocodile. They didn’t used to be able to do this, but now, because there are so many of them, they have an increased strength.
We’ve talked about elephants and lions a lot, but what else does Ruaha have to offer?
The landscape of Ruaha is beautiful and the park has a higher population of kudu than in any other park in Africa. In Ruaha you can find both kudu species – the lesser kudu and the greater kudu. There are a lot of different bird species in Ruaha too – it is a great destination for twitchers.
When is the best time for birding in Ruaha?
December to June is the best time for birding.
Where else in Tanzania would you like to visit that you haven't been to yet?
I would like to visit Gombe Stream and Mahale National Parks in Western Tanzania. These parks have very different vegetation to other Tanzanian parks; they are distinguished by their thick forest landscapes and are famous for their chimpanzee populations!
Are there any hidden places in Tanzania that we should check out?
For me, the best ‘hidden place’ in Tanzania is Katavi National Park in the south west of the country.
Do you want to experience the delights of Ruaha first hand
Give our specialists a call on 020 3141 2810 and they will start work on a tailor-made itinerary just for you.