Selous Game Reserve

The size of Switzerland, the Selous Game Reserve is home to one of the most significant concentrations of elephant and lion on the continent. It has an exceptionally high variety of habitats including woodland, grassland and swamps.

The Northern sector of this UNESCO world heritage site comprises 12% of the reserve and is set aside for photographic tourism. It remains one of the best places in Africa to see African Hunting Dogs (wild dogs) which were almost extinct in the early eighties.

Unlike the more famous busier northern parks like Ngorongoro Crater, one of the wonderful things about Selous is that you can still be out on safari all day, see plenty of wildlife and no tourists.

Where is Selous Game Reserve?

Located in the south of Tanzania, Selous is the largest protected area in Tanzania and the largest game reserve in Africa. It covers approximately 5 regions of Tanzania including Lindi, Morogoro, some coastal region, Mtwara plus Ruvuma, which equates to some 50,000 sq km.

The most notable geographical feature inside Selous is the spectacular Rufiji river coupled with its 2 tributaries of the Ruaha river and the Kilombero river. The great Rufiji is fed by numerous smaller river attributes. There are 5 beautiful lakes, the main ones being Nzelekela, Mzizimia and Tagalala.

Selous Game Reserve landscape Rufiji River

Wildlife

Selous offers wonderful views of wild animals. The number of lakes alongside the main circuit is a great place to view the distinctively numerous giraffes as well as ungulates like waterbuck, zebra, impala and buffalo. The waterholes are usually frequented by hungry lions and every now and then it is possible to witness a kill.

Selous lion pride

African Hunting Dogs (or “Wild dogs”) are one of the key attractions inside Selous. The dogs hunt in packs, running down their kill easily and often eating their prey whilst still on the move. When observing them playful under a tree, it is hard to think of them as the “piranhas of the bush”. The Reserve is home to several rare antelope species including the puku and sable. There are even a few black rhino although these are difficult to see these days in the main photographic areas.

With over 440 bird species that were recorded in this area, Selous is a fantastic place to watch birds. The most spectacular bird habitats within this reserve are the lagoons, islands, River Rufiji, river channels and sandbanks. The best way to observe the bird species living here is by going for a boat safari, and Selous is only one of two parks which allow boat safaris, the other being the coastal preserve of Saadani National Park. Starting in the month of November through to April, there are is a large number of Migratory birds to be found.

Birds of Selous

The most outstanding bird species worth seeing include the Spur-winged lapwing, African wattled lapwing, The White-fronted bee-eater, The Pel’s fishing owl Rare, The African spoonbill & The Common White-headed vulture.

You might also spot the Pearl-spotted owlet, White-headed lapwing , African skimmer , Böhm’s bee-eater, Yellow-billed stork, Pel’s fishing owl , Broad-billed roller, White-fronted plover , Brown-headed parrot , White-backed vulture, Brown-necked parrot , Black-winged stilt , Palm-nut vulture , Dickinson’s kestrel , Racket-tailed roller, Thick-billed cuckoo , White-backed night heron , Carmine bee-eater as well as the Rock pratincole.

bird

Best Time for Bird Watching

The Selous is a great bird watching location all year round. Given that migratory birds from northern Africa as well as Europe are present beginning in the month of April, it’s the finest time to view birds. The resident bird species start Nesting nearly at the same time so it is not that hard to see birds during the breeding plumage. As the wet season comes to an end, most of the camps close (that is in the month of April & May), and then re-open again in June.

Among the most frequently seen bird species in the Selous Game Reserve are: the mosque swallow, the brown-breasted barbet, purple-banded sunbird, Mangrove kingfishers, Von der Decken’s hornbill, African skimmers, a pearl-spotted owl, palm-nut vulture, Layard’s black-headed weavers, freckled nightjars, grey Penduline-tit, grey-hooded kingfisher, red-throated twin spot, waders, wattle-eyed flycatchers, broad-billed roller, spotted-flanked barbet, green-billed coucal, Arnot’s chat, long-tailed fiscal, Sterling’s barred warbler, Livingstone’s flycatcher, white helmet-shrikes, red-winged warbler, Boehm’s bee-eater, red-throated twin spot, black cuckoo-shrike, green-capped eremomela, red-faced Crombec, red-billed helmetshrike, spotted-flanked barbet, yellow-bellied bulbul, Bennett’s woodpecker, Dickinson’s kestrel as well as a pearl-spotted owl.

Best Time to Visit

The Dry Season

During the dry season, it is easier to view wildlife as the game gathers around the waterholes and rivers. It usually rains very little and it is sunny most of the time. There are few mosquitoes during the dry season hence less chances of catching malaria. The humidity is low with a drier heat. Temperatures during this period range from 22-28 degrees depending where you are in the country. The south of Tanzania (where Selous is located) is warmer generally than the northern parks of Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara.

The Wet Season

This falls during the months of November through to May although November and early December rains are short and don’t affect safaris. The full rainy season when many camps in Selous close is April & May. After the short November rains, the park is more lush after the dry season bringing about beautiful lush scenery that is green, hence the name “Green Season”. There are less visitors and prices of international flights are lower than the high season. It is a great chance to see wildlife dropping their young, particularly during January and February. Bird watching time is at its peak during this period as the migratory birds arrive.

boat selous

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

June to October is the dry season which is the ideal time to observe wildlife in the park. The wildlife is easier to see because the vegetation isn’t thick and the wild animals have gathered around the known water sources, being the lakes and other water holes. This is the high season in the Reserve. However, after the short rains of November and early December, the Reserve is lush and green again and what is known as the Green Season of mid-December through March, is a great time to visit too. Whilst it is getting hotter in temperature, many animals have their young during this season

Subsequent to the end of the heavy rains, the roads are extremely impassable and many of the camps are closed as the wet season comes to an end. A good time to observe the scarce wild dogs is during their denning phase that begins in June to August.

hippos

Popular Camps

Sable Mountain Lodge

  • Located on the north west boundary of the reserve
  • The only safari lodge which may be accessed by train from Dar es Salaam
  • Opened its doors in 1999, a well-respected fantastic value lodge with just 10 rooms all with a stunning view
  • Owner-operated by the same team since it was built
  • 2 beautiful honeymoon suites
  • Freshwater swimming pool, treehouse and water hole
  • Enjoy game drives, foot safaris, boat safaris all from the lodge with great guides and custom-made open Land Rover safari vehicles

Sable room exterior

Impala Camp

  • Located in the east of Selous close to the most popular wildlife viewing areas
  • On the Rufiji river with great views up and down the river
  • Just 8 standard safari camping style tents on slightly raised platforms
  • Swimming pool

Beho Beho Camp

  • Award winning safari camp voted the best in Africa
  • The first camp to be sited in Selous in the cooler highlands
  • Just 8 individual stone bandas
  • pool
  • True luxury in the African bush

beho beho reception room

Interesting Facts

  • Selous is the size of Switzerland but still very remote as it has fewer guests than the northern parks.
  • The Selous Game Reserve was declared by the government in the German colonial era. The Reserve was named after Frederic Courtney Selous, a British explorer, later a British army captain who was killed during WW1 and buried within the Reserve. His grave is marked with a headstone and may be visited.
  • This is one of just two places in Tanzania where you can enjoy boat safaris.
  • It is one of the best safari destinations to see African Hunting dogs.

wild dog

 

If you’re interested in visiting the fascinating Selous Game Reserve, please get in touch with our Tanzania experts today. Give us a call on 01943 604030 or send an email to info@footloose.co.uk. We look forward to helping you plan the adventure of a lifetime through this magnificent part of the world.