Selous Game Reserve
Only 200 km West of Dar es Salaam lies the mighty Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa’s least known yet wildest conservation areas. At an unbelievable 55,000 sq km Selous is almost twice the size of Belgium and four times larger than the famous Serengeti in the North, covering 5% of Tanzania’s land area. The Selous’ ecosystem as a whole is made up of a few conservation areas, namely Mikumi in the North and the Kilombero game controlled area in the West, covering in total over 90,000 sq km of pristine wilderness devoid of human influence.
Fed by the mighty Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa which drains most of South Western Tanzania’s water, this reserve is home to over 1,000,000 large animals and is home to over half of Tanzania’s elephant population. Selous is unique among reserves in Tanzania as it encompasses an area exclusively devoted to tourism in its Northern part, making up for about 10% of the reserve’s total size.
This sector North of the Rufiji River is mostly open wooded grassland and is dominated by Terminalia spinosa trees - ‘flat topped’ trees, in classic African fashion. However this section of the reserve is unusually diverse, comprising dense hardwood forests in the East, open plains in the centre, and rocky arid hills and volcanic springs in the West.
The reserve is also crisscrossed by a multitude of dry riverbeds surrounded by dense riverine vegetation where many of Selous larger animals spend their days.
However, one of the major attractions has to be the mighty river itself, home to one of the largest crocodile and hippo populations in Africa, swarming with fish which in turn bring about some of the world’s best water birding. The River has also formed several large lakes on its Northern bank, navigable by boat. Siwandu (formerly Selous Safari Camp) is situated on one of these lakes, sheltered in a grove of one of Selous’ many beautiful palm forests.
This wonderfully diverse, vast and well watered habitat has the right ingredients to enable the land to hold an unusually high number of animals of all shapes and sizes as well as support an extraordinary array of different vegetation types.
Selous has over 2,100 species of plants, 350 species of birds, 60,000 elephant, 108,000 buffalos and an estimated 1,300 of the worlds’ approximately 4,000 remaining rare wild dogs giving guests an opportunity to glimpse all of these exotic animals in true unspoilt wilderness.
As early as the 1890’s, Selous Game Reserve was thought of as a place of enormous natural value and has since been subjected to management and conservation measures. From 1905-1912 it was made up of four reserves established by German colonial administration. In 1922 these four smaller reserves were merged to form the Selous Game Reserve named after the legendary hunter/explorer who died in the area in 1917.
Between 1936-1947 this area was enlarged several times over so as to include major animal movement corridors, particularly those of elephants who wander over vast distances throughout their lives. In 1974 the Park reached its present glory and became one of Tanzania’s three World Heritage Sites along with Zanzibar and Olduvai Gorge. This status will hopefully ensure Selous long term survival!
Frederick Courteney Selous was born in 1851 in London and from an early age developed an obsession for the old day explorers like Livingstone himself. At the age of 19, Selous landed at a South African port and was determined to make a name for himself as a hunter/explorer. The indefatigable Selous had a strength, stamina and passion that was unrivalled and with only limited funds he took on the great outdoors. During his wanderings, Selous discovered several butterfly species and recorded valuable information regarding natural history and conservation, as well as befriending some of the times most influential characters such as Theodore Roosevelt the 26th president of the United States.
During the first world war, at around the age of 60, Selous joined the 25th Royal Fusiliers in which he made Captain due to his extensive bush knowledge and hunting experience on foot. Responsible for pushing the Germans out of that area of Tanzania or Tanganyika as it was then known as, Selous met his end on the 4th of January 1917 when he was shot by a German soldier. He was 66 years old and is now buried at the base of the Beho Beho hills in the Northern Sector of the reserve.