Tanzania’s secret south

April 20th 2018  |   Travel, Countries, Tanzania  |  by   Richard Smith
Selous river sunset with a herd of elephants wading, Tanzania's secret south

If you want to enjoy superb wildlife viewing in glorious isolation then head to Tanzania’s southern parks of Selous or Ruaha.  Seeing wildlife in complete privacy is a special privilege, and this magnificent chunk of Tanzania is perfect for it. The range of activities on offer here make it so much more than a typical wildlife destination, and turn it into a matchless wilderness experience.

Giraffe at Kwihala, Ruaha National Park

To get an idea of the scale imagine a wilderness the size of Scotland, drained by two iconic rivers but without permanent roads or settlements. Then add some of Africa’s greatest wildlife populations and you have the Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) and Ruaha National Park.  Surprisingly little visited, they are absolute gems of Africa’s rich natural history. Because both reserves are so vast, the wildlife is occasionally elusive, but the rewards are spectacular when you find it.

Map of Tanzania's National Parks

Tanzania’s National Parks

Selous is just 80 miles from Tanzania’s coast and generally warm and humid year round.  The vegetation is jungle-like in places, and the open plains usually stay green near its lakes and waterways when other reserves have dried up.  It’s beautiful and a lovely contrast to the parched and arid savannah found elsewhere across Africa.

Bush breakfast, Roho-ya-Selous, Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve)

Bush breakfast, Roho-ya-Selous, Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve)

Much of the reserve is inaccessible, but with a good guide and a 4×4 you can find places that nobody else knows of. Selous is excellent for walking safaris and overnight fly-camping too.  It’s possible to take boat trips on the lakes and river channels, and since the river is home to tiger fish, you can have a go at fishing too.

Camps to try in Selous

Lake Manze – On the Lake Manze shoreline, one of the richest wildlife areas in the entire Selous

Sand Rivers – Quintessential safari camp with open fronted rooms and stunning river views

Kiba Point – A totally exclusive retreat in Tanzania’s wild south – like home, only better

Siwandu  – Just the right amount of luxury in a prime wildlife spot

Beho Beho – The original Selous camp, exquisite in a wonderfully remote location

Roho-ya-Selous – A super camp offering a real ‘out there’ experience

Ruaha by contrast is more than 3,000 feet above sea level and more than 220 miles inland.  It’s a much more arid part of Africa and dependent on the seasonal rains.  The course of the Great Ruaha River, and the big escarpment that runs parallel, are the major topographical features here. Between the two are a series of seasonal ‘sand’ rivers, in which water flows below the surface when all else is dry. Elephants know about the water, and the holes they dig are vital for the other species which lack their strength.  Ruaha has a greater density of wildlife than Selous, and because of the daily quest to find water it is easier to see along the course of the rivers.

Ruaha National Park scenery, Kwihala

Ruaha National Park scenery, Kwihala

The park is something of a transition zone between the East and Southern African biomes which leads to the greatest diversity of fauna and flora in any reserve in East Africa.  With forests of baobabs, and palm trees lining the river banks it’s an especially beautiful place too.  Walking safaris are wonderful here, with an ascent of the escarpment itself providing stunning scenery and real adventure.

Pearl spotted owlet, Mdonya Old River Camp

Camps to try in Ruaha

Mdonya Old River Camp – traditional tented camp offering an authentic safari experience

 Mdonya Old River Camp

Kwihala  – a wonderful camp in a superb location

Kwihala tented bedroom

Kigelia – intimate, comfortable tented camp in a superb wildlife area

Kigelia - semi permanent camp - watching elephants

Ikuka Safari Camp – exclusive, owner run with fabulous views over the park

Ikuka bedroom with views

What else near south Tanzania?

Selous and or Ruaha combine well with the more famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater to give a wonderfully diverse safari.  Add a few nights on Zanzibar or nearby islands for the ultimate safari and beach holiday.

4 responses to “Tanzania’s secret south”

  1. Barschwaiger says:

    Thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.

  2. Flo says:

    wonderful post, Richard – many congratulations, and thanks for promoting the south of Tanzania.

  3. Paul & Paula says:

    Already booked for October !
    Can’t wait…….

  4. Carol says:

    Many thanks for this Richard. Hol getting closer. We can’t wait.

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