It’s hard to understand the sheer vastness of the Selous Game Reserve. The best comparison I heard during my trip there was that it’s the same size as Switzerland, and with less than twenty camps in the whole reserve, it sometimes feels like you have the whole place to yourself. You can go a whole game drive without seeing another soul, a very enticing factor to consider when contemplating a safari through Southern Tanzania instead of the North.
The attraction of the Selous is that it offers a more varied safari experience. Instead of an endless run of game drives, you can break the routine with a boat cruise, some fishing, a walk or a night fly camping in the bush. The boat cruises in particular are a wonderful variation. With high humidity and soaring temperatures, travelling in November is not for the faint hearted, but having a cool breeze off the water on a relaxing, informative, boat cruise is an extremely welcome respite. Stepping aboard for a potter around a gentle lake or on the river offers a different game-viewing perspective. Animals seem much calmer with hippos bobbing up and down everywhere and occasionally expressing that calm with a wide yawn. Crocodile silently slide into the water and if you’re at the right place at the right time, you’ll also see some big game along the water’s edge. The birdlife is superb and varied from waders and waterfowl, to weavers, bee-eaters and kingfishers, all overlooked by the stately fish eagle.
While staying at Sand Rivers, we went on what can only be described as an epic boat cruise down Stieglers Gorge. The trip started off with a gentle amble down the beautiful wide open Rufiji River, spotting the usual hippo, crocodile and birdlife. We then funnelled into the gorge which gradually got narrower, steeper and ever more dramatic. We eventually reached a point where we realised there cannot possibly be any human being anywhere near us, so inaccessible were our surroundings. At this point, our guide told us that the water in the gorge was about 40 metres deep. The mind boggles when imagining the gorge without water. The steep sides towered above us as we watched vervet and colobus monkeys bounce from tree to tree. Troops of baboons observed us as we serenely floated past. We watched an elephant cool himself off before he got stage fright and disappeared up an impossibly steep bank. You could feel that there were leopards watching us from the shade and cover of the vegetation but they didn’t reveal themselves. We stopped at a small sandbank, and gently shooed a crocodile into the water, before setting up for the most serene bush breakfast. On our return journey, instead of using the noisy engine we drifted home on the current listening to sound of the water and the occasional bird call. Just an example of a magnificent morning spent in the Selous.
Compared to some of the major wildlife areas in Northern Tanzania, the game-viewing in the Selous can be more of a challenge. The animals are less habituated and the elephant poaching has been bad over the past few years. Despite this, I still had good game-viewing accompanied by the great variation of landscapes. The open grasslands, lakes, forests and wooded hills mean you never grow tired of your surroundings. I saw ample plains game gathered at various drying lakes -zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck and greater kudu were all around. Predators included hyaena and several lion prides. I heard tell of wild dogs but had no luck myself. There were large herds of buffalo and we came across elephants.
The Selous is a diverse safari destination that combines well with Ruaha National Park which plays the part of the more intensive game-viewing destination of the Tanzanian southern circuit (read about our time there in Mary’s trip report). Go to the Selous with an open mind, don’t expect to see a continuous stream of big game, but do enjoy the gentle waterways, the authentic wilderness experience, and the pleasure of a predator sighting without having to share it with ten other vehicles.