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.
In 2019, the Tanzanian national park authority (TANAPA) declared a change of identity of the northern sector of this reserve as a way of honoring President Julius Nyerere, who was the first president of Tanzania. Today, the area that stretches from the Selous' photographic sector in the north all the way to the wilderness area of the River Rufiji in the south, is known as The Nyerere National Park.
Can I see the Big Five in Selous Game Reserve?
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! Travelers 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 on a Selous safari, 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!
Safari vacation activities in the Selous
Activities on a Selous safari include 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!
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. The Siwandu lakes, is arguably the best area for game viewing and the camps here (Siwandu Camp and Lake Manze Camp) offer very good game drives and walking safaris, while the boating safaris are up there with the very best. The lakes are simply stunning, with dhoum palm trees swaying on the banks and game often coming down to the water’s edge for a morning or evening drink.
Siwandu Camp is your luxurious option, with a high level of service and beautiful tents that look out onto the lake. It is perfect for honeymooners and people needing extra comforts to appreciate their location on vacation. Lake Manze Camp offers superb value. It is hands down better than any property near to the Mtemere gate and comes at a cost that competes. The camp’s location is superb and it always meets expectations… I don’t know why you would stay around the park gate when Manze is on offer!
If you venture farther into the park, you get to the Beho Beho hills and the stunning Beho Beho Lodge, which takes the crown for the most luxurious property in the park. It has superb rooms with unbeatable views, plus exceptional cuisine and service. For these reasons, it has become one of Tanzania’s most famous properties and it will always deliver for clients looking for a top-end stay in the park. Known for its incredibly high levels of guiding, Beho Beho is in a league of its own with regard to food and service – and it is one of the few places where you have a chance to see rhino in the park, although chances still remain incredibly slim!
The final property that is worth considering is Sand Rivers. It offers barefoot luxury and really focuses on delivering an authentic safari experience. The boating is the best in the park, where you can go up to Stiegler’s Gorge and see hyrax, red colobus monkey and leopard if you’re lucky! The walking is also seriously good as the guides at Sand Rivers are up there with the best that we have experienced! For guests that spend four nights here, we suggest spending a night out in the bush, fly camping – it will be what you talk about when you get back home!
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.