The Selous Game Reserve is an amazing large area the dimensions of which are difficult to comprehend. With an area of over 50,000 square kms, it is Africa's largest nature reserve. The reserve is split into two by the waters of the Rufiji River. The northern section is accessible for real nature lovers and photographic tourism only. The much larger portion south of the Rufiji is virtually impenetrable and is unfortunately still used for commercial hunting. However recent concessions in this area have now also been taken over by photographic safaris.
Three-quarters of the reserve consists of dry forest, called miombo, where the dominant trees are the Baobab, which can live for over 2000 years, the Sausage tree, with its big sausage shaped fruits much loved by elephants and monkeys, the Tamarind tree, Mahogony, Ebony and many more other rare tree species. In the eco system of the main photographic area of the Selous a whole range of vegetation can be found. Miombo woodlands cover the ridges of the mountains around Beho Beho and Stiegler's Gorge. The wide meandering Rufiji River with its associated wetlands, consisting of lakes and swamps interlaced with a myriad of channels, is one of the most outstanding ecological systems in the whole of Eastern Africa.
Selous is a beautiful game reserve whose character is largely determined by the ever-changing course of the Rufiji River. On the sandy banks are huge crocodiles, which appear suddenly and then disappear under the surface of the water with a loud splash when a boat is approaching. Selous is also home to the largest buffalo population in Africa. According to recent counts, the current population is estimated at 150,000, which is more than double the entire buffalo population of Southern Africa! To see a herd of several hundred buffalo coming to drink at the Rufiji River in the late afternoon hours is a scene never to be forgotten.
In Selous there are numerous lion, giraffe, zebra, hippo and various antelope species present, but what makes the Game Reserve even more special is the unique species such as the large numbers of wild dogs, the beautiful Sable antelope and the unique Selous wildebeest (clearly different in size and colour of the kind living in the north of Tanzania). Selous Game Reserve is also a true paradise for bird watchers with a large variety of both Aquatic and plains birds.
The Selous Game Reserve is historically famous for its large elephant population. Unfortunately, due to heavy commercial poaching up until the early 1990's, the number of elephants has been decimated from an estimated 110,000 down to less than 30,000 in 1989. Successful conservation measures taken since the early 90's have led to a sustained increase in the population to what is now estimated to be well over 60,000 elephants. The elephants shape the environment they live in and are the architects of the Miombo woodlands and savannahs of Selous and hence their existence is essential to the ongoing survival of the Selous.
The Selous has a healthy population of 4,000 lions. These are a common sighting in the northern sector, but in particular along the lakes and in the Beho Beho area. Due to the dense vegetation they are, however, less frequently observed compared to the open grasslands in the Serengeti. According to research approximately 11 prides with about 80 adults and over 20 cubs live along the Rufiji River. The distant roaring of lions, which can be heard as far as 8km away, is a common sound at night. For the new safari enthusiast this can be rather frightening, as lions can throw their voices and often appear to be right outside your tent when in reality they are several 100 meters away.
What makes a visit to Selous extra special is that you have the ability to partake in several different activities. You can explore the reserve via guided walking safaris, a truly wonderful experience. In addition, you can investigate the Rufiji River and its many canals and lagoons by boat and come face to face with the many hippos, crocodiles and maybe the odd elephant coming to drink in the river. The exuberant bird life is also best witnessed by a river trip. If all of this is still not exciting enough then you can also go for one or two nights "fly-camping", where you overnight in the open bush with only a mosquito net between you and the African sky. The hippos and elephants wandering gently along the camp may keep you from a good night sleep, but you will definitely not forget this amazing experience!