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Selous Game Reserve – Tanzania

Make sure you don’t miss Africa’s largest Game Reserve, the Selous. This huge undisturbed wilderness area has a wonderful mix of habitats, from grasslands, Acacia trees and Miombo woodlands to swamps, palm trees, and riverine forests. It’s no wonder it is home to a great variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The reserve is quiet in terms of human visitors, despite the large numbers of elephant, lion, giraffe, hippo, buffalo and crocodiles and the chance to finally see the wild dogs up close. Walking safaris are a cool way to get intimate with the bush and glimpse the animals from a different angle. You will also learn more about tracks, poos and the smaller things you might miss when driving past in a vehicle. The elusive eland also lives here, as well as the equally shy sable antelope.

The mighty Rufiji River flows through the Selous Game Reserve, and in the dry season this becomes a lifeline for many species. Whilst in the rainy season large parts of the reserve become impassable by car.

At this point boat safaris become the best transport in the reserve, but also at other times a boat safari is a must. A different experience and a wonderful way to get up and close with the colossal hippo, the ancient crocs, as well as seeing a huge variety of birds.

About the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is situated in the south of Tanzania, and with 54,600 square kilometres is the largest in Africa and one of the largest in the world. It is three times bigger than the Serengeti. It was established in 1922 and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.

The Selous is named after the big game hunter and conservationist, Sir Frederick Selous. An Englishman who died whilst fighting the Germans during World War I in the area. The majority of the reserve is not open for tourism, apart from the area north of the Rufiji River which has been designated as a tourist area.

Main Attractions

The Selous Game Reserve is a spectacular piece of nature with lots of rivers, creeks, lakes and other waterways surrounding the bush. Its main attractions are:

  • The chance to see the wild dog, also sometimes called the African painted dog
  • Going for a boat safari on one of the many lakes and waterways
  • Taking things slowly and more intimate on a walking safari
  • Great bird watching with many waterbirds and migrants at different times



Wild dogs in the Selous Game Reserve

A chance to meet these incredibly successful predators is a good reason to come to the Selous. Although not seen every day, they are regularly spotted and once they have been spotted by one lucky vehicle, others have an easy job to find them as they usually rest during the day.

Boat cruise in the Selous Game Reserve

Don’t miss out on a boat cruise in the Selous. Getting close to the many hippos and crocs as well as seeing the huge variety of waterbirds is a relaxing and different way to go on safari. Other animals come to the shores for a drink. If you do an evening boat cruise, don’t forget to bring a drink for yourself and enjoy a peaceful sundowner whilst the African sun provides the most spectacular sunset.

Going on a walking safari in the Selous Game Reserve

As the Selous is not a national park, guided walks are an option here. All lodges offer them and you will go out with an armed ranger. The chance of spotting animals is high, including elephant or other bigger animals. It makes walking safaris in the Selous very exciting.

Bird watching in the Selous Game Reserve

Bird watchers can spot many of the hundreds of species that call the Selous home, including water lovers such as the Pel’s fishing owl, the African skimmer, white-backed night-heron, black heron (think BBC talking animals ‘night-time… daytime…’), white-headed lapwing, and the African spoonbill.

How to get there

Fly to the Selous Game Reserve

The best way to get to the Selous Game Reserve is to fly. The two main airstrips for the Selous Game Reserve are Siwandu and Mtemere (also sometimes called Selous Lower). Both have scheduled flights arriving and departing daily, including from Dar es SalaamZanzibar and Arusha. They are right in the game reserve and it won’t take long from your airstrip to reach your accommodation.

Book your cheap flight to the Selous Game Reserve with Tripindigo today.

Drive to the Selous Game Reserve

It is possible to drive to the Selous Game Reserve, but this takes nearly a full day and some of it is on rough tracks.

Best time to visit

The cool, dry months of spring from June to October and the hot and dry summer months of December to February are the best times to visit.

High season

For wildlife viewing the dry season from June to October is best, but the period from November to March also still gives plenty of options to see a huge variety of wildlife. Depending on the rains the Selous might either be very wet during this time, and boat trips are the best way to get around, or it is very dry and a lot of animals can be seen around the remaining water sources.

Low season

Most camps close for the long rains in April and May, opening up again in June.

Best time to see the wild dogs in the Selous Game Reserve

Although the wild dogs are also seen regularly in other times of the year, it is easiest to locate them during their denning period from June to August. This time they will not roam too far from the den and the area to search for them is smaller. This is no guarantee to see them, but it definitely increases your chances.

Best time to see birds in the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous is an excellent birding destination with more than 440 birds species recorded in the area. From November to April migrant birds are also around and the resident birds mate and nest during this time. You will see many in their colourful breeding plumage.

From December to February the colourful northern carmine bee-eaters are in the Selous Game Reserve and if there has been enough rain they will swoop around your safari vehicle as it drives through the grass. Picking up the insects disturbed by the vehicle straight from the air. A truly remarkable and aerobatic sight.


    • Stiegler’s Gorge is named after a Swiss explorer who was killed by an elephant in 1907. It is 100 meters high, 100 meters wide and 8 kilometres long. It is possible to visit on a boat cruise from some of the lodges and is a truly spectacular sight.


    • Your best chance to see a lion kill a prey during the day is in the Selous as many of the lions just sleep and wait near a water source. Striking when the opportunity arises.


  • Although rarely seen, the black rhino is still present in the Selous, meaning you might be lucky enough to spot the Big 5 here.

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