Best Selous Safari tours
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Best Selous Safari Tours
Located in southern Tanzania and far from the madding crowds, the Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s largest game reserve and one of our favourite wildlife viewing areas. This really is a hidden gem! The rivers and lakes of the Selous are the lifeblood of a park that hosts some fabulous game, including elephant, wild dog, buffalo, hippo, crocodile and fantastic prides of lion.
Not only a wonderful place for the seasoned safari enthusiast, the Selous also offers an amazing introduction to unspoilt Africa. Home to some of Africa’s best walking, boat safaris and fly camping trips, the Selous has the greatest diversity of safari activities of all the Tanzanian safari parks. The boating safaris in particular really set this reserve apart from other Tanzanian parks. The fact that the Selous is so much quieter (in visitor terms) than the majority of the rest of the country just adds to its attraction.
How to get to Selous National Park
There are several options for reaching this remote bit of wilderness. The most convenient option is by plane from Dar es Salaam, or the next big national park, Ruaha.
Dar es Salaam to Selous is about 45 minutes by small plane, while from Ruaha it would take around 90 minutes.By car, this journey takes considerably longer but offers great views. From Dar es Salaam it is a 4-6 hour drive, and you pass by the equally stunning Mikumi National Park, getting two adventures for one.
For adventurers, there is also the unique opportunity to take the train. The TAZARA train line, running from Dar es Salaam all the way to Zambia, can be taken to Selous. The journey takes 4-5 hours and offers stunning views and a unique experience of seeing wildlife directly from the train. The train is notoriously late, though!
Tanzania National Parks on Map
Wildlife in Selous Game Reserve
Selous boasts some of the best wildlife densities in Tanzania.The reserve has 40,000 hippos, 120,000-150,000 buffalo, 100,000 wildebeests, and 35,000 zebras inhabit an area the size of Denmark.
The sheer amount of prey attracts a diversity of predators including 4,000 lions, as well as leopards, hyenas and crocodiles. Some rarer species include the African wild dog, of which 50% of its population live in Selous, as well as the sable and puku antelopes.
It is also one of the few places in Africa where the endangered black rhino can be found. Bird enthusiasts will also cherish this place, as 440 different species of bird populate this area. These can best be discovered by a boat safari.
Weather and Climate
Being located close to the equator and on the coast of the warm Indian Ocean, Saadani experiences tropical climatic conditions. There are two Wet seasons. The ‘long rains’ (March to May) and the ‘short rains’ (October to November). Thunderstorms are common during the afternoons in the Wet season, but it seldom rains all day. Average temperatures stay high year-round.
Wet Season–October to May
Just as the rest of the year, temperatures vary little throughout the Wet season. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 33°C/91°F, and night temperatures are around 23°C/73°F.
Things to do in Selous Game reserve
Head out with an experienced guide who knows the landscape and animals. Predators and prey escape the midday heat under shady trees so take a drive before 11 am or after 3 pm for the best sightings.
A unique option for a safari, river cruises on the Rufiji River is a chance to get close to the many hippos and crocodiles on these waterways. Choices range from sunset cruises to half-day trips.
You will never feel closer to nature than on a guided foot safari. Appreciate the little things and learn about tracks and signs.
A number of camps offer adventurous visitors the experience of sleeping beneath basic tents in the wilderness. An armed ranger and guide will keep you safe as you listen to lions roar and swap stories around a blazing fire.
Take a guided tour to the nearby Mwaseni Village. Always ask permission and be sensitive about photographing people.
Hot Air Ballooning
Get an early start and watch the sunrise as you float above the plains. Most balloon safaris include a champagne breakfast.
So, why not figure out what to pack for a Tanzanian safari and come down to Southern Tanzania today? Selous Game Reserve is waiting for you.
Accommodation options in Selous Game Reserve
Selous has a variety of lodges dotted around the park, many of them sustainable eco-hotels.
The park’s vastness creates that miles-from-anywhere experience, and you’ll feel like you’re truly in the middle of the African bush.
Usually, there are no more than 300 visitors sleeping in the 50,000-square-kilometre park at any one time.
When to visit Selous Game Reserve
Like most national parks in Tanzania, the dry season from June to October is perfect for game viewing, as the vegetation is more sparse, making it easier to spot animals.
March to May and late October to mid-December is the rainy season, which makes many of the roads impassable and animals harder to spot.
For bird enthusiasts, we also recommend the shorter dry season from mid-December to March, as many migratory birds then settle in Selous. If the scarce wild dog is what you are after, June to August is perfect, as this is their denning season.
Selous game reserve Safari tours FAQ's
Selous Game Reserve is famous for a number of reasons. For one, it’s the biggest wildlife conservancy area in all of Africa. Second of all, it contains some of the world’s largest number of animal populations like elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs and giraffes.
Located on Tanzania’s less crowded southern safari circuit, Selous Game Reserve covers an immense area of 50,000 square kilometres (roughly 19,000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Serengeti National Park. In 1982, Selous Game Reserve was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Originally a hunting reserve, Selous was named after Frederick Selous (pronounced as se-loos) a big game hunter and conservationist who extensively explored East Africa. Selous died in 1917 when he was shot near Beho Beho camp during the First World War. In 1922, five neighbouring reserves were combined to create Selous Game Reserve.
The northern part of Selous Game Reserve is now officially called Nyerere National Park. It was named in honour of Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere. Nyerere National Park includes the Rufiji river and buffer zone to the south of the watercourse. The park is still widely known as Selous Game Reserve.
