Some Thoughts on Selous

Jul 26th, 2011, 10:04 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Some Thoughts on Selous

I returned recently from a trip to Selous and wanted to share some thoughts. It was so different from the other places I'd been---many animals actually were skittish and kept their distance. Seeing wildlife less habituated to people, while it sometimes meant not getting as close as I'd like for photo purposes, was refreshing. Selous is definitely the road less traveled.

General Comments

I was there in June, which is the Green season. The bush was thick and water was available in the bush. As a result the animals don’t need to come to the major water ways (the Rufiji River and the surrounding 5 lakes) for drinking (which, of course, makes game-viewing easier and more exciting---predators await the arrival of thirsty animals).

Overall, Selous (pronounced Sel-oo) in June reminded me of a cross between South Africa and Botswana. The river and lakes are beautiful and green, with lots of palm trees, flowering trees and water fowl. Once away from the water, the bush is thick and impressive, studded with lots of baobab trees.

Both camps (detailed below) are open (no fences) so animals can pass through at any time. However, whenever you leave your tent, day or night, Masai employed by the camps appear almost out of thin air to escort you to where you are going.

You won’t mistake Selous for the northern parks and reserves: game-viewing is less active and the animals appear to be less habituated to humans (probably because Selous gets much less traffic). Leopards are hard to see and cheetah are not present. Lions and dogs are likely sightings. On the other hand, Selous offers activities not usually provided in the north: fly-camping, boat safaris, walking safaris (with an armed Tanzanian Ranger) and fishing outings.

The camps were well-equipped with open safari vehicles (Impala had 6 cars for 8 tents), which have only two rows and I believe they will not put more than 4 riders in a car. Because things were quiet I had my own car for all but 1 or 2 rides when only 1 other accompanied me.

You paid for your drinks at each camp. Lake Manze would give you bottled water for free. Impala charged for bottled water because they said their treated water was 100% safe---I tried it with no problems. Prices were very reasonable for drinks: large water, $2; beer, $3.50, glass wine, $4; soda, $2.50.

Lake Manze Camp (12 tents)

This is a budget camp, though I have nothing but good things to say about it. The tent, which was in good shape, was simply furnished, but clean, and the bed was comfortable. The tents had no electricity at all, although the camp had a charging center. The bathroom was attached to the tent but open overhead, which means you SS and S’d under the stars, a unique experience. (It actually proved very useful one night when there was a full lunar eclipse. I could stand in the safety of the bath area of the tent and watch the moon turn orange/red---until I couldn't stand the mosquitoes biting.) The camp said I had hot water, but I never did get to take a warm shower. I think that’s because my tent was a good distance from the boiler and everyone probably showered around the same time during the day (showering in the dark was a bit inconvenient). Nevertheless, the day-time temps were high and the cold water hardly cold so showering was OK.

I think one of the highlights of the camp was the cuisine. The camp manager, a young, smart and very personable Italian woman named Sarah, has a passion for food. As a result she has obviously provided a guiding hand to the kitchen. The food at the camp reflected simple but delicious Italian cooking: e.g., bruschetta, meatballs in tomato sauce, and various spinach dishes.

Views of the accommodations can be seen at: http://www.adventurecamps.co.tz/lakemanze2.htm

Impala Camp (8 tents)

This camp was more on the order of Kichwa Tembo (although Impala has only 8 tents and KT over 40), with the tents being equivalent to KT’s Luxury tents. The furnishings were much upgraded as compared to Lake Manze’s and the tents had full electricity along with your own charging outlet. Hot water at any time of the day was easily available.

Food was on the order of most upscale camps. The camp management did everything to ensure a comfortable stay---they were all very nice. Ironically, Lake Manze had a wifi area, but Impala didn’t. The staff let me use their hard-wired computer to touch base with my wife.

I had a really great guide at Impala for the entire time (and I had a private car the entire time because the camp was not busy). I did game drives except for the last evening when I fished and the guide even joined me for that to give me pointers. There are two main fishing targets: catfish (a woman visiting from Australia caught one weighing 15 kg (33 lb)!!) and tiger fish; the latter will give you a run for your money. I felt good knowing that all fish caught by visitors are eaten by the staff.

Views of the accommodations can be seen at: http://www.adventurecamps.co.tz/selousimpalacamp2.htm

Summary

Selous is a place for those who want a less-congested African safari and who might want to do some activities in addition to game rides. I heard from other visitors that Ruaha and Katavi were great for seeing predators, so I think a visit to Selous would best be done in conjunction with stops at at least one of those two other areas.

