When you think of a luxury Tanzania safari, many think of its picture-perfect vast, open savannahs. In contrast, the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is a reserve centered around water. Covering an area of approximately 54,600 km2, the Selous is Africa’s largest game reserve, and encompasses a variety of ecosystems within its boundaries. The rivers and lakes intertwine through the reserve, providing the crucial water source to so many animals. The Rufiji River flows through the park, and as the largest river basin in Tanzania, it’s certainly a focal point for your safaris here.

Not only does the Rufiji River attract plains game like zebra, elephant, giraffe and many species of antelope among others, it also provides a perfect home for hippo and crocodile – in which there are thousands. One of the main draws to the Selous Game Reserve is being out on the Rufiji River. Hippo pods lay beneath you, and a magnitude of bird life dominates the skyline above you (over 450 species of bird can be found here). There is wildlife everywhere and the best part? It will often feel like you have the entire reserve to yourself. The Selous Game Reserve really is one of Africa’s best kept secrets, and one of our favorite destinations.

Boat safaris give you an opportunity to see wildlife on the lakes – like hippo, crocodile, and elephants coming to bathe – as well as animals on the riverbanks. The Selous offers good opportunities to see predators like lion and leopard. On top of that, it is one of the best places to see the elusive African wild dogs, as they require a huge amount of space which the Selous Game Reserve offers. Game drives are the other main safari activity offered. You’ll head out early morning and late afternoon, with time in the middle of the day to rest and relax in camp.

Located only a 45-minute flight from Dar es Salaam, the Selous Game Reserve is very accessible for those who want to do a short safari, combining with other southern Tanzania destinations. With resident wildlife like buffalo, lion, giraffe, hyena, wildebeest, elephant, and a variety of antelope (eland and hartebeest being more unique sightings), the Selous Game Reserve is a good choice for those who have ticked off classic safari destinations like the Serengeti in the north and want to branch out experiencing different activities.

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Gemma

With a Kenyan father, Indian grandparents, and a Portuguese surname, travel is in my blood. I am enthralled by Africa and would happily talk about this diverse continent’s wildlife, cultures and experiences all day, every day.

Gemma

Africa Specialist

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Our luxury safaris to the Selous Game Reserve

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Best camps in the Selous Game Reserve

We always recommend staying in a safari camp or lodge located inside the park. This means you are already in the prime wildlife area, so you will not waste time driving in or out of the park. The safari camps do not have fences around the camp, which means wildlife can often walk through the camp, which makes it extremely exciting. Of course, safari guides and the camp staff are around throughout the entirety of the day and night for added safety, but there is nothing quite like seeing an elephant walk past the main area as you’re enjoying lunch.

Most safari camps in the Selous Game Reserve are canvassed, tented camps. These range in size and style, but they all offer a similar intimate experience, with well-appointed canvassed tents with ensuite bathrooms, private verandas, and cozy communal lounge areas. For those looking for a more luxurious accommodation option in the Selous Game Reserve, we’d recommend somewhere like Roho ya Selous.

 
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When to visit the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve offers the best safari experience in the dry season, between June and October. As with many other safari destinations, the later in the season that you visit (i.e., August, September, and October), the better the safari experience. This is because the reserve becomes drier, so the animals tend to congregate around the permanent water sources. Therefore, many of the safari camps are situated on the riverbanks or close to the lakes. The long rains arrive in April and May, which can sometimes continue into early June. During this time, the safari camps are closed and the domestic flights into the park are paused. There is also a month or so of short rains, which arrive in November.

Between these months (November to March), it is regarded as the green season in the Selous Game Reserve. This is often a bit of a hidden month to travel because, although the grasses are thicker and the sightings a little more difficult to spot, the park is beautifully lush and green, and the birdlife is exceptional. Birds, spanning from Europe and North Africa, migrate into the reserve for these months, and there is something very exclusive and special about this time of year.

 
Gemma NEW Q&A
From

Gemma our African Specialist

Which is better – a Serengeti safari or a Selous safari?

Both national parks are exceptional safari destinations in Tanzania. The Serengeti, located in northern Tanzania, is iconic in its landscape – with open plains and picture-perfect savannahs. This often means you’ll see a lot more plains game, like zebra and wildebeest. You’ll also get the opportunity to see the Great Migration of wildebeest. In comparison, the Selous Game Reserve is a varied ecosystem, with forests, plains, lakes, and marshy swamps. While this presents opportunities for the wildlife to hide or to be camouflaged, it does not mean there is less wildlife to be seen. The Selous has an incredibly high concentration of resident wildlife, and when your safari guide does spot it – whether it’s a herd of buffalo or a pride of lion – you will often be the only vehicle at the sighting. A Selous safari is often varied too, as boat safaris, fly camping and bush walks are on offer.

Is it worth doing a boat safari in the Selous Game Reserve?

Absolutely. One of the main attractions to the Selous Game Reserve is its streams of rivers and lakes, and a boat safari is one of the best ways to see the reserve. These are offered as both morning and afternoon and game drives, but there is nothing quite like spending the afternoon on the lake, watching elephants and buffalo come to cool off, and the sun set in the background. There are also small islands on the lake which are often used to stop off and have a sundowner on. Some camps also offer catch-and-release tiger fishing which is also a nice way to spend the afternoon on the water.

Which are the best camps in the Selous Game Reserve?

One of the main draws to the Selous Game Reserve is that the park is home to only a handful of safari camps inside the park. This keeps visitor numbers down – in fact, you may not see another safari vehicle for the entire game drive which will feel like you have the reserve to yourself entirely. The safari camps in the Selous Game Reserve are luxury tented camps. Some of the camps are a little more simplistic in style, but their location and guiding is up there with some of the best. For those looking for more luxurious camps, we’d recommend camps like Roho ya Selous or Siwandu, which both have outdoor showers, well-appointed rooms, and swimming pools to enjoy the middle of the day.

 
 

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