The wild parks of Southern Tanzania are not as well known as their more famous northern counterparts, but that is no bad thing! The Selous Game Reserve is the largest in Africa but few people visit, and it combines easily and well with the equally remote Ruaha National Park, a short flight away. On a recent safari through both, I was blown away by the game viewing and scenery, in particular the amazing rivers and lakes that are the lifeblood of these vast, untracked lands.
The Selous really is the hidden gem of Tanzania’s safari circuit. The ‘season’ may be shorter - June to November - and the reserve so enormous that game is hard to count and to spot, but that is what makes it so special. There are no vehicle clusters around sightings, so when you do encounter a pride of lion or a pack of wild dog, you are under no pressure to get that all important picture and move on. You can take as long as you want.
The Selous can also boast the best of Tanzania’s boat safaris. Take to one of its rivers or lakes and you can drift peacefully through the African bush spotting motionless but enormous crocodiles at the water’s edge, giraffes dipping gracefully for a risk-ridden sip of water and a myriad of birds flying in to roost as the sun sinks towards the horizon.
It may not be for the faint-hearted, but fly camping is another Selous adventure that should not be missed. Walking out to a private camp in the middle of nowhere and sleeping under just a very thin fly sheet and a canopy of brilliant stars can be a little unnerving at times. But nothing is likely to bring you closer to nature and to what those pioneering African explorers must have experienced!
A number of new camps may have opened in the Ruaha, and the game may be more concentrated here, but tourists are still few and far between. The park’s landscape is extraordinary, almost cartoon like, with huge numbers of bulbous Baobab trees dotting the plains and rolling hills. Elephant, lion and buffalo are also found in huge numbers, and the Ruaha is the only reserve in Africa where you can see both Greater and Lesser kudu.
Not only does it offer a superb contrast to the Selous but also an even wilder experience. On both nights at Kigelia (Nomad’s rustic but comfortable new Ruaha property), I was woken in the absolute black of night by the roar of lions walking through camp. A little alarming perhaps, and not just for the plains game in the vicinity, but again it brings you close as you are likely to get to nature in its rawest form.
Whether you are looking for a first time safari, a family adventure or a honeymoon with a difference, even if you’re a seasoned traveler on the hunt for something completely new, the wilds of Southern Tanzania are something very special indeed.