One of the world’s biggest and most iconic protected wildernesses, Selous is the second largest game reserve in Tanzania yet not as crowded as the Northern Circuit parks.

Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982 for protective purposes, the mighty Selous Game Reserve covers an area of almost 50,000 square kilometers and encapsulates the spirit of Africa as it once was. Within a short flight from Dar es-Salaam, this enormous wildlife area in southern Tanzania is a superb safari destination, one that appeals to both safari aficionados and first-time visitors.

This paradise of untouched wilderness is named after Sir Frederick Selous, an imperial adventurer, professional hunter and conservationist, who was killed here in 1917. He was buried under a tamarind tree in the shadow of the Beho Beho hills, near the place of his death.

The mighty Rufiji River is a major feature. It cuts a path past open grasslands, dense woodlands and stands of borassus palm trees, and splits the Selous Game Reserve into two sections. Note that only the section north of the river is open to visitors, while the other areas are zoned as hunting concessions.

Read on to find out more on the Selous Game Reserve, the most extensive protected area in Tanzania.

gyraffe in selous national park

Amazing wildlife

Due to the reserve’s size, there is plenty to see and do in the area. The remote Selous Game Reserve boasts large concentrations of hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, baboons, African hunting dogs and Nile crocodiles, which can reach up to five meters in length and are considered the second largest reptile in the world after saltwater crocs.

Selous is home to one of the largest elephant concentrations in Africa, and you are likely to see large herds of buffalos, zebras, impalas, elands, wildebeests and antelopes as well. There are healthy populations of majestic lions, and some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhinoceros.

With over 400 bird species, Selous has become a hotspot for bird-watching. The lakes and waterways offer some of the best bird sightings.

Walking safaris and night drives are extremely popular here. Furthermore, the reserve’s swamps, wetlands, lakes and rivers provide unparalleled water-based wildlife watching and allow visitors to enjoy boat safaris, a Selous highlight. You can take boat trips on lakes Tagalala and Manze, and float down the Rufiji River, surrounded by hippos and gigantic crocodiles.

elephants crossing river in selous

When to go

The best time to visit Selous is during the dry season – from June to October – when the climate is warm, foliage is less dense, there are fewer mosquitos, and the lack of water means wild animals are more easily spotted around water sources.

Bird-watching is good year-round, and outstanding when many migratory species arrive from Europe and North Africa in April.


Get off the beaten path, then, to explore the little-visited Selous Game Reserve. Visit soon, though, before the Rufiji River is dammed as part of a massive hydroelectric power project, which will forever change the reserve’s landscape.




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