The 20,226 square kilometer park – the largest in the country – was singled out by the magazine for its sustainable tourism initiatives that allow visitors to for example view large prides of endangered African lions, of which about one-tenth of the current world population live in the park.
It was named alongside the island of Madagascar, Labrador National Park in Canada, and Seoraksan National Park in South Korea.
Contacted for comment on the National Geographic accolade yesterday, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Maj. Gen. Gaudence Milanzi, said it reflects the country’s efforts to diversify its tourism products and open up the southern tourism circuit.
He noted that Ruaha’s recognition comes amid implementation of the government’s Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism and Growth (REGROW) Project which seeks to strengthen the management of protected areas, promote nature-based tourism in southern Tanzania, and contribute to the diversification of livelihoods in selected communities.
“At the moment our focus is on improving the infrastructure when entering and leaving Ruaha National Park, and making Iringa Region another tourist hub,” Milanzi said.
He added that Ruaha deserves the accolade due to its rich wildlife resources and colourful flora and fauna found in its ecosystem.
Named after the Great Ruaha River that serves as a lifeline for the animals of the park in the dry season, the park forms the core of a much larger wilderness ecosystem of 150,000 square kilometers.
The banks of the river are permanent hunting grounds for lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, hyenas and the rare – also endangered - African wild dog, which prey on the waterbucks, impalas and gazelles that come to the river to drink.