Well respected as one of Tanzania’s areas of true wilderness, the Selous is absolutely vast. It is most often combined with Ruaha National Park but also stands alone as a destination in its own right. We design many short safari and beach trips using this park. The northern section is the location of the park’s best camps, the majority being based on Rufiji River or one of the River’s lakes. These waterways are the lifeblood of the park and the focus of the region’s game movements.
Selous is most famous for its boating and walking safari – it is one of the finest destinations for boating safaris in Africa, as well as being one of the first parks in Africa to operate extensive walking safaris. Boating safari, walking and fly camping are all possible here, as well as standard game drives. The diversity of safari activities is a major attraction.
WHERE TO STAY?
The Selous Game Reserve is home to a wide range of camps – from our ‘Value’ level to a couple of luxury camps in our ‘Luxury’ bracket. For the sake of the Selous, camps costing between $400 and $550 per person per night (pppn) are in our ‘Value’ level, camps from $550pppn to $850pppn are in our ‘Classic’ level and any camps over $850pppn are put into our ‘Luxury’ category.
Starting with our ‘Value’ level Rufiji River Camp and Lake Manze battle it out for top spot. Due to the sheer size of Rufiji and the fact that the area is not great for game we focus our clients on Lake Manze. Manze is one of the best places we know at this price bracket…anywhere in Africa! This little gem of an adventure camp offers enough comfort to keep you more than satisfied but takes the accolade of best location in the park. If you are happy with the standards of the tents etc…then you should go here!
Step up a level and you hit the first camps in our ‘Classic’ level. Impala is a nice little property but one we tend to use rarely due the cost of its main competitor – Siwandu Camp. Impala is certainly worth a look due to its value but Siwandu is only a little more and a significantly more comfortable, ultimately more luxurious product. We have always believed that Siwandu should be in the ‘Premier’ category but its special offers make this 5* property unbelievably good value for money. Another property has made quite an entrance over the last few years – Azura. This beach property company has entered the safari market – a weird mix, especially when you get to know that Azura is in a poor part of the park for game, and is hardly ever able to offer boating safaris due to water levels on the Ruaha river. These boating safaris are the highlight of the Selous!
In our ‘Luxury’ category, Sand Rivers and Beho Beho are absolutely superb properties – the best camps in the park. Siwandu runs these properties close, but Sand Rivers and Beho Beho especially are as good as Selous gets. Sand Rivers has a location right on the river – the views are special. It is also the best camp in the park for boating safaris and has reliably excellent guides. Beho Beho however is a much more ‘finely tuned’ camp with a genuine focus on very high levels of luxury, service and guiding. It is without doubt the most luxurious property in the Selous….but loses some of that rugged beauty that Sand Rivers oozes. Due to their differences, it is impossible to say which is the better camp – horses for courses on this decision!
THE BIG FIVE
It is theoretically possible to view the Big Five in the Selous, however we have only ever had a handful of clients see Rhino here! Elephants and buffalo are numerous whilst lion are ever present and with hard work leopard can be found. The problem is rhino. There are a small number of black rhino in the Selous but due to their skittish nature and love of thick habitat you have to be incredibly lucky to encounter one here! Reality is that this park is for the Big ‘Four’ only.
GENERAL GAME VIEWING
Impressive numbers of herbivores congregate on the shores of the river and its lakes – and equally impressive concentrations of predators stalk these herds! Cats comprise lion, leopard and cheetah. Lion are particularly prevalent, simply lying in wait for near next meal! Travellers often witness a kill here. Other mammal species include hippopotamus, zebra, giraffe, sable antelope, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, greater kudu, eland, impala, waterbuck, bushbuck, Nyasa wildbeest, kongoni – the miombo woodlands make a fantastic habitat for antelopes in particular. There are also spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, vervet monkey and yellow baboon. The Selous boasts the largest population of wild dog in all Africa! Indeed, this is one of the reserve’s main attractions.
Keen birders are in their element in the Selous, with approximately 450 species recorded! The lakes are home to all manner of waterfowl – ducks, geese, grebes, egrets, herons, bitterns, pelicans, spoonbills, kingfishers, skimmers, cormorants, storks, ibises. Raptors include eagles, vultures, hawks, harriers, buzzards, kites, osprey. The secretary bird hunts on foot, while other ground-dwellers such as quails, guineafowl, crakes and bustards forage in the foliage. There are also gulls, plovers, doves, pigeons, lovebirds, parrots, cuckoos and bee-eaters. This is a seriously good place to be if you like your birdlife!
WHEN TO GO FOR GAME?
Selous is a classic dry season park with game viewing at its best from July through to October. In this ‘dry’ season game tends to congregate around the rivers and lakes making viewing much easier. The herds build up in search of water and game viewing becomes significantly easier as the bush is so thin and dry.
Outside of this period game viewing in Selous can be somewhat ‘iffy’! Travel in June and you may find the grass too long still…travel from November onwards and the movement of game away from the rivers (due to rain) means there is less of a concentration to be found throughout the park. However this is the time safari enthusiasts travel – happy to have less of a density of animals in return for the exclusivity of quiet camps and quiet parks. Birding however is absolutely superb from November through to March….if that tickles the twitcher in you!
WHEN TO GO FOR VALUE?
As with so many places in Africa, the periods just on the edge of peak season and low season itself are when you can get the best value in the park. We have always suggested that travelling around the 1st November is a great time of year to go. The lodges all drop their rates on the 1st November and considering the rains have not set in you can get August/September game viewing for low season prices!
ACTIVITIES IN THE SELOUS
The Selous main activities are boating and daytime game driving. There are no night safaris allowed in Selous. The vast majority of camps also offer walking safaris with Beho Beho and Sand Rivers offering an incredibly high standard of walking operation. Sand Rivers famous fly camping trips are some of the best walking camps in Africa, let alone Tanzania!
SELOUS TOP TIPS
- The Siwandu area is the best game viewing area in the whole park. Home to Lake Manze camp and also Siwandu Camp itself this is a fantastic area to game drive in. Beho Beho, Sand Rivers and Impala can all game drive in this area at a push….where as camps like Azura are a very long way away from here!
- Selous is nothing without Ruaha! Combining these two parks is common for a southern Tanzania safari; it’s a truly great safari. Selous is lovely and beautiful but it does lack a concentration of cats. Ruaha is all about cats – it is one of the most predator rich parks in Africa.
- Azura Selous has recently made quite an impression on the industry bringing attention to a part of the Selous that runs up the Ruaha river. What the camps in this region do not own up to is the fact that its area was heavily poached only a matter of years ago. The game has certainly not recovered to the lengths it needs to, and boating safaris here are hugely restricted due to the level of water in the Ruaha nowadays.
- As with walking safaris in Ruaha, we advise only to walk with camps that have their own licensed gun carriers. We do not advise that people walk with the park rangers unless also accompanied by a licensed gun carrier from the camp.
- If you are looking at combining two areas of the Selous on one trip then we would encourage you to visit the area around Siwandu with either Sand Rivers or Beho Beho.