I've listed a couple of links with some photos: one is for birds (Selous is a great birding destination), while the other is for just a bit of other wildlife, but mainly wild dogs, the primary reason I went to Selous.

Best to click 'Slideshow' (upper left of screen under PICASA logo) so you can view full screen.

Selous Birds: https://picasaweb.google.com/sbrynes...MTg6aTQ6cusqwE

General Selous: https://picasaweb.google.com/sbrynes...NuJ_LH5nLj2sQE
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 05:39 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
You found the dogs, and lions and crocs, etc. Great birds. I could see the Giant Kingfisher's tongue. You saw a Hoopoe!

Thanks for your thoughts and the photos.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 26th, 2011, 08:22 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
Thanks for the photos, some good sightings of the dogs. Interesting viewpoints on the Selous but it sounds like you enjoyed yourself.
twaffle is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 04:31 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 371
Very interesting and great photos. Could you tell me a bit more about the logistics of your trip? Where did you fly into and how did you get to the camps? Lake Manze Camp say on their website "Please state how you’ll be arriving, and specifically if you’re flying in or coming with a safari company or driving your own vehicle in" so it sounds like all 3 options are feasible.
Thanks
tockoloshe is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 04:48 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 5
Thanks for sharing those really awesome photos!
African_Safaris is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 05:01 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Thanks all three above for your comments!

Tockoloshe, I flew Washington DC to Amsterdam (AMS) to Nairobi. I overnighted in Nairobi, then NBO to DAR the next day. (I don't recommend this itinerary. I had an award ticket to Nairobi. At the last minute I decided to go to Selous and rather than redeposit miles, I just decided to buy a return ticket for NBO-DAR. It would have been much better to go AMS to DAR.)

At DAR you take about a two-minute ride from the main airport terminal over to Coastal Aviation. Coastal Aviation owns the various Adventure properties in Zanzibar, Ruaha, and Selous, including Lake Manze and Impala. The Coastal Aviation flight over to the camps is maybe 45 minutes. Driving, I believe, takes 6-8 hours. There is, or at least used to be (it's on hold right now), a train that went from Dar Es Salaam to Selous. See: http://www.safariexpress.info/ But yes, there are a number of ways to arrive at Selous and I guess the camps want to know to make sure you arrive as efficiently as possible. I'm happy to help with other questions.
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 05:05 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 371
Thanks, I really like the look of this! I feel more research coming on! The flight from London to Dar is direct so that's the easier bit for us.
tockoloshe is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 05:18 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Tockoloshe, that's what happened to me. I was all set to go to Kenya, then I read someone's report on Selous. The more I read about Selous the more I wanted to see it. For me it was the dogs. So, 'going to the dogs' can actually be a good thing.
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 05:25 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 813
Hey sdb2,

Thanks for this!

Could you tell me how long your stay was? And what to expect price-wise?

Thx again,

J.
pixelpower is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 07:03 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 268
I went to Lake Manze camp last year in August, and also to Old Mdonya, their sister camp in Ruaha.

Combining Ruaha and Selous works pretty well as the Coastal flights stop at both so it's easy to do a round trip from Dar. We (me and my parents) had 4 nights at Ruaha, 3 at Lake Manze and my parents stayed on for another 3 nights at Selous Safari Camp.

I don't have much to add to the review of Lake Manze camp. August is a bit drier and I think it's a slightly better time for game, as the animals are drawn towards the lakes and the water. In 3 nights we also had a couple of excellent wild dog sightings, a nice lion sighting (abut 9 lions) and we did manage a leopard as well, although it wasn't exactly a great photo opportunity as the leopard was on the move and the light was going.

One thing that struck me about Selous was the number of giraffe- I've never seen quite so many- we were seeing herds of 20 or 30.

It wasn't my first trip to Selous- I visited in January a few years ago which was much greener. I'll second the recommendation as a birding destination- in January the Carmine Bee-eaters are there as well. The boat trips especially were great for birds. That was my only negative point about Lake Manze- the guide we had was a bit lacking in bird knowledge. Apparently he was new to the park from the Northern Parks which explained the blank looks when I asked about the carmine bee-eaters!

Overall though I though Lake Manze was really good value in a great location.

