Standing as the largest game reserve in Africa, Selous Game Reserve is also the second largest conservation area in Africa sized at 50,000 square kilometres. Roughly four times the size of the Serengeti, this park is one of the most remote and untouched wildlife destinations in the country.
As it is relatively undisturbed by human impact and is an important sanctuary for both flora and fauna diversity alike, it was also declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982.
Named after Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, the park was established by the Germans in 1896 and gazetted by colonial Germany government in 1905. In the same year it was a declared a protected hunting and conservation area.
Today, it is managed as a game reserve, with a small area (8%) in the north open to the public and dedicated to photographic tourism while most of the property is still managed as a hunting reserve.
As the hunting is privatised and incredibly controlled, the 92% that is not open to the busy public, thrives. Collectively it is an enormous area, larger than The Netherlands with the beautiful Rufiji River winding through the whole reserve. The Rufiji is one of Africa’s great rivers, with palm fringed channels and swampy islets. It is this river, that supports over 400 recorded bird species and many big game. African bush elephant, black rhino, hippopotamus, lion, East African wild dog, Cape buffaloes, Masai giraffe, Plains zebra, and Nile crocodile are but a few. It is said predator sightings are particularly rewarding, with lions on the hunt a common sighting on safari.
There is no fence between the designated areas, so the wealth of animals do flow into the small publicly accessible area, giving tourists a chance to explore and to enjoy river not far away. The public area is particularly scenic. The main wildlife-viewing circuit follows a string of five connected lakes fed by the Rufiji River.
Selous Game Reserve is often visited as a safari extension to a beach holiday on Zanzibar Island, or one of the beaches around Dar es Salaam. To accommodate this, there are daily scheduled flights from either departure point to both Selous and Ruaha. Flights from Arusha town, the base for the northern safari circuit, are also available.
Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) just outside Dar es Salaam is the main international airport and entry to the country. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up and handle all further arrangements
Most safaris to Selous Game Reserve are fly-in packages from Dar es Salaam.
Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) just outside Dar es Salaam is the main international airport and entry to the country. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up and handle all further arrangements.
Selous is often visited as a safari extension to a beach holiday on Zanzibar Island, or one of the beaches around Dar es Salaam. To accommodate this, there are daily scheduled flights from either departure point to both Selous and Ruaha. Flights from Arusha town, the base for the northern safari circuit, are also available.
Another option is to drive to Selous from Dar es Salaam on a road safari, but the trip is bumpy and uncomfortable and will take a full day. Time permitting, there is the option of a stopover at Mikumi National Park to break up the trip.
Entrance fee to the Selous Game Reserve is USD 50.00 per person per day. All lodges will also charge a USD 25.00 concession fee per person per day, if staying inside the the reserve. For lodges located outside the reserve, the concession fee is USD 15.00 per person per day. Note that 18% Value Added Tax (VAT) is currently applicable on the above fees.
The enormous Selous Game Reserve offers very good wildlife viewing. The greater relatively untouched area has actually been attributed to the healthy numbers of wildlife. The readily accessible section of the park open to the public, offers a glimpse of this. The string of lakes along the main circuit is a good place to see unusually large groups of giraffe. Other ungulates (animals with hooves) such as buffalo, waterbuck, impala and zebra are also found there. Opportunistic, hungry lion are often found near these waterholes, and seeing a kill here isn't unusual!
Possibly the largest amounts of Elephants in Tanzania, are always a thrill to see and of course the Rufiji River is teeming with hippo and Nile crocodile. Selous is also home to several unusual antelope species such as the majestic sable and puku, a localized wetland special. Black rhino is rare but can sometimes be tracked down in some remote areas. Wild dog are present in the park and can be spotted when denning in the area accessible to tourists.
With over 440 species recorded, Selous is an excellent birding destination. The most conspicuous birdlife is attracted to the sandbanks, lagoons, islands and channels along the Rufiji River. A good way to enjoy the birdlife is on a boat safari. Common birds include yellow-billed storks, kingfishers, lapwings and colorful bee-eaters. Fish eagle and palm-nut vulture can be found perched high in the trees and skimmers seen flying across the water. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The Dry season, from June to October, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Wildlife is easier to spot because vegetation is thinner and animals gather around the Rufiji river and the lakes. Roads become impassable after heavy rain, and most camps close towards the end of the Wet season in April. They reopen late May or the beginning of June. The best chance to see wild dog is during their denning season, from June to August.
Selous is a good birding destination all year. In November through April, migratory birds are present, making this the best time for bird watching. This is also the time that resident birds nest, and you'll be likely to see them in their colorful breeding plumage. Most camps close towards the end of the Wet season, in April, and reopen in June.
Malaria is present in Selous Game Reserve. You should protect yourself by wearing clothing with long sleeves in the evening hours. Also, apply a mosquito repellent and take antimalarial medicine. Several vaccinations are recommended as well and can be administered by your local travel clinic or doctor before you travel.
In the area set aside for public access, a variety of game viewing safari activities are available in this park. A number of trips are offered by boat, vehicle or on foot. Boat safaris, for example, allow you to move swiftly on the lakes and channels for a closer view of birds and animals like hippos and crocodile.
All the lodges should be able to offer guided walks for those in the right age bracket (usually 12 years and over). Walks come with big chances of interface with big game such as buffalo, lion on foot, or even elephant.
Towards the end of the dry season especially, game drives are truly rewarding as many mammals gather around the five lakes. Some camps offer overnight fly camping excursions which involve sleeping out in an exalted mosquito net in the middle of the bush.
In the greater area of the park, heavily controlled hunting safaris take place.
Accommodation in Selous is mainly concentrated in the Northern part of the game reserve in the publicly accessible area. One can stay in places like the luxurious tented camp at Island Mbuyini, or some of the other high-end river camps in the area. There are exceptional private lodges, mixed in with more rustic family accommodations and camping.
Some camps offer overnight fly camping excursions which involve sleeping out in an exalted mosquito net in the middle of the bush.
After heavy rains, the roads within the Selous become very impassable and thus camps close as the wet season nears in April, and are often reopened in June.
You cannot stay overnight in the greater area.