Game viewing is something like fishing in that, even in the very best fishing holes, a catch can never be guaranteed. However, there is one place in Africa I know (and only one) where you can sit pretty much on your own and pull in whoppers from sun up to sun down. Its name is Ruaha National Park in southern Tanzania, but don’t tell anyone else or you’ll spoil the fishing.
Game Viewing So Good it Should Be Illegal
It is so little known that, even in the region, if you mention its name, people will say “what, where?” I have been there more than once and each time I have returned with a sense of wonder, delight and privilege that I could have had such an incredible wilderness and wildlife experience; it’s so good it should be illegal.
First the landscape: it is one of Africa’s largest national parks, with only a handful of rustic camps. The land consists mainly of rolling grassland lorded over by rank after rank after rank of giant baobab trees, marching from one horizon to the other like a huge invading vegetable army.
Leopard in Ruaha, photo by David Bristow
Then there are the predators, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards and the lords of the jungles, lions. Lots of them. According to Dave van Smeerdijk, marketing director for Asilia Africa that operates Kwihala Camp where I recently stayed, Ruaha has the largest lion population of any game reserve in Africa.
The Only Place Where Lions Hunt Elephants as their Regular Prey
But these are not just any common or garden cats. They are killers … Okay, all big cats are killers, but these are real killers. Because of the seasonal dynamics of prey species, the lions of Ruaha have taken to hunting buffaloes when they have to and elephants whenever they can. This park is big in every sense, a veritable land of giants, and giant killers. Ruaha is the only place where lions hunt elephants as their regular prey.
Lions and elephants at Ruaha National Park, photo by David Bristow
But like Africa itself, Ruaha is not a place for sissies. To see lions hunting or eating elephants is awesome, even terrible. It is nature more red in tooth and claw than anything you might have imagined. And, more amazingly, hardly anyone knows about it.
After more than two decades traveling in, photographing and writing about Africa’s wild places, Ruaha still astonishes me. There is no other place like it. So if you want the biggest bang your buck can buy, go there soon. Tell them I sent you.
See these fascinating lions for yourself on a Tanzania safari