You can visit all parts of Selous Game Reserve as there is so much to see in the way of wildlife and unique ecosystems.
The landscape of Selous Game Reserve is divided into four key areas:
- Northern Selous
- Southern Selous
- Rufiji River
- Stiegler’s Gorge
North Selous, or Nyerere National Park, is a no-hunt zone dedicated to photographic tourism. This piece makes up 8% of the total reserve and is a visitor-friendly location for all accommodation and safari activities.
The southern side is the bigger part of the reserve which is divided into blocks and leased as private hunting concession areas. Safari tours do not operate in this region of the game reserve.
Tanzania’s largest river, the Rufiji River, defines the landscape of the reserve by providing a year-round water supply and creating a diversity of habitats. The slow meandering river and its tributaries form swamps, palm-fringed channels and lakes while seasonal flooding creates rich grasslands. The smaller Kilombero and Ruaha rivers also cross the reserve.
Stiegler’s Gorge is a 5-mile long (8km) and 330 ft (100 m) deep canyon along the lower reaches of the Rufiji river in the north of Selous. The gorge is named after a Swiss explorer who was killed there by an elephant in the early 1900s. This is also the site for the controversial new dam and hydraulic power plant in the park. Conservation authorities fear the dam will have long-lasting negative impacts on biodiversity and the communities downstream.
The cost of a Selous Game Reserve safari ranges from $400 per person per day to $1500 per person per day. These costs also include other travel expenses like flights, car rentals, accommodation and meals.
I recommend that you also take advantage of safari tour packages where certain locations (including other southern national parks like Ruaha and Mikumi), specialised activities (hot air balloon flights and game drives) and a guided tour are included in the overall price.
The best way to get to Selous Game Reserve is by airplane. It’s quicker and more comfortable than travelling by car over.
With that said, here are some added tips for getting to Selous Game Reserve by driving or taking flights.
Travelling by Road
By car, it is a 4-5 hour or 136-mile (219km) drive from Dar Es Salaam. The route goes through Mikumi National Park and enters Selous Game Reserve through Matambwe Gate. The last 50 miles of this drive is on a bumpy gravel road.
Because of the long drive, many guests prefer to fly into Selous. A trip in a small aircraft from Dar Es Salaam will take 45 minutes, or 90 minutes alternatively from the airstrip in Ruaha National Park.
There are plenty of places to stay in and near Selous Game Reserve where you can put up your feet. There’s something for everyone in the way of Tanzanian budget accommodation as well as more high-end accommodation for a visit to Selous.
Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Selous:
- Africa Safari Selous Nyerere National Park (near Selous’ Mtemere main gate and airstrip)
- Serena Mivumo River Lodge (near Selous’ Mtemere main gate)
- Selous Kinga Lodge (near the Rufiji River)
- Baker Safari Company (near the Rufiji River)
- Sable Mountain Lodge, A Tent with a View Safaris (in the Beho Hills of Northern Selous)
Most high-end accommodation is located in the north of the reserve close to the river. There are fewer accommodation options than northern Tanzania but camps here are of the highest quality and strive for low environmental impact.
You can see all kinds of animals at Selous Game Reserve. It has some of the highest animal numbers on earth, and they are well spread out over this immense landscape. Selous’s characteristic miombo woodland is more concealing than the open plains of the Serengeti. Even so, you are likely to check off most of the animals on your list plus some that are special to this reserve.
Elephants of Selous Game Reserve
Historically, Selous Game Reserve had the biggest population of elephants in the world. Sadly, rampant poaching over the last 50 years has reduced this population by a shocking 90%.
But even with the dramatic decrease, elephants still roam the reserve and sightings are regular. Over the decades, renowned organisations like UNESCO and the WWF have a played a vital role in reducing poaching in the region to protect these majestic large mammals.
Selous Game Reserve is one of the best places to see wild dogs. About 900 of the world’s 6000 remaining wild dogs can be found here. Also called painted dogs, these canines are some of the most successful predators with 80% of their hunts ending in a kill.
The park has one of Tanzania’s last remaining populations of endangered Black rhino. These shy animals prefer dense bushes where they are well hidden.
Selous is home to the largest populations of puku antelope which graze the flooded grasslands of the park. The reserve also has good numbers of sable antelope, often seen around the northern parts of the reserve. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest is unique to the miombo woodlands found here.
This is a great place to see big pride of lions and males with impressively sized manes. The reserve also has one of the highest concentrations of cheetahs.
Leopards are rarely sighted but you may pick up tracks or other signs of these elusive cats on a guided walk.
Other animals in Selous Game Reserve
A boat trip down the Rufiji River will get you close to some of the thousands of resident hippos and crocodiles.
It is highly unlikely that you will visit Selous Game Reserve without seeing a giraffe, there are around 40, 000 of them! The diverse habitats are also home to waterbuck, greater kudu, wildebeest, eland, impala, plains zebra, Cape buffalo, hyena and primates including baboons, colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys.
There are around 445 bird species in the Selous Game Reserve. The river system is particularly rich in bird diversity. Look out for crimson flocks of carmine bee-eaters clustered on the muddy sandbanks while pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers and squacco herons stalk the water edge and fish eagles, kingfishers patrol the open waters. At dusk, you may just spot a rare Pel’s fishing owl coming out to hunt.