Located in southern Tanzania, the Selous Game Reserve is one of Africa’s largest protected areas. World-renowned for game viewing, it’s a sanctuary for wildlife.

The reserve lies within the African Great Lakes region, and is teeming with an extraordinary array of fauna and flora.

This slice of unspoiled African wilderness is the ideal place for the seasoned safari enthusiast. It provides some of the best-tented camps and lodges of all the safari parks in Tanzania.

The reserve is an excellent safari destination for families, friends, and honeymooners. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities, including boating safaris, nature walks, fly-camping, and game drives.

Here’s how to get the most out of your Selous Game Reserve safari.

Where is Selous Game Reserve?

Mtemere Entrance Gate in the Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve is in southern Tanzania. It covers an area of 50,000 km² of grassy plains, open woodland, forests, and mountains. Making it much greater than the Serengeti National Park.

The reserve has northern and southern parts.

  • Northern Selous: This area covers around 5% of the reserve’s total area. It’s dedicated to photographic safaris.
  • Southern Selous: The area lies south of the Rufiji River. It splits up into various concessions for hunting. Professional hunting companies lease these out to clients.

How to get to the Selous Reserve?

Though this beautiful place is in the midst of untouched Africa, it’s easily accessible from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. There are three modes of transportation options to choose from: air, road, or rail.

  • By road: Taking a road trip from Dar es Salaam involves driving through the Mikumi National Park. This gives visitors a chance to pass through the Morogoro town and rural villages as well.
  • By railroad: Another way to get to Selous is through the Tanzania Zambia Railway System. It begins in Dar es Salaam and makes a stop in Matambwe. This ±5-hour experience offers a panoramic tour of the country’s rural landscapes.
  • By air: An alternative way to get to the Selous Tanzania Reserve is by air. There are a number of departure flights leaving Dar (Julius Nyerere International Airport) and Zanzibar each day. It’s a quick twenty-minute charter flight to Selous from Dar es Salaam and only an hour from Zanzibar to one of the reserve’s airstrips.

Highlights in Selous Game Reserve Tanzania

Pod of hippos in the Rufiji river, Selous Game Reserve

Selous Reserve is an incredible safari destination. Take a look at the highlights before diving into some exciting safari activities.

  • Bountiful wildlife, including over 100,000 wildebeest, over 120,000 buffalo, 40,000 hippos, 4,000 lions and 15,500 elephants
  • Fly camping safaris
  • A wide range of accommodation, from basic camping to luxury lodges
  • Walking safaris amidst nature
  • Boating safaris on the magnificent Rufiji River
  • It has over 440 bird species, including birds of prey and waterbirds
  • A wild African experience, with relatively few visitors, dispersed far and wide

Activities and Safari Tours in Selous Game Reserve

Due to its great wildlife diversity and dramatic landscapes, in 1982, UNESCO declared Selous Game Reserve a World Heritage Site.

As one of Africa’s largest protected areas, the Selous Game Reserve is one of the few large reserves in the world to allow your pick of walking, fly-camping, and boating safaris. This reserve offers trips by boat, vehicle, and on foot.

The Selous is teeming with wildlife. With over 2000 species of flora, 440 bird species, and a wide range of animal species. It’s also home to one of the largest concentration of elephants on the continent. As well as the largest population of buffalo in Africa.

Its game population is thriving and includes brindled gnu, sable antelope, Nyasaland gnueland, and lots more. Here’s how you can see them all.

Boat cruises

Tourists approach a herd of elephants on a boat safari, Selous

The permanent waterways and channels spread like veins throughout the reserve. There are river safari cruises all year round in the Selous, setting it apart from any other reserve or park in Tanzania.

On the reserve, there are hot volcanic springs, channels, and sporadic lakes from the nearby rivers. The Great Ruaha and Rufiji rivers add an incredible setting of abundant wildlife near the edges of the water.

The Rufiji River attracts large herds of elephants. This river flows through the reserve and provides one of the most popular safari boat trips.

Get up close to crocodiles and hippopotamuses in their natural habitat on a superb boating experience.

