``The largest game reserve in Africa``
The spectacular Selous Reserve is the largest expanse of game reserve in Africa. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is four times the size of the Serengeti, home to one third of Tanzania’s wildlife and provides sanctuary for the largest concentration of elephants in the world. And yet, despite its unique collection of hippo, buffalo, crocodile and lion, this magnificent ecosystem remains virtually untouched by man. Largely undiscovered, utterly pristine and virtually unvisited, it remains the last wilderness frontier.
Area: 50,000 sq km around the Rufiji and Great Ruaha rivers.
Location: South-east Tanzania, south of Mikumi National Park.
Wildlife: 400 species inclusive of 57 species of large animals.
Birds: 440 species of birds have been recorded.
Located in south-east Tanzania in a remote and little-visited part of the country, the Selous Game Reserve covers more than 5% of Tanzania’s total area. One of the last untouched gems of the nation’s parks, it offers the visitor a unique opportunity to see Africa the way the early explorers found it – pristine, alive with game, empty of tourists and utterly awe inspiring.
The wildlife experience
By virtue of its immense size, the Selous protects vast numbers of animals. Home to over one million large animals, half a million of which are antelopes, it contains the largest buffalo concentration in Africa (more than 110,000) and over half of Tanzania’s elephants (57,000). The ecosystem is also estimated to contain Africa’s largest population of Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, common waterbuck and Roosevelt’s sable.
However, it’s not just the reserve’s size that protects the animals – the presence of tsetse flies has made it unsuitable for humans and livestock, a factor which has undoubtedly helped to safeguard the Selous’ hunting dogs (the reserve is home to 30% of Africa’s hunting dogs). Most of Tanzania’s black rhinos inhabit the Selous, which also offers sanctuary to large numbers of lions, hyenas and ungulates.
The Rufiji River
The Rufiji River Delta connects the Great Ruaha River with the Rufiji River before emptying into the Indian Ocean. Home to a colourful array of water and bird life, the Rufiji offers sanctuary to enormous numbers of hippos and crocodiles, which bask and wallow on its muddy brown banks.
Stiegler’s Gorge, close to the lodge, is one of the reserve’s most striking features. A 100-metre-deep, 100-metere-wide canyon it channels the churning brown confluence of the Great Ruaha and Rufiji rivers. Stiegler was a hunter who was killed by an elephant there in 1907.
More than 440 bird species have been recorded; including gems such as Pel’s fishing owls, African skimmers and white-headed plovers. The park is also an excellent place to spot water birds
A wide range of activities
The Selous is unique among Tanzania’s game areas because it is a game reserve, and not a national park. This means that a wider range of activities are permitted such as; boating, walking and camping safaris. More controversially, large parts of the south of the reserve (90% of the total) are reserved for professional game hunting.
Opened in 1905 by the Germans as a hunting preserve, the Selous’ unprecedented number of game attracted hundreds of white hunters from Europe and America who came in search of game trophies. Perhaps the most famous visitor during this time was American ex-president, Teddy Roosevelt. It is rumoured that the Kaiser gave the reserve as a birthday present to his wife in 1910, which may be why it is sometimes referred to as shamba la bibi ‘fields of the lady’.
During World War 1 the area was the scene of clashes between the German and British forces, the most famous of which was the discovery by the British of the German battleship Konigsberg hiding in the Rufiji delta. In 1982 the reserve was declared a World Heritage Site.
About Frederick Selous
The Selous Game Reserve was named in honour of Frederick Courteney Selous DSO, who was shot there in the Beho Region in 1917. British explorer, officer, hunter, gentleman, sportsman and conservationist, Selous was famous for his African exploits and inspired Sir H. Rider Haggard to create the fictional character of Allan Quatermain. A close friend of Cecil Rhodes, in 1909-1910, Selous accompanied American ex-president Teddy Roosevelt on his famous African safari. On the outbreak of World War I, though 64, Selous rejoined the British Army.
While fighting on the banks of the Rufiji River, where he was outnumbered five-to-one by German colonial troops, he was shot in the head by a German sniper. Upon hearing of his death, General von Lettow-Vorbeck, commander of the German colonial army and an admirer of Selous, apologized for his ‘ungentlemanly death’. Selous was buried where he fell and his simple grave, which bears a bronze plaque reading Caption F.C. Selous D.S.O 25th Royal Fusiliers, killed in action 4.1.17, stands on a ridge a short drive from the lodge and tented camp.
Sand Rivers Safari Camp, Siwandu, Selous Mapumziko Lodge