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Selous Game Reserve

Situated slightly off the secluded Southern Tourism Circuit of Tanzania, the Selous National Park is reputed for its magnificent landscapes, undefiled wilderness and fantastic fauna and flora.

The Selous National Park which has been recently renamed as the Nyerere National Park is cleft asunder by Tanzania’s largest river, the Rufiji River. This wildlife sanctuary is the largest reserve in Africa, and it spans an area 54,000 sq. km (19,000 sq. mi) and has additional buffer zones. It is almost twice the size of Serengeti National Park of Tanzania and thrice the size of Kruger National Park, in the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

This reserve has a remarkably huge diversity of habitats. These include the Miombo woodlands, open grasslands, riverine forests as well as wetlands.

In 1976, the Selous Game Reserve was home to as many as 109,000 elephants, ranking it as the largest elephant population globally during that period.

It got its erstwhile name from Frederick Selous Courtney, who was an explorer and also a hunter.

Brief History

This part was initially selected as a protected area in 1896 by Hermann von Wissmann, the German Governor of then Tanganyika and in 1905 it consequently became a reserve for hunting.

It was named after Frederick Selous, a big game hunter, explorer and early conservationist. He died in 1917, in the battle against the Germans during the first World War and was buried in Beho Beho, within the reserve.

In 1922, this reserve was established, but due to its wildlife variety and unspoiled nature, in 1982, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This protected area is considered a Lion Conservation Unit since 2005.

In 2019, the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA), suggested a change of the name in honour of the country’s founding president, Julius Nyerere. Consequently, the northern section of the reserve was named as The Nyerere National Park.


The Rufiji River, which is the largest river in Tanzania separates the Selous National Park into two parts. It flows into the Indian Ocean opposite Mafia Island and the Stiegler Gorge, a canyon which is 100 m in both width and depth.

In its course, the Rufiji creates a network of swamps, lakes and channels which result into a pristine and unique ecological system. It cuts the reserve almost along the centre, creating two sections: the northern and the southern.

The northern section, now called Nyerere National Park, has been set exclusively as a photographic safari zone. This section is comparatively popular for safaris than the southern section.

It covers approximately 5 percent of the reserve and hunting is strictly not permitted in this section.

On the other hand, the southern section is difficult to access and therefore less visited. Hunting concessions are given in some selected sections of the southern part.                           


Accessibility is quite difficult by road which implies that most tourists use small, chartered aircrafts from Dar es Salaam. However, access by train is also possible.


There are different kinds of accommodation facilities. Both luxurious lodges and camps are available, mainly situated along the Rufiji River as well as on the shores of the lakes.

Best Period to Visit

As with most wildlife sanctuaries, the dry season from June to October is the best period to visit the game reserve.

During this time, the vegetation is less dense, making wildlife spotting less difficult. Accessibility of the reserve’s hotspots is also easier.

However, the rainy season comes with it enchanting attractions and abundance too.

Mid December to March is great for bird enthusiasts as migratory birds come to the reserve.

Wildlife in the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve has high densities and diversities of wildlife. However, despite high wildlife populations, the reserve is large, and densities of animals are relatively lower than in the more regularly visited animal sanctuaries in the northern tourism circuit of Tanzania. This is due to the large size of this reserve.

 Its vastness and relatively untouched ecosystem make it a good sanctuary for different kinds of animals.

This is the largest protected game reserve on the African continent encompassing a vast wilderness of forests, grassy plains, mountains, as well as open woodlands and swamps.

 It is home to a diversity of wildlife such as the black rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, and zebras among others. Predators such as the African wild dog, cheetah, leopard and lion too, are residents, as the Nile crocodile and the hippo inhabit the water bodies of the reserve.

Both predator and prey animals abound as they strive to survive one another.

Birdlife in the Selous Game Reserve

With a rich diversity in habitats, the Selous Game Reserve is a sanctuary to over 400 documented bird species. These birds inhabit the different territories within the reserve.

The African skimmer, the giant kingfisher, the pink backed pelican and others inhabit the lake territory. On the other hand, the carmine, ibis, fish eagle, palm-nut vulture and many more are spotted along the sandbanks.

Migratory and other resident birds such as the malachite kingfisher, trumpeter hornbill, purple-crested turaco, yellow-billed stork, and types of plovers, as well as various small waders and birds of prey are common in the reserve.

Activities in the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is an enchanting and untamed safari destination which has a number of activities on offer. Surely, the following activities should be on the list of any prospective visitor to this gem of Tanzania.

Walking Safaris

Walking safaris without any doubt rank among the top activities in the Selous Game Reserve. They give tourists an opportunity to enjoy a close encounter with the untamed wildlife sanctuary.

 Walking safaris are an exciting way to appreciate the beauty and serenity of this remote sanctuary.


With more than 400 bird species documented in the Selous Game Reserve, birdwatching is certainly on the top of activities in to get involved in.

Migratory birds settle in the reserve during the short rainy season from mid-December to march.

Boat Safaris

Boat safaris on the Rufiji River and other smaller water bodies offer tourists a great chance of experiencing the beauty of the Selous Game Reserve and its different aspects.

Crocodiles, hippos as well as birds can be spotted from the boat. Other animals too, can be viewed as the come to drink water along the banks of the water bodies.

Game Drives

These are a major activity in almost every wildlife sanctuary. Game drives in the Selous Game Reserve are done early in the morning as well as in the late afternoon.

Safari vehicles with open roof or large windows are used to afford tourists with an all-round view of the scenic surroundings and the wildlife.  


Fly-camping simply means sleeping out in a simple or basic tent in the bush. A number of camps in the Selous Game Reserve arrange fly-camping activities.

This adventurous activity is great for those who can do with little comfort.

Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Hot Air Balloon Safaris are an amazing aerial way of appreciating and exploring the magnificent of this game reserve.

Such safaris in Tanzania are only done in the Northern Circuit’s famous Serengeti National Park as well as in the Southern Circuit’s vast Selous Reserve.


Yes! The Selous is truly wild,
But we are always mild.
At Tanzania Offroad Trips,
We refer to Selous as home.
So please call and come.

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    Services included

    • Special safari vehicle, 4*4 open roof
    • Park admission fees
    • Picnic lunch
    • Services of professional mountain guides

    Services excluded

    • All flight tickets
    • Meals and accommodation in Arusha or Moshi
    • Tanzania VISA
    • Pourboire for the crew