Selous National Park
The Selous Game Reserve is the biggest game reserve in Africa, covering a vast area of about 54,600 km², putting it at 1.5 times the size of Belgium!
The game reserve receives its name in honour of Frederick Courtney Selous, an Englishman whose knowledge of the African bush has entered the stuff of legends. From 1871, and over the next forty years, Selous developed his intimate knowledge of the wilderness and served as the Great White Hunter for names as large as Theodore Roosevelt, and was instrumental in assisting Rhodes’ work in adding present-day Zimbabwe to the old British Empire. Following his death in 1917 (shot by a German sniper), the reserve was named in his honour and Selous’ grave remains at the site he died at within its grounds.
Selous Game Reserve exists as the central protection zone within a vastly larger ecosystem that is similarly protected by law, making the overall area (some 155,000 km²) the largest, uninhabited, untouched and singularly bodied African wilderness left. Game counts match this gargantuan of a statistic, and individual species number in the tens to hundreds of thousands, many multiples of what any other parks have to offer. The biggest elephant concentration of any African ecosystem resides within the Selous (beating even Chobe National Park of Botswana), at 65,000…there are about twice this in buffalo, 4,000 lion and a collective of over 200,000 wildebeest, zebra, impala, hippo and various other African “essentials”.
One of Selous’ key attractions lies in the official status of the “Game Reserve”, it is not a national park. This means that it is not bound by many of the rules intrinsic to the government-run national parks, and is instead privately managed. Unfortunately, much of the Selous Game Reserve is dedicated to very profitable hunting (albeit controlled and officiated levels of the “sport”), although a substantial area is dedicated to eco-friendly tourism and affords a greater level of submersion into the African wilderness than is possible elsewhere.
Game Reserves strive to find a balance between being self-sustaining and allowing struggling governments to focus their attentions elsewhere, whilst simultaneously maintaining a suitable level of conservation – and large parts of the Selous have managed this. Small lodges, camps and temporary establishments set up in the wild parts of the park offer minimal disruption to the natural state of affairs, and given freedom from national park legislation, allow for walking safaris, boat trips and guided game drives not otherwise possible.
The exclusive nature of these arrangements also means that safaris in the area tend to be without the intrusion of other visitors…something definitely worth going for and a distinct advantage over some of the busier Tanzanian “Northern Circuit” trips!
Best time to visit: All seasons are best, only different! The most pleasant time is during the cool season from the end of June until October. The drier it gets the more areas are burnt, and the bare burnt grounds look a bit depressing to some visitors. On the other hand the animals are not dispersed as they are during and after the rains. They have to come to the water regularly, and this is therefore the best time to observe game in bigger numbers, even in concentrations. It can already be pleasantly cool in May and June, depending on the year.
The rainy season in the Selous is normally from November to May, although there is a drier spell in January and February. This is also a beautiful time to visit as the trees and flowers are blossoming and everywhere it is green. Every old Africa hand knows, however, that the rains are notoriously unreliable. Showers occur in the dry season and drought in the wet season. If you have doubts, enquire about the road conditions before you travel!
It is only during the heavy rains, normally from the end of March to May, that the Reserve is inaccessible and most tourist camps are closed. Nevertheless some may accept visitors even during the rainy season when it is very possible that there will be lengthy dry spells.
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