The reserve is also known as Uwanda Rukwa Game Reserve. It was established in 1974 to conservation reserve Rukwa Valley of southern Tanzania. It covers 4100sqkms and is an extension of Katavi National park. Almost half of Lake Rukwa is part of the conservation area. Rukwa Valley is located in southwestern Tanzania and is part of the Great Rift Valley. The biodiversity of this valley is composed of thousands of species, although it’s sparsely populated due to its harsh environment. It’s almost covered up by the lake, which is a breeding place for crocodiles, and the shores of the river for the rest of the land, with acacias and miombo trees for the in the background. The reserve is also commonly known as the breeding place for red locusts which attract a lot of birds to the area.
How to access the Reserve
The reserve can be accessed by both air and road transport.
Road Transport– You can use public or private means to access the park. Alternatively, you can access the park through Katavi National park. If you’re from Usumbwanga, you will pass via ufipa plateau, and if you’re from Mbeya, you will go through chunya.
Air transport– Mbala is the nearest airport to the park. You can connect flight to the airport, then use road transport to the reserve. From Mbala airport you will connect to Usumbwanga, which can take you 4 to 5 hours.
What to carry
To have a wonderful time in this reserve, you will need to carry the following items: gloves will protect you from the thick and thorny vegetation, hiking shoes, a very nice camera, drinking water, warm clothing, hat, a waterproof backpack, sun glasses, a mosquito net, insect repellent, a sunscreen, a note book, a pair of binoculars, light shirts and pants for the hot days, a guide book, snacks, please carry spare batteries for your camera, In case there some items you forgot to carry, no need to panic, for they can be hired at a supplementary fee from places of residence.
Things to do
The reserve doesn’t have a lot of wildlife species to see as it’s the case in other park, but it has the rare to find species in the world. These will be visible on your walk safaris along the lake and in the acacia and miombo trees. Await to see the albino giraffe, antelopes, kudus, among others.
The reserve is known for having huge numbers of bird species that normally camp on the shores of Lake Rukwa. You will be able to see a lot of water birds that have a home in the reserve and also migrants that visit the reserve. Target the peak season of this activity and you will be rewarded with clear views of the most unique creatures on Africa and European continent.
Guided walk safaris
The reserve is wonderful to explore on foot. There various trails that you will follow and lead you to the must-sees of the place. Access these trails sometimes can be tiresome but if you’re not in a hurry or under panic, you will enjoy your journey. It can take you at least an hour of leisure walking. You may decide to take several depending how much time you have. You will get to see the forest and its species. Guides will be explaining to you some of the unique plantations which are herbal too. You will enjoy the sights and sounds of birds and primates in the forest. During this walk, your highlight will be setting your eyes on wild animals, and birds, locusts, reptiles among other creatures in this reserve. You will also enjoy views of crocodiles that you will see from the shores of the lake.
This has become one of the highlights of the park. Most of the visitors don’t miss this activity. Some carry out sport fishing, or catch and release fishing. One this activity a fishing tour guide will lead you. This activity is carried out in designated places, with the recommended fishing gears you will need to have permits to enjoy it. The activity is enjoyable for you will see the success of your efforts. The lake is endowed with fish such as mud fish, tilapia, sardines, among others and we are sure your efforts won’t be in vain. You may as well enjoy your catch at your hotel.
These are enjoyed on Lake Rukwa. As you sail on you will enjoy a beautiful view of the river and also view the crocodiles, hippos, and birds in the area. These will give you an opportunity of exploring the whole area, in the comfort of a boat as you sip your drink or enjoying your lunch.
When to visit
The reserve can be visited throughout the year but the best time to visit is during the dry season. If you’re a lover of birds, you should visit in November- February. However each season has its advantages and disadvantages as below.
Dry Season (June to October)
During this season, rains are rare and the sun dominates most of the days. The grasslands in the park are short and trees aren’t so thick. The period from June to August favors animal viewing, and these can be seen along the game drives. Wildlife is easier to be seen. You can easily spot it since the grass is short.
The trails in the park are dry and passable during this season, so guided walk safaris will be enjoyable, also water activities are enjoyed too since the sun is out.
Mosquitoes are rare since there’s hardly any rain, and thus visitors are at a low risk of getting malaria.
The reserve never gets crowded.
It should be noted however that, weather can change any time. So visitors are advised to be equipped with rain coats.
Wet Season (October to May)
The season is composed of short, long and sometimes heavy rains. The best scenery in the park is during this time. The park is all green, with flowers. Wildlife can still be seen in the park, though not when it’s raining.
The season registers the peak season of bird watching when migratory birds visit the reserve to enjoy the alkaline waters.
This is the low season of the park, prices for tickets and accommodation fees are discounted.
From March, it’s very wet and some roads and trails can be hard to penetrate. During this time, it’s a must that you come with a 4 wheel drive.
The reserve has enough wildlife that will please you. Apart from the famous crocodiles, you will be able to see hippopotami, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, elephants, kudus, crocodiles and the rarest albino giraffes, among others. Seeing these creatures is for all seasons. The best views will be achieved once you concentrate in the grazing lands and at the shores of the lake. The highlight of the reserve are the rare creatures that can’t be found I other park. Your safari will be worthwhile after setting your eyes on the albino giraffe.
The flying creatures can’t be missed in this reserve. The reserve is a home for birds and also migratory birds from other continents visit during the early wet season. These will be see in trees during your walk safari or along the shores of the lake or by the sea. You will be amazed by the views of the likes of kingfisher, sunbirds, wood pecker, grey parrots, red shark, African fish eagles, pelicans, lilac-breasted rollers, woolly necked stork, fish eagles, palm-nut vultures, ground hornbills and the common sand pipers, among others. Look out for them as you enjoy any of the activities in the park. The best views will be achieved on Lake Rukwa where most of these creatures gather to taste the alkaline waters and other feeds.
The famous lake has hot springs. It is also unique for it was proved that human beings used to stay at the shores of this lake around the thirteenth century, after excavations were carried out. Salt pans were also found at Ivuna, just 25km from the lake shores. Lake Rukwa used to be a resting ground for slave trade merchants during the 19th Century. It is also an alkaline lake and has supported fish species including the tilapia, and has turned out to be a favorite fishing spot to many tourists who enjoy the activity and also a raven for birds. The fishing business is very serious for fish is even exported to neighboring Zambia and Congo. On top of all that, it has a huge number of crocodiles that you will enjoy seeing while on a boat ride.
There several places of accommodation, in and outside the reserve. It will be you to choose an ideal place. Below are some of the places of accommodation with in the park.
- Mbeya Hotel
- New Mexican Hotel
- Hill view Hotel
- Utengule Hotel
- Beaco Resort
- Mount Livingstone
- Mbeya peak Hotel