Selous Game Reserve is the largest wildlife reserve in Africa – 50,000 sq km (19,293 sq miles) and covers more than 5% of Tanzania and is primarily known for its elephant population. Created in 1896 and gazetted in 1905 the park is named after the British explorer and conservationist Frederick Courtney Selous and a small stone marks the spot where he is buried in the reserve.
The Selous has been the centre of several historical events beginning with the find of stone implements belonging to prehistoric man. Much of the history of German East Africa was played out in this area and prior to that was known as a popular route with slave and ivory traders of which there is tangible evidence of the routes.
Due to its remote location, and because it is most easily accessed by light aircraft from Arusha or by road from Dar es Salaam, the Selous has remained one of the untouched gems of East Africa’s wildlife reserves.
The area is mainly brachystegia woodland with grassy flood-plains and some dense ground water forest patches and rocky outcrops, much of it is inaccessible. Its ecosystem comprises the reserve and surrounding unpopulated land. The woodland is dry and harsh making it difficult to photograph and although it may appear uninviting, patient observation reveals the natural beauty of the area. The lifeblood of the park is the Rufiji river which is the largest water catchment in the region, and as such, is home to a plethora of varied water and birdlife.
In the dry season an ancient migration of elephants takes place between the Selous and Mozambique’s Niassa Game Reserves. At the last count it was estimated that 64,000 elephants roam between the two parks. Additionally the Selous has the worlds largest concentration of hippopotamuses and crocodiles. Other animals include leopard, wild dogs, greater kudu, sickle horned sable antelopes, waterbuck, reed buck to name just a few.
The Selous is unique among Tanzania’s more well known wildlife areas because it is a reserve, not a national park, and therefore a larger range of activities are permitted. Boating safaris, escorted walks and hiking safaris all add a bit of adventure to the safari.
The soil in the Selous is primarily black cotton soil making it virtually impassable during the rainy season between March and May and most of the lodges are closed at this time. The best time of the year to visit is between June to November when elephants come out of the thick bush to the rivers and predators are more commonly seen. January to April is wonderful for birdlife. December to February is also good for wildlife viewing.