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By Charlotte 28 November 2019

Ruaha vs Selous: Visiting Tanzania’s southern circuit

YZ expert Charlotte returned to Ruaha and Selous for her recent educational trip. Here she compares the two areas as safari destinations within Tanzania’s quieter southern circuit.

Tanzania’s southern circuit is often a destination for those who have been on safari before and have quenched that thirst for box-ticking wildlife and easy game viewing. It’s also high on the list for those who really can’t stand the thought of being amongst the crowds in the most popular parks. For others, it is simply about getting off the beaten track and into an area that feels more remote.

Ruaha and Selous are very different from one another. Ruaha has a similar climate and topography to northern Tanzania, while Selous sits on the coastal plateau so it’s often hotter and more humid with lots of water around. So, which of these two stunning places do you choose? Well, that is a matter of personal opinion, as they are both unique…

Ruaha National Park

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Although both areas have suffered over the last 10 years as a result of poaching, they offer a huge amount in terms of wildlife viewing and varied activities. Ruaha has always been known for its large elephant population and is recovering well as a result of anti-poaching efforts, but Selous still needs more time. This is why it’s so very important to continue supporting both parks. Tourism plays a big role, as it is crucial in providing support to these areas both financially and politically. If there are no visitors, there is less chance of Ruaha and Selous being protected.

These southern parks continue to be a huge draw, offering that remote and off-the-beaten-track experience, away from the crowds. Game drives are the most common activity, with walking being higher up on the list here in comparison to the northern parks, although walks generally need to be arranged in advance and at an additional cost.

Selous Game Reserve

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The main difference between Ruaha and Selous, in terms of activities, is water. In Selous, boating is part of the experience and you should expect to go out on a boat at least once during your stay – this could be out on one of the lakes or on the Rufiji river itself. Where you boat depends on the camp where you stay, as each has access to different locations with all of the boating experiences offering something special. While there is water in Ruaha, by way of the Great Ruaha river, it is not the right place for boating, so there are no ‘wet’ activities in the park.

So, which park do you visit, Ruaha or Selous?

This is a very personal choice. If you want a bigger variety of activities, it has to be Selous with its opportunity to get out on the water. However, if boating is not your thing, the blissful remoteness of Ruaha is the big attraction – and having lived and worked in Ruaha, I am a huge fan of this rough diamond! However, if budget and time allow, it really is a no-brainer as you simply must spend time in both. The areas pair together beautifully, offering a varied experience in terms of diverse landscape and environment.

At the end of the day, Ruaha and Selous deliver something different from the famous northern parks, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. They may not have quite the same density of wildlife, but neither do they suffer from the same quantity of visitors. Both have diversity of wildlife, and this is what makes it all the more real and authentic – working harder for your sightings means the reward feels much greater and the best bit is that you will barely see another vehicle!

If you’re keen to travel to Tanzania’s quieter southern circuit, please take a look at our inspiration below – alternatively, do give our experts a call today to start planning your tailored trip to Safari Africa.