Expert Reviews – Ruma NP
Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
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Remote and Rewarding Park
I should start this review by saying that I went to Ruma National Park, close to Lake Victoria in beautiful western Kenya, immediately following a full month in the magnificent private and community conservancies surrounding the Masai Mara. Ruma is a very little visited park and most people (few of whom have actually been) claim that there is very little in the way of wildlife there. Very much aware of these claims I would, at the best of times, approach Ruma with very low expectations, but having just spent so long in the Mara during migration season I really did expect this to be a fast in and out visit. How wrong I was.
I arrived around mid-morning just as the day was heating up, and the worst possible time to start a safari. Park staff told me to head towards the open savannah around the airstrip for the best wildlife viewing. At first the park lived up to my low expectations and the very dense woodland meant that even if there were animals around I would have been highly unlikely to see them. I quickly started to think less about animals and more about where we could go for lunch. Then, quite suddenly, the vegetation thinned out and turned to grassland savannah with patches of trees and I became aware of animals everywhere. Yes, the variety and concentration were not in the same league as the Mara but I was still surprised by how much I saw. Dozens of rare Rothschilds giraffe (in fact I would say that for giraffe this is up there with the best parks in Kenya), there were also lots of topi, impala, zebra and waterbuck. The parks prize creatures though are the hugely impressive Roan antelope which is more horse than dainty antelope. I saw two or three of these in my couple of hours in the park. And the recently introduced rhinos. Rangers told me there were now around twenty-eight rhino present of both black and white types. I didn’t see any and rangers told me they are seldom seen. I can imagine them spending long periods in the denser woodland which would account for their infrequent sightings.
In the end the few hours I was able to devote to Ruma turned out to be woefully insufficient. I would love to have been able to explore the hilly areas in the east of the park and to have been there at dawn or dusk when wildlife is likely to be more abundant still, but at least I know for next time!