The Selous Game Reserve is a colossal 45,000 sqkm, twice the size of the Serengeti and the greatest surviving African wilderness. The game viewing area open to you is in the best, most scenic, northern part of the reserve. The landscape is mostly flat with vast open plains, forest, lakes and rivers. This beautiful circuit leads you along a string of 5 lakes, all connected by palm-lined channels and swampy islets that lead into the Rufiji River. It’s an extraordinary ecosystem, and the main water supply for all wildlife. If you visit the Selous in the dry season from July to November, you are guaranteed to encounter a phenomenal amount of animals quenching their thirst around the few permanent water sources. The remaining 90% of land in the Selous is used for trophy hunting and is closed to tourists.
It would be hard to name a native creature not sighted here and the Big 5 are thriving. If you take a boat safari along the lakes, the Rufiji River and its side channels, you are sure to see lions and crocodiles lazing on the banks, selecting their next meal from the abundant prey that drink there. If you’re scared of crocodiles or hippos, you might prefer a game drive on land, as the water is teeming with these beasts. It is likely you will witness predators killing a buffalo, waterbuck, impala, wildebeest or zebra. You might also see lions stalking elephants and giraffes. All of this is greedily observed by spotted hyenas, palmnut vultures and the Selous’ infamous stronghold of African wild dogs.
Where there is water, there is colour, from the thousands of ibis, pink-backed pelicans, yellow-billed storks and small waders. If you are a lover of water birds, a boat safari in the Selous will provide your fix. Giant kingfishers flit and herons stand motionless, whilst fish eagles soar overhead. White-fronted bee-eaters nest on sandy banks and purple-crested turaco wander between the palm trees that fringe the channels. At dusk, you might even be lucky enough to sight a Pel’s fishing owl. There are over 450 species of bird here in the Selous Game Reserve, in more colours than a rainbow.
Calling all adventurous adults (not children)! An overnight fly-camping trip is a must in the Selous. Fly-camping is pretty basic in terms of facilities, because you are sleeping out in the bush in a normal camping tent. But there is something very special to be experienced from simply sitting and eating around a flickering camp fire in the wilderness, with the sounds of the wild all around you, under the African stars. Yes, predators will most likely be watching you, but there is an armed and experienced game scout there to protect you at all times.
The Selous has an unmatchable choice of activities. You can take a safari on foot, by vehicle or by boat, or all of the above. The Selous motorboat safaris are the most outstanding boat safaris in Africa and ideal if you want a particularly good view of water birds, hippos, crocodiles and animals on the banks of the channels and lagoons. Fishing is also permitted. Take an early morning game walk for a more intimate connection with the landscape, and perhaps encounter big game like buffalos, elephants, giraffes and lions. If an outrageously good game drive is your preference, it’s best to visit the Selous towards the end of the dry season for thrilling sightings of all the main mammals that collect around the permanent water sources.
All accommodation is small, authentic and intimate in the Selous Game Reserve, in keeping with the undisturbed surroundings. You can camp out simply under the stars or choose from basic to highly sophisticated, luxury decked rooms in thatched lodges or tented camps overlooking the lakes or lagoons. All the camps retain the outdoor feeling, even when indoors. To spend time amongst the densest wildlife populations with the likelihood of you seeing lions and wild dogs, it is best to stay in the eastern part of the reserve. It is possible to lie in bed in the morning or sit at your breakfast table and have tremendous views of elephants and impala drinking at the nearby watering hole.
Best Time to Visit
You’re sure to experience the best wildlife viewing from late June to October. This is the dry season when vegetation is thinner and all the animals gather at the water resources. March and April are not so good as the rainfall is highest and it can be difficult to travel around. Many lodges close from March to May. If you are a birdwatcher, however, October to May is the time to see bird populations thriving, as the migratory birds add to the numbers and variety of species.
How to Get There
As most camps are in the northern and eastern regions of the Selous, you’ll find it easy to fly from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar or Ruaha by light aircraft. There are several airstrips and flights take around 45 minutes, depending on the strip closest to your camp choice. You could take a beach holiday on Zanzibar Island either before or after your safari in Selous Game Reserve.