Ruma National Park lies just inland from Lake Victoria, it’s not far from Mbita but the road is somewhat rough in places making it about an hour-long journey past blankets with tiny fish laid out to dry and pigs snuffling up the main street of Sindo.
Ruma is a relatively small area, at 120km2, and was given National Park status in 1983. We entered via the Nyatoto gate paying our entry fees to a ranger who was somewhat surprised to see anyone turn up.
The whistling thorn dominates large areas providing cover for many of the animals that inhabit the fenced park. Our first mammal sightings were of impalas and topi followed by a view of a park speciality, a roan antelope. This is the only Kenyan sanctuary for this rare species which has a very distinctive black and white face. Another unusual inhabitant is the Rothschild’s giraffe, another western Kenya specialist.
We met a vehicle full of armed park rangers who talked to us about the new white rhino arrivals. They have been brought to Ruma in an attempt to provide some protection from poaching although a couple of them were somewhat grumpy after their journey. One, however, was calmer and they sent us in her direction; we found her relatively easily and waited quietly for her to relax and wander quietly past us. Her horn had been removed for transit but will grow back in time.
Moving on through the park we watched various birds of prey including a bateleur. Other birds such as the wonderfully named bare-faced go-away-bird and grey-backed fiscals were common on the trees along the roadside.
As we drove to the far end of the park we spotted waterbuck, a tiny orobi and the signs of buffalo having passed through, with vervet monkeys in the trees above. The drive back, after lunch, was quiet until, by a pool on the Lambwe River, we spotted a young leopard. It puzzled as to what to do next so sat quietly down to watch us for a while before slipping off into the bush. Our final new mammal was a small Chanler’s mountain reedbuck; rather than run away from danger these reedbuck drop quietly into the grass, disappearing from sight, at any sign of danger.
Apart from Kenya Wildlife Service personnel we had this wonderful park to ourselves with its fascinating wildlife and the views out to the surrounding hills.