"Selous - Tanzania's Untouched Wilderness" Selous Game Reserve by honeybadger

Selous Game Reserve Travel Guide: 15 reviews and 43 photos

The southern parks and reserves of Tanzania have until very recently been completely overlooked in preference of the big names of the north – Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. However the situation is starting to change as accessibility, quality lodging and more importantly affordable products are on the increase.
For many years southern Tanzania has gained a reputation as a more exclusive destination for safari enthusiasts with cash to splash, now however the region is opening up to travelers on all budgets.
This is partly due to improved infrastructure for example well graded roads in Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha, but perhaps more importantly the advent of lower cost quality accommodation and more imaginative means of transport.

The TAZARA railway linking Dar es Salaam with Kapiri Moshi in Zambia passes through Selous Game Reserve and stops at the gateways to Udzungwa Mountains and Iringa region as well as Mbeya. This offers an interesting and more relaxing method of transport and for the budget conscious traveler is a bargain – traveling from Dar es Salaam to Kisaki, Selous first class costs less than $10p.p. and takes just 5 hours, far less than by road. In 2003 a pioneering tour operator, Foxtreks, intends to introduce a private train service linking Dar es Salaam, Selous and Mikumi forming a real ‘southern circuit’.

One Dar es Salaam based tour operator, A Tent with a View Safaris, has established Sable Mountain Lodge located half way between Kisaki village and Matambwe gate.
The lodge is idyllically located in the Beho Beho hills just outside the reserve boundary which means park fees are only paid on days spent on safari inside the reserve, compared to those lodges located inside the reserve which are obliged to offer all inclusive itineraries. With 8 stone cottages, 2 tented bandas and 2 spectacular honeymoon tented bandas, a swimming pool, 2 bars and 2 restaurants, and a treehouse overlooking a waterhole the lodge offers quality and affordability, with full board accommodation starting from less than $100 per night. With the advent of this new breed of private sector investment the southern region of Tanzania is now attracting increasing numbers of tourists helping to alleviate the overcrowding which was developing in the northern circuit.

The Reserve

Selous Game Reserve is one of Africa’s last true untouched wilderness areas with a spectacular variety of fauna and flora. On the two days we spent exploring the north west region of the reserve we did not encounter one other safari vehicle which added to the feeling of remoteness. With healthy elephant populations, large herds of buffalo and a plethora of plains game it is possible to become blasé about the reserve. Despite there being no cheetah in the northern region and the very few but extremely well guarded black rhino, Selous has a few surprises to keep even the most demanding wildlife enthusiast happy.

The Selous male lions are a surprise in themselves as they sport short, almost punk like manes, very different from other lion in Africa. Our guide informed us this was a sign of the stable eco system which they inhabit. Near Lake Manze we witnessed the aftermath of a wildebeest kill with a pride of 9 lionesses gorging themselves on the carcass as vultures swept overhead hopefully.
A real highlight though is the opportunity to see large packs of the African hunting dog, or wild dog, which are seen in very few areas of the continent. We counted 19 dogs in one pack, including pups, and felt privileged to find these incredibly beautiful animals, which have nearly been hunted to extinction, in such a pristine habitat. On our way back to the lodge in the evening we passed a herd of Roosevelts sable antelope, again only rarely seen in a very few areas of Tanzania.

Different safaris

Selous is rightly famous for the Rufiji river system and the numerous lakes in the reserve, which offer the unique opportunity to take boat safaris. As part of a full day safari we drove to Lake Tagalala for a 2 hour cruise. This is a truly memorable experience enhanced by the fantastically beautiful surrounding countryside. The covered boat encircled the entire lake showcasing the enormous crocodiles basking on the shores, huge herds of inquisitive hippo, birdlife beyond belief, and a train of animals emerging from the bush to drink at the lakeshore. This was a wildlife extravaganza movie taking place before our eyes.

Another reason why Selous is that little bit different is the opportunity to enjoy walking safaris. We took a morning walk and whilst wildlife viewing itself was not as productive as on the game drives this is compensated by the background knowledge overlooked from a car. Tracking animals becomes an obsession as the guides explain the variety of tracks and spoor, the insects and their part in the delicate ecosystem are explained, bird calls sound much sharper, screeching black and white colobus monkeys sound the alarm, rustling in the bushes brings you up short, and the distant trumpet of an elephant sounds extremely close suddenly. The prime times to take a walking safari are early morning and late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day which can become intense at certain times of the year in Selous. The lodge was intending to introduce fly camping inside the reserve in 2003 to offer specialized personal walking safaris.

In addition to the boat, walking and 4x4 safaris, Sable Mountain Lodge also offer night safaris. Having never experienced this before we decided to take the opportunity since night safaris are not permitted inside game reserves or national parks. Again wildlife viewing was limited but once more a few surprises showed up such as the numerous bush babies whose eyes glow red in the dark, a nervous dik dik, a civet cat caught in the torchlight and a whole new variety of calls from the dark..

So why is Selous so special and why does it attract repeat visitors like no other reserve.
Firstly has to be the fantastic scenery and the feeling of being in one of the last vast wilderness tracts of Africa. Then there is the variety of wildlife, some of which is endemic to the reserve, and changing landscapes including miombo woodland, savannah, dry sand riverbeds, lakes and hills. For the experienced safari enthusiasts or those visiting for the first time the variety of safari activities available surpasses any other reserve in Tanzania – game drives, walking safaris, boat safaris and night drives are all possible. Access has now improved greatly with daily scheduled flights to and from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, as well as train and road options, and now the reserve is no longer restricted by price to the rich and famous.

The reserve will undoubtedly eventually attract investment by the larger hotels and the ensuing increase in tourists will mean an increase in safari vehicles so for a taste of the untouched Selous stay ahead of the crowds and visit now.

Thanks are due to all the staff at Sable Mountain Lodge (www.saadani.com).

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:no other tourists, fantastic game viewing, walking and boat safaris
  • Cons:none
  • In a nutshell:Wild and remote - Africa how it used to be
  • Last visit to Selous Game Reserve: Oct 2002
  • Intro Written Jan 4, 2003
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