Introduction and short history
The Selous Game Reserve (larger than Switzerland, and pronounced Seloo) is an extremely large and important conservation area located in Southern Tanzania. It covers 45,000km² of wilderness, with grassy plains, open woodland, mountains and forests. In fact, it is Africa's largest game reserve, about three times the size of South Africa's Kruger National Park, and twice the size of the Serengeti National Park.
One can visit Stieglers Gorge (100 metres deep and 100 metres wide), or the Beho Beho hot springs. Other activities include bird-watching; photography; walking safaris and fishing Tiger fish and catfish.
It is one of Tanzania's seven Unesco World Heritage Sites (along with Ngorongoro Crater, Kilwa Kisiwani, The Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Stone Town and the Kondoa rock art sites).
The Selous is the only major safari reserve to be located near the coast, which means that it has an unusually humid climate and a very languid atmosphere. It is particularly well known for its boat safaris out on the great Rufiji River and walking safaris (with an armed ranger), which with over 400 species of bird and 2,000 species of plants to see makes this the most heavenly sanctuary to explore.
African wild dogs are a particular speciality, the Selous holds about one third of the world’s remaining members of this endangered species.
The wildlife is rich and varied, especially during the Jun/Oct dry season. In fact you should see a much broader range of major species than in any other reserve in East Africa, although not in the quantities and concentrations of somewhere like the Serengeti.
Unusually for Tanzania, off-road driving is permitted, so it is much easier to make the most of important sightings. Of the predators, lions are the most commonly seen, leopards and African hunting dogs being much more occasional sightings.
The Selous is named after the great explorer and hunter, Frederick Courteney Selous (1851-1917).
Selous was born in Regents Park, London on 31st December 1851. He went to South Africa at the age of 19. He spent most of his early days in Matabeleland and later in Manika and Rhodesia with Cecil Rhodes. He helped to organize the Teddy Roosevelt expedition in 1909.
He never hunted in Tanganyika. When WW1 broke out he was 64. Against all advice he joined the Royal Fusiliers with the rank of captain and ended up in the East Africa campaign. Chasing the Germans he eventually reached the Rufiji where he was killed by a sniper near Beho Beho on the 4th January 1917.
When the British established the Game Department in 1922, they named the Selous Game Reserve in his honour. It has grown from lands originally set aside by Germans in 1905 to cover 22,000 square miles of Tanganyika, and today it preserves game for both photographic and traditional safaris.
Selous Game Reserve
When to go
The best time of year for a Selous safari is the July through October season, when the bush dies back and wildlife is concentrated along the river.
June to October
This is the period conventionally considered to be the best time to visit the park, the main 'dry season', although one can still expect light rain to fall roughly one in every three days on average. Reasonably high temperatures are significantly exaggerated by high relative humidities, usually around 80% to 85%. Afternoons can be stifling and nights sticky.
November to March
The arrival of the short rains in November can be much less of an event here as it is in Ruaha for example. The fact that the dry season is not usually completely dry, means that the arrival of light rains tends to have relatively little effect on either flora or fauna, although one can expect a little more seasonal flowering of plants and a slight dispersal of wildlife to the hinterlands.
Selous is therefore usually considered to be still in prime condition for safari right through November and December, making it a particularly attractive proposition over the Dec/Jan holiday season.
Into February however the rains really should be more pronounced. Dry area flora should start to show new growth and the park as a whole should take on a fresh sheen. Many of those animals which remain accessible will start to have their young. So this period tends to be a favourite amongst more experienced safari people who are less concerned about the volume of sightings.
April and May
April is usually the month which sees the greatest rainfall here in Selous, with May not far behind. Most of the camps are closed for this period and flight services from Dar es Salaam are suspended.
Reserve entry fees
Adults from 18 years: USD 90 per person per 24 hours
Children from 6 to 17 years: USD 65 per child per 24 hours
Average Price of Accommodation:
High end - 800 to 1000 usd per person per night
Mid range - 350 to 700 usd per person per night
Low price (outside of the reserve, be aware of costs for activities may not be included when booking) 75-300 usd per person per night.
The prodigiously large mammal populations found here, support the claim that the Selous is the greatest surviving African wilderness. Buffalo numbers are estimated at 120,000–150,000, and the reserve’s 40,000 hippo and over 4,000 lion are probably the largest such populations on the continent. The Selous also harbors an estimated 100,000 wildebeest, 35,000 zebra, 25,000 impala and significant herds of giraffe, greater kudu, waterbuck, bushbuck, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and eland. It is also one of the most important sanctuaries in Africa for the endangered African wild dog, sable and puku antelope. There are also huge populations of crocodile, hippo, spotted hyena and leopard to name just a few of the big game species found here. Historically Selous has been home to a large proportion of Tanzania’s elephants population, but unfortunately there has been a marked increase in poaching over recent years and elephant numbers are now much lower than they once were.
More than 440 bird species have been recorded in the Selous. On the lakes you'll find pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers and giant kingfishers. The sandbanks are home to carmine and white-fronted bee-eater colonies whilst pairs of fish eagle, palmnut vulture, ibises and palm swifts nest in the borassus palms. Other waterbirds found in the Selous include: yellow-billed stork, white-crowned and spur-winged plovers, various small waders, pied and malachite kingfishers. Pairs of trumpeter hornbill and purple-crested turaco can also be seen between the riparian trees. Also worth looking out for among a catalogue of egrets and herons is the Malagasy squacco heron, a regular winter visitor, while the elusive Pel’s fishing owl often emerges at dusk to hawk above the water.
Game drives, boat safaris, walking safaris, fly-camping, fishing.
How to get there
Many domestic airlines in Tanzania go to Selous, we recommend Coastal Aviation, the single biggest airline covering bush destinations.
By road, from Dar es Salaam via Kibiti and Mloka to Mtemere gate – allow about 6 hours.
By road, Via Morogoro, in to Matambwe gate – allow up to a day for this journey
The Reserve is less than an hour’s flight by light aircraft from Dar es Salaam and there are several flights daily, some of which also continue to Ruaha.
This is one of the few parks or reserves in Africa which offers boat safaris - on the Rufiji river and its surrounding lakes
The Reserve is hard to navigate in the rainy season – from end of March to end of May – so most camps are closed during this period.
Be aware that if you book a camp located outside the reserve, activities may not be included – always ask.