When most people consider a Tanzania safari they think of the Serengeti or perhaps the Ngorongoro Crater. But I doubt many people would immediately say they wanted to go to the Selous. Well, they would be missing out.
When my dad said he wanted to go on safari to celebrate his 60th birthday, I was in full support of the idea!
I had a preconceived idea in mind when thinking of safari in Africa; the Selous was nothing like this. It was very green and overgrown. We stayed on the shores of the Rufji river, which runs through the middle.
Arrival into the Selous
We boarded a very small, 12 seater, aeroplane from Dar Es Saalam (the main airport into Tanzania) which flew us in to the reserve. Watching the scenery from the window of this tiny plane was fantastic at building the excitement. The runway was nothing more than a strip of land.
When we landed we were taken to a boat, to go along river to the camp.
Before we had even set off from the bank, my little brother point out in to water and asked ‘is that a hippo?’ It absolutely was. Safari had started literally within minutes of being in the reserve.
For our five perfect days spent in the Selous, we stayed in the Impala Camp. It was in the perfect location for exploring the surrounding Game Reserve. Boarderless and fenceless, the local wildlife could explore freely in among the camp. Indeed, moments after arriving we were treated to a family of elephants wandering through the camp.
After dark you are not allowed to walk around the camp alone, and so have to call for the Masi. They appear almost immediately out of nowhere and escort you safely to the restaurant or back to your tent after dinner. Occasionally you have to wait before being able to walk back to the tent or restaurant, if there is an animal in the camp. They swiftly managed to get these animals to vacate the area, armed only with a stick.
The accommodation itself are large tents on stilts. They are very luxurious, and come with their own ensuite bathrooms. Again, being set on the edge of the river and in the middle of the reserve it does mean you are treated to various wildlife. I woke up in the middle of the night at one point to hear a hippo right underneath. One morning I was treated to monkeys scampering about on the railings each side.
The Impala Camp is full of wonderful little touches. Each morning we were brought tea or coffee as a wake up, which really helped ease the early mornings.
The large restaurant tent is where you have lunch and dinner. Delicious and filling. We also had our own personal waiter, who is so attentive and learns all about what you like and dislike. There was a perfect night during our stay where we had a table was set up for us in the bush, this was so magical. There is a separate bar area for pre dinner drinks or a sundowner.
One of the other treats was that the camp had a swimming pool. It was fabulous for relaxing during the middle of the day.
From Impala Camp we went on two game drives most days, for the quintessential Tanzania safari. The first one is very early in the morning, and I mean very early. I don’t quite care to remember exactly what time.
However, one of the most magical moments of these morning drives were the breakfasts. We would stop, usually overlooking some magical spot and breakfast would be set up. Eggs, toast, bacon, tea, cereal and so much more. I have never had breakfast with such magnificent views.
The drives were all with the same driver, who you have for the duration of your stay. Our driver, Dennis, was amazing. When ever we asked him what we would see that day he would always answer with ‘you never know’. A phrase which is now frequently used in our family.
The afternoon game would start late afternoon, setting off around 4ish.
These times are because the animals are most active during the morning and evening. As this is the time when they hunt. In the heat of the day they are usually sleeping and so not easy to spot.
The other option was to go on a walking safari. You don’t see as much wildlife, but get a chance to try out your tracking skills.
Wildlife in the Selous
Going out on game drives and seeing these wonderful, beautiful animals in the wild is one of the most amazing experiences.
There is such a wide variety of wildlife roaming around this reserve. Of course, as I previously mentioned, there is an abundance of hippos in the river. But we also saw so much more.
On the first game drive we came across impalas and giraffes within minutes. These first sightings meant taking hundreds of photos. It is funny how used I became to seeing the beautiful, tall, leggy giraffes however.
We were also lucky to see so many lions. The first day we soon spotted a mother and her cubs.
One memorable breakfast was rudely interrupted, as we were warned there was an active pride of male lions just around the corner. We moved pretty quickly to pack up, and then of course speed off to see them. Within metres we came across the pride of 5 males, all looking a little like they hadn’t quite finished hunting for the day!
The Selous also has an incredibly high concentration of elephants within its boarders. Of course this number has been reduced due to the ivory trade, but it is still very easy to find them.
Other animals include the very rare African Wild dogs, warthogs, hyenas, crocodiles, water buffalo and zebra. We managed to see them all.
The only disappointment was not spotting a leopard. There are actually more leopards in the Selous than lions. But because they hide in the trees, they are much harder to see.
Sunset on the Rufji River
If opting not to go for a game drive in the afternoon you can take a boat along the river. This was another wonderful element of Tanzania safari. We did this on our first, evening and it is not an experience you want to miss.
Every morning and evening elephants cross the river to get to the better places to feed. I am still in awe of how close we got to these magnificent creatures. So close, it felt like I could reach out and touch them.
To cap an already perfect evening, we were taken to a cliff top. Here, offered a glass of champagne to drink, while watching the sunset.
There are other options for spending some time on the river. I went hippo, crocodile and bird spotting one afternoon, while my brothers and father went fishing. The fish they caught were used to feed the staff of the Impala camp.
Memories to last a lifetime
Of all the amazing things I have seen and done, if I had to pick only one trip I think this would be the one. Safari is like nothing else. I actually felt homesick for the Selous when we left it.
So perhaps, not an initial thought on location for a Tanzania safari. But if you are considering on going, I would urge you to reconsider. The landscape was beautiful, there weren’t hoards of tourists around and so many wild animals.
However, if I have only one tip for you – if you get the chance to go on a safari? Take it.
Have you been on safari? Where did you go? I would love to hear about it – firstname.lastname@example.org
For more safari adventures, check out my day in Nairobi
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