Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania





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  1. #1
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    Default Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Hello fellow travellers, We (an experienced "overlanding couple" from The Netherlands) are planning our next trip to Africa. It is still a long way off, but we are considering a 4 week trip to Ruaha and Selous somewhere next year. We normally rent a fully equipped Landcruiser from Bushlore so we are quite “spoiled” when it comes to the quality of the vehicle and equipment, but being a long way off their drop off charges are pretty steep. Our main interest is remoteness, solitude, finding “unspoiled, true African wilderness” and of course spotting wild life, including birds. We are therefore not looking for (luxury) lodges, but preferably exclusive campsites with or without any facilities.
    We would like advice / information on the following:

    • Are there good rental companies with fully equipped 4x4‘s in Tanzania?
    • We of course know that “the best time” is from May till October, but if possible, we would rather plan our trip later because the prices are lower, less people in the parks, we like the changing season(s) and for us November / December is the best time to be away from home. On the other hand, we do not like the prospect of being stuck in black cotton soil (all the time)…..! Does anybody have first-hand experience travelling through Ruaha and Selous from mid-November till mid-December?
    • Needless to say we are completely self-sufficient regarding, food, water and diesel. Are there (m)any possibilities for overlanders to camp all by ourselves in the above mentioned 2 NP’s?

    All advice would be highly appreciated, thank you very much! BriAn

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Hello BABE and welcome back to this forum.

    Both the Ruaha and the Selous are wonderful places. However, they are in different climactic zones. The Ruaha National Park is in the zone of the once yearly rainfall pattern of southern Africa. Please see this copied from the Tanzania National Parks website “Ruaha National Park enjoys only one rainy season, usually from the end of November to May. The average rainfall in Ruaha varies from 500mm around the Msembe HQ area in the Rift Valley, to 800mm in the western high plateau area of the Park. Rainfall plays a huge role in the ecology of the Park which is reflected in the vegetation and the movement of animals.

    The coolest time to visit Ruaha is normally from June to the end of July, when the temperatures range from max of 30c during the day dropping to as low as 8c at night. The temperature slowly increases over the next few months resulting in the hottest time, with daily highs of +/- 40c and a night time low of approximately 25c, which is generally just before the rain begins to fall, in November and December.” End quote from
    https://www.tanzaniaparks.go.tz/

    The Selous Game Reserve is in the region of the twice yearly East African pattern of monsoon rainfall. That is, the long rains March, April, May and the short rains October to (possibly) mid December. This year, 2019, East Africa is being inundated with what is called the Indian Ocean “El Nino” and extremely heavy rain and flooding is hitting most of Tanzania, Kenya and, even, up into Somalia during this the “short rains”.

    The Ruaha is, predominately, not black cotton soil, but the Selous Game Reserve is ferocious black cotton soil. I have been to the Selous in the dry season and I would definitely not want to be there during the rains. You might be stuck for a very long time. I have also been to the Ruaha in the dry season.

    As for 4x4 rentals in Tanzania, I cannot help, but there are a number of threads on this forum with recommendations and contact details.

    If you have more queries, do fire away. This forum prides itself on mutual assistance to fellow travellers.

    Safari njema!



  3. #3
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Hi BABE

    In Ruaha we normally get very light rain in October, only a shower or two to get it nice and hot! The rains normally start towards the end of November.
    The rain pattern has however become very inconsistent over the past few years. In 2016 we had hardly any rain until January/February then floods. 2017 late rains and the river only small pools, 2018 was a very dry year and this year the rain in areas is back to November.
    November is one of my favorite times in Ruaha, very low tourist numbers, normally light rain and the area is green but the grass still short.
    There is less black cotton than Selous but it only takes a few bad stretches to make for an interesting day. I did a camp up on the escarpment above Mwagusi and we couldn't get a car out for about 6 weeks, even the grader was stuck days on end.
    Years ago I did a number of projects in the selous
    and we spent most of our time getting stuck through the rains, even the Mogs and 4x4 DAFS.
    Unfortunately the days of saying the rains start a 4 o'clock on the 14th of November are over and you can either have a dry, damp or drowned time.
    The good thing (or bad!) is the 10% area has cell signal so if you are going stop at the park HQ and get the phone numbers of (Amina) the tourism warden and a few others and if you do have problems they will always send a vehicle to help.
    If you are coming to Ruaha I can PM you my number and if you get stuck I'm always happy to get muddy and drink a cold beer after.
    P.S on the drive into Ruaha from Iringa at about the 70km mark you will get a junction with a big cement Elephant on it, below there is a sign that gives you 2 options to get to Ruaha, the turn to the right is 1km longer but you avoid all the villages, donkeys goats etc but have to look out for Kudu, elephant, wild dog etc, much better in my opinion. If it has been raining hard avoid this road if not then its a better option.
    P.P.S yes there are options to camp alone in Ruaha. There are a number of special camp sites. These have no facilities and you will need to bring everything in. I'd stay clear of the Mdonya site in the rains, Ifaguru is a nice site and has easy access to the main game area. If its raining heavily stick to the park HQ area, the public sites should be empty in November.
    Last edited by 2.8i rocks; 2019/11/28 at 06:04 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    2.8i rocks

