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Nature Explored

Photography
by Chris Dunford

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

Ruaha National Park in June

A Long Dry Season Ahead

Even at 7:30 am the air is cool enough to warrant a fleece and long trousers. The air soon heats up though and within a couple of hours it is very warm
Even at 7:30 am the air is cool enough to
warrant a fleece and long trousers. It soon
heats up though and within a couple of
hours it becomes very warm
June is classed as Winter in Ruaha. What that means is that the nights are a little colder and there may be an extra half hour of darkness. This close to the Equator it's roughly twelve hours each all year round. Evening temperatures are pleasant by European standards; it's warm enough to sit outdoors usually without a need to wear a sweater.

Overnight the temperature drops to maybe as low as 8-10 C. We found that this makes it easier to sleep without being too hot.

Some of the trees such as the combretums are losing their leaves in preparation for the long dry season and the russets and yellows are reminiscent of Autumn colours in Western Europe. Some of the trees display leaves of gold and red as they prepare to shed them for the dry season. Often these trees are on ridgelines where the soil is poorer and drier
Some of the trees display leaves of gold and
red as they prepare to shed them for the dry
season. Often these trees are on ridgelines
where the soil is poorer and drier
The grass is yellowing although it is still tall in much of the Park. The Baobabs are almost leafless but an occasional one still bears the large green seed pods with the amazingly good sherbert tasting filling.

Nearer to the rivers and in the lower lying land, the bush is still predominantly green. Some types of trees are still in full leaf - fFigs, leadwood, jackalberry, raintree, tamarind and palms, to name a few of the common ones.

The chill air at sunrise is fresh and visibility is very good. Within minutes of the Sun's bright ball lifting over the horizon the sky colours gold, and if there are scattered clouds about, the dawn can be spectacular. Soon after this this sky turns a lovely shade of caerulean blue, and the air starts to warm up. By 9:30 it is getting hot and daytime temperatures are around 30 C.

Ruaha is incredibly colourful in June

The Great Ruaha River is beautiful at this time of year, as it fills its course often a couple of hundred metres wide. Even allowing for the massive and unregulated offtake of water upstream by the rice farms it is flowing quite quickly, although the flow diminishes over the following three months. Pods of hippos and crocodiles are seen along its length.

The Great Ruaha river at its best. It used to flow like this all year round before the advent of rice farming
The Great Ruaha river at its best. It used to
flow like this all year round before the advent
of rice farming
Since 1993 the river dries up at the start of October, as the rice paddies are flooded in an extremely wasteful way at the start of the planting season. It seems a bit bizarre to be squandering so much water to grow rice in what it classed as an arid area.

The river is the lifeblood of the National Park and large numbers of people further downstream depend on its water for a livelyhood. It is also needed to fill the Mtera damn, which generates a large portion of the electricity required by Dar es Saalam. There are other rivers in the park, such as the Mwagusi and the Zombe, but these have always been of a seasonal nature, flowing in the rainy season only, and drying up towards the end of May.

The  seasonal beauty of the bush. In a few weeks these trees will be bare. Other species retain their green leaves throughout the dry season. There is plenty of green vegetation such as commiphora in the lower lying areas nearer the river valleys
The seasonal beauty of the bush. In a few
weeks these trees will be bare. Other species
retain their green leaves throughout the dry
season. There is plenty of green vegetation
such as commiphora in the lower lying areas
nearer the river valleys
At the start of the dry season, a major proportion of the animals which spent the wet season in the miombo forests behind the escarpment are forced to move down towards the Great Ruaha river by the lack of water elsewhere, and consequently the density of game in the Ruaha valley increases.

Although game numbers are lower than say October, there are still a variety of animals in abundance, and safari is excellent throughout June and July. Buffalos start to move in from the drying hinterland, as they need to drink every day.

The golden sky lasts only a few minutes after sunrise
The golden sky lasts for only a few minutes
after Sunrise
The predators follow the big herds, and Ruaha becomes a fabulous location to watch large prides of lions, and huge herds of buffalos, as well as around 8000 elephants - but down from 30,000 in 2009 due to the ravages of poaching in the ecosystem.

From about August the temperatures by day and night continue to rise until the rains break in November and restore the park to the glorious green of the 'Emerald' season. A line of green trees and bushes follows the course of the river. Various species of browsing animals concentrate here
A line of green trees and bushes follows the
course of the river. Various species of
browsing animals tend to concentrate here
This time coincides with a lot of births and the arrival of many types of migrant birds. With the arrival of the rains, the bulk of the animals disperse back into the hills where the quality of the food is better, but there is always a healthy population of Game left in the safari area.

Taking everything into consideration, June is a really good time to visit Ruaha; no extremes of heat or cold, beautiful colours and plenty of Wildlife to watch and to entertain you. The Park presents endless excellent opportunities for fantastic photography, and because of its very low visitor numbers it is a brilliant place to be at peace with Nature.

Watch the Ruaha Revisited I video.

Watch the Ruaha Revisited II video.