Covering an area bigger than Denmark, the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is Africa’s largest game reserve and has been declared a World Heritage Site due to its wild natural beauty and prolific wildlife.
The vast majority of the reserve is still dedicated to privately-leased hunting concessions, but a section in the north, running along the Rufii River, has been reserved for photographic tourism, allowing guests at the several lodges and camps to enjoy a remarkable safari experience in one of the wildest places in Africa.
This section is bounded by the Mgeta River in the north, the reserve boundary in the east, Stiegler’s gorge in the west and the Rufii River in the south. Rich in diversity, the ecosystems are a fertile mix between grassy woodland, riverine forest, wetlands, mountains, lakes and dry miombo forest dominated by huge baobabs and sausage trees.
Thanks to remarkable conservation efforts, the reserve is less disturbed and has more game than it did a century ago. All members of the Big Five reside here in healthy numbers, along with Africa’s largest population of wild dogs and an abundant variety of other animals and birds. The reserve is the last stronghold of the greyish-yellow Selous wildebeest, and is home to the beautiful Doum Palm - the world’s only species of multi-trunked palm tree.
By road, a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential for reaching the reserve and driving inside it, and the majority of tourists opt to catch a small plane to one of the airstrips.
One of the main game viewing routes in the reserve links the Matambwe gate in the south-west to the Mtemere gate in the east, which takes you through all of the vegetation types of the Selous and along the lakes, streams and swamps of the Rufiji River.
Most camps offer boat cruises along the river, which is one of the best and most relaxing ways to view game. Enormous numbers of crocodiles and hippos are a particular feature of the river. For anglers, fishing for large tigerfish, catfish and squeakers can be arranged.
Other areas to see include the stunning Stiegler’s Gorge, where the Rufiji River cuts a deep chasm into the mountains, as well as the fertile Lake Tagalala and the Beho Beho hills. At Beho Beho, visitors can see the grave of the courageous English explorer Frederick Selous, whom the reserve is named after. Selous died in battle in 1917 during the First World War.
In the extreme north-eastern edge of the reserve, Kinyanguru is a new tourist zone encompassing scattered acacia bush and thickets, and is extraordinarily rich in wildlife. The adventure-seeking traveller can book walking safaris and treks through this untamed wilderness. Guided walks along the Mgeta River are a special experience, getting participants close to elephant, bushbuck, lion, red duiker and a number of water birds.
The most pleasant time to visit Selous is during the cool season from the end of June until October, when animals are drawn to the reserve’s water sources. The rainy season from November to May is also a wonderful time to visit however, as the trees are blossoming and everywhere is green.
Take note that during the heavy rains that normally occur from March to May, most tourist camps are closed as the reserve’s roads become impassable.