Wilderness Camping in Selous With Wild Things
The Selous game reserve is the largest conservation area in the world with the exception of the polar regions. The area is home to a vast diversity of game including the elusive African Hunting Dog.
Having left Dar early we headed south to Kibiti where we had a picnic lunch and our guide and cook bought final provisions. The rural landscape quickly gave way to dry, rolling savannah woodland with only scattered signs of habitation. As we neared our destination a sign (with a picture of a lion with a woman in its bloody jaws) on the side of the road proclaimed that a man eating lion had recently been killed by the wildlife department. This was really the bush!
We arrived at Ndovu Campsite just outside the reserve in time to drop our kit and cook before going into the Selous for a short evening game drive. As we entered the park we were greeted by a herd of elephant heading towards the Rufiji River. They trumpeted and wheeled to face us, the older cows putting themselves between us and their football-like young.
The Rufiji coils, twists and winds at this point like a sluggish over-fed python basking in the sunlight. We drove into one of the bends and immediately notice a huge pod of hippo lounging in the shallows. Crocodiles lined the beaches taking in the last of the sun. As the light faded we headed back to camp for a sumptuous meal and a needed rest.
The next day we awoke early and headed to the gate. Here we picked up an armed ranger, Joseph, who was to protect us whilst we camped in the heart of the vast reserve at Lake Tagalala. The road to Tagalala was winding and dusty and made longer by the prolific game and birdlife. My friends and I were constantly asking our driver to stop.
In the shadow of the Beho Beho Hills we came to the grave of Fredrick Courteney Selous, the British hunter from whom the reserve takes its name. He was killed in action against the Germans and buried in the land he strove to protect.
Tagalala was a complete surprise, petrified trees emerged from a still calm lake betraying the lake’s origins as a meander of the Rufigi River.
White sandy beaches hosted many crocodiles and a myriad of vibrantly coloured birds. We progressed round the lake’s shore and until we arrived at our campsite.
We showered off the dust of the road and settled into our spacious walk-in tents before dinner was served. There were a few minor interruptions to dinner as our guide and cook had to chase an inquisitive first a Genet and then a Civet away from the kitchen! The night was still and clear and the moonless sky was filled with stars. The silence was punctuated by the grunts of hippo and the distant roar of lions. After the Lions came a closer howl of Hyena. Our guide Francis smiled and explained an old Swahili saying; “Simba anatembea na ijumba yake” (the lion walks with his uncle).
The sun rose and the accompanying heat woke us early. After a brief wash and a light breakfast we headed away from camp on a walking safari. Our guide and ranger pointed out many animal tracks and signs and identified a startling number of birds. We were told to walk in silence to maximise our chance of seeing game on foot and our efforts were soon to be rewarded. As we rounded the lakeshore we encountered a lone buffalo returning from drinking. This large, belligerent and extremely dangerous bovine was strolling along the path behind us! Our ranger assed the situation and was about to lead us forward when a hippo emerged from the bush about 50m in front of us. So, we were in the middle, on foot between two of the most dangerous animals in the bush. Joseph signalled for silence, cocked his gun and calmly led us to one side, up a small rise and we watched the stand off. The hippo opened its cavern-like mouth and the buffalo thought better of it and gave way.
We returned to camp and game drove to the nearby hot springs, here we had an excellent picnic lunch and swam through the heat of the day as monkeys frolicked in the trees above us. It is hard to express what a relaxing, special feeling it is to be bobbing buoyantly in a warm pool with a waterfall showering you whilst being gaped at by inquisitive Vervets. We had a slow evening game drive back to camp, encountering 4 young lions resting on some mudflats. We stayed with them until sunset.
Our final night in Selous was again full of excitement with heyena around camp and lions roaring a lot closer this time. This is a truly special experience, literally as wild as it gets. Our guide and ranger stood watch in turns throughout the night, keeping the watch-fires burning and the lanterns trimmed.
The next day we departed with an excellent morning game drive, encountering a large herd of elephants and a pack of hyena which had just killed a young impala. We left the timeless wilderness with regret and headed to our next destination, through the stunning Uluguru Mountains. Though the hunting dogs evaded us, this was a truly incredible wilderness camping, wildlife experience. One I shall be repeating.
Many pictures can be seen at Wild Things Tanzania Safari gallery. Enjoy!
About the Author: Roy J Hinde is a former biodiversity researcher who now operates http://www.wildthingsafaris.com.