Game drive safaris

Breakfast pause on a morning safari game drive, Selous

Morning 4×4 safari game drives provide a spectacular sighting of animals. As the early mists lift, wildlife begins to forage and hunt. Spot wild dogs, lions, endangered black rhino, and lots more on these drives.

Nighttime safaris are also possible. Discover glowing eyes and moving vegetation as hints of animals hiding in the dark from their predators.

Walking safaris

Mom yellow baboon carrying her baby on her back

Taking a safari in one of the most remote reserves in Africa is as close to nature as it gets. A walking safari provides the ultimate bush experience accompanied by expert trackers and guides. This is something not offered or possible in northern Tanzania’s game reserves and national parks.

All lodges in the reserve provide guided walks with professional guides.

Note: In most lodges, children need to be over the ages of 12 years to join a walking safari. At Lake Manze River Camp and Impala River Camp, children need to be over the ages of 6 years old to stay at one of these campsites. And over the ages of 16 years to join a walking safari.

Fly camps

For guests seeking a unique opportunity, some of the lodges and camps offer overnight fly camping.

Experience a safari walk or drive to the sleepout point and then sleep under the African stars.

Your shelter might be a mosquito net strung up or an actual tent with a bucket shower. Park rangers and a chef will accompany you to make for a dreamy stay.

Maasai community visits

Maasai warrior in the Selous Game Reserve

While Selous provides a range of wildlife to see, the region’s human residents provide another kind of experience. Explore local Maasai villages dotted at the outer edges of the reserve, with an expert guide.

These trips allow you to take a unique look into the Maasai’s unique tribal way of life and culture.

Best Time of Year to Visit Selous, Tanzania

Selous Game Reserve is a dry season park. This means the safaris progressively get better later in the season. So the best time to visit the Selous Game Reserve is from June to October.

During the dry season, wildlife is easier to spot. Animals gather near water sources, and the vegetation is thinner. One of the popular areas for animal sightings is the Rufiji River.

Keep in mind, this time of year is peak season, and prices are much higher. The dry season provides little to no rain and plenty of sunshine.

During the low season (wet period), which runs from March to May, the prices are more competitive. Accommodation can be tricky during the low season as many lodges close due to fewer visitors.

Thanks to abundant rainfall, the landscape is filled with greenery. Bird watching this time of year is world-class as migratory birds flock together.

Where to Stay in Selous Game Reserve

Bush camp in the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

The Selous Game Reserve is home to outstanding Tanzania safari camps and lodges. Accommodation is mostly concentrated in the Northern part of the reserve.

The Beho Beho Camp and Sand Rivers Selous are extraordinary lodges and offer a range of activities. These luxury, all-inclusive lodges provide an intimate safari treat for guests seeking amazing wildlife encounters. They provide the perfect setting for a unique romantic getaway.

Siwandu Safari Camp is a stylish tented camp and arguably in the best area of the park. It’s nestled on the Rufiji River banks amongst the dense forest.

Nearby to Siwandu Camp is Lake Manze Camp, an adventurous camp with a reputation for being an elephant highway. A little further is the sister camp, the luxury Selous Impala Camp.

Other popular camps in the park include Foxes’ Rufiji River Camp and Selous Mbuyu Safari Camp.

No matter where you stay in Selous, you will get amazing value in luxury lodges.

Malaria and Safety in the Selous Tanzania Reserve

When going on a wildlife safari, following instructions from your expert guide will ensure safety. Although serious incidents on organized safaris rarely occur.

There is a risk of malaria throughout the country. This excludes high altitude areas over 2000 m, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, some parts of the Eastern Arc Mountains, and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Most of the safari parks in Tanzania are high-risk zones, especially during the rainy season. To protect yourself, wear long-sleeve clothing in the evenings and apply mosquito repellent.

Plan Your Visit to the Selous Reserve

Elegant greater kudu bull in the Selous Game Reserve

From pods of hippos in the waters to buffalo wallowing on the river’s edge, the Selous Game Reserve provides an iconic wildlife experience.

With the bisecting Rufiji River, vast grasslands, and thick woodlands – Selous Game Reserve provides a panoramic take on nature. Why not get the camera rolling and start to plan a safari trip to Tanzania?