    Does Rob Glen still live in the Ruaha? We met him there a number of years ago and had great chats with him about mutual Kenyan friends.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    2.8i rocks

    Does Rob Glen still live in the Ruaha? We met him there a number of years ago and had great chats with him about mutual Kenyan friends.
    Hi there yes Rob and Sue still up near Magangwe, one of the last true gents
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    2,8i, whilst we have you "online" how are the excessive upstream water utilization problems going with the Great Ruaha River?

    In 2015, the official pamphlet from Tanapa on Ruaha confirmed that excessive upstream water harvesting was resulting in the Ruaha River running dry during the late dry season months. This was severely affecting animal densities and plans were afoot to curtail this utilization of Ruaha River water for upstream agricultural irrigation.

    Thank you for the best summary of rainy season Ruaha I have seen.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    2,8i, whilst we have you "online" how are the excessive upstream water utilization problems going with the Great Ruaha River?

    In 2015, the official pamphlet from Tanapa on Ruaha confirmed that excessive upstream water harvesting was resulting in the Ruaha River running dry during the late dry season months. This was severely affecting animal densities and plans were afoot to curtail this utilization of Ruaha River water for upstream agricultural irrigation.

    Thank you for the best summary of rainy season Ruaha I have seen.
    Hi Stan
    I feel this site by Sue is far better than any brief summary I could give on here and after 25+ years in the park she has a far better grasp of the situation.
    https://www.theruahanotes.com/
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Thank you so much for an intro to that great website. It appears that water levels in the Ruaha River remain problematic, although there is no information for much of 2018 and nothing for this year.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Thank you very much 2.8i rocks.

    There is some information for 2018 and early 2019 in this section of Sue’s website https://www.theruahanotes.com/water-flow-charts

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    2,8i, whilst we have you "online" how are the excessive upstream water utilization problems going with the Great Ruaha River?

    In 2015, the official pamphlet from Tanapa on Ruaha confirmed that excessive upstream water harvesting was resulting in the Ruaha River running dry during the late dry season months. This was severely affecting animal densities and plans were afoot to curtail this utilization of Ruaha River water for upstream agricultural irrigation.

    Thank you for the best summary of rainy season Ruaha I have seen.
    On a personal note to your questions my layman's observations are as follows
    1) even after incorporating Usangu into RNP and chasing the cattle out there has been very little change in the water levels.
    2) TZ has curtailed the importation of rice into the country so the pressure is increasing on areas like the Usangu river basin
    3) the park is planning a succession of weirs to hold water during the dry season. This tells me they aren't hopeful of a long term improvement
    4) the parks are also allowing boreholes to be sunk in areas that traditionally held water i.e pans etc to take pressure of the river system.
    This all points to the park and government realising that this is a long term problem with no foreseeable solution.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Thank you both for the info, this has been an issue of concern to me affecting wonderful Ruaha.

    At one stage I was able to informally discuss this issue with fairly senior Tanapa officials. Apparently the upstream rice farming enterprizes have connections to powerful political figures. In any case, they too were not very sanguine about restoring the year-round flow of the river.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Hi Stan and Wazungu Wawili , can you please let me know when you guys are next up here. I'd love to meet up.
    There are some fantastic out of the way places that I'm sure you would love to experience and I'd love to have the rather unnecessary excuse to go back to.
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Quote Originally Posted by 2.8i rocks View Post
    Hi Stan and Wazungu Wawili , can you please let me know when you guys are next up here. I'd love to meet up.
    There are some fantastic out of the way places that I'm sure you would love to experience and I'd love to have the rather unnecessary excuse to go back to.
    Asante sana, 2.8i rocks. I will let you know when we are next down in Tanzania from Kenya.

    I have an urge to “do” the Southern Highlands, in particular the “Garden of God”, but the flowering season is during the rains and, as we know, travelling in the rains is not a pleasant experience...

    But when that trip will be is all shauri ya Mungu.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Seeking information & advice about Ruaha and Selous, South Tanzania

    Quote Originally Posted by 2.8i rocks View Post
    Hi Stan and Wazungu Wawili, can you please let me know when you guys are next up here. I'd love to meet up.
    There are some fantastic out of the way places that I'm sure you would love to experience.
    Such a kind offer; and yes it is not easy for an independant traveller to explore the far-flung corners of Ruaha. Unfortunately I cannot see a trip for myself soon, perhaps next year's dry season. If so will definately make contact well beforehand.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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