Ruaha was quite different to Selous- much more hilly looking with big granite boulders, more baobabs and plenty of sand rivers. Old Mdonya camp was in a sand river- the tents were almost identical to Lake Manze, and the food was also pretty similar. There were a few more tsetses in Ruaha but they had ingenious elephant dung burning contraptions made from coffee tins attached to the backs of the vehicles that seemed to do the trick.

In terms of sightings we had a couple of nice lion sightings- including a pride of well over 20, and a couple of males digging for water in a sand river. We had 2 good cheetah sightings (one group of 3, one alone) and a leopard. Again, the leopard was very shy- we spotted it in a tree from a distance but as we got closer it jumped down and disappeared off into the bush. Not like your Mara leopards lounging around whilst being photographed by 10 vehicles!

The only downside of Old Mdonya was its location- it seemed a long way from the prime game viewing area and we ended up doing long all day drives. Again, though, it is one of the best value camps in the park. However, I think if I went back I'd be tempted to pay a bit more to stay closer to the action- I noticed the area we saw a lot in was around Mwagusi camp.
stokeygirl is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 08:45 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Pixelpower, I stayed 8 nights in Selous, 3 at Lake Manze, then 5 at Impala. Lake Manze was $305 pppn ($335 in high season), Impala $335 pppn ($495 high season). Adventure Camps had a stay 4, pay 3 deal going from June 1 to July 5 this year, so I used that at Impala. They also slightly reduce rates for stays of 4+ nights in the same camp. Reserve/Conservation fees total $75/night.

Coastal Aviation charged ~$150 DAR to SEL, each way. I notice that the camps charge a fee for visitors arriving in their own vehicles ($180-210, LM; $280-425, Impala, depending on season).

Their rates for a private car are very reasonable: $80, LM and $100, Impala for a full day.

Stokeygirl, thanks for that added information!

Steve
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 09:12 AM
  #12  
TC
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,859
Steve, LOVED your photos. Bring back so many memories from our trip to Selous and Ruaha (trip report posted). It is a spectacular area, which I highly recommend if one is looking to be off the beaten track.

What camera and lens were you using for your birding photos? Excellent detail.

Cheers,
TC
TC is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 09:43 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
TC, Thanks!! I read over your report---what a great, detailed job! There's a wealth of information in it that could help people in their planning for a trip to the area.

I used a Canon 40D with a 100-400 IS L lens.

Best, Steve
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 11:09 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 268
That's interesting- I've previously used the Canon 70-300mm IS and it's never quite been up to the job for birds, but I've just bought the 100-400 IS L. Looking forward to trying it out in South Luangwa in a couple of weeks.
stokeygirl is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 11:55 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Stokeygirl, for a few years I used the original 75-300 IS, precursor to the 70-300. I liked it but, you're right, it didn't really cut it for birds. You'll do better with the 100-400, but smaller, distant birds will still be a problem. If you've already got it in hand, you'll know the 100-400 is a tad heavy. I try as much as possible to use a bean bag with it to help stabilize it. I recommend some sort of support, but I think you'll like the lens.
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2011, 11:25 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 813
Thanks for those prices, sdb2.

Pretty hefty for us. Well... we could go there in low season. Then prices would be about the maximum I am prepared to pay. But high season...

Do you have experience with the private reserves around Kruger? Could you perhaps compare both in terms of quality (esp gameviewing).

Thx again,

J.
pixelpower is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 04:01 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
J, it’s hard to do a straight-up comparison because the places, and the experience, are so different. Ecologically, you’d never mistake one for the other.

Overall, I thought the game-viewing was a bit slow in Selous, but it was mid-June and the Green season. My prior visit to Africa had been the Mara during the migration, so any place would have paled by comparison game-viewing-wise. I’ve been to Sabi Sand and Kruger NP; sometimes game-viewing was great, sometimes slow. The places I’ve stayed at in Sabi Sand were chalet-type, but those in Selous were tented. I’ve come to prefer the tented experience---it just feels right to me. Selous also provides boat safaris for watery game-viewing, a really relaxing and satisfying way to end a day. BTW, Selous does not permit night drives, so cars get back before the sun drops completely.

But I’d gone to Selous primarily to see Wild Dogs, one of my favorites, and was not disappointed (the last time I’d seen a dog was in Sabi Sand about 5-6 years ago; it was a single dog, mostly hidden in a bush). One evening, we got to follow a hunt, and though the hunt was unsuccessful, it was exciting to follow the dogs as they pulled themselves together after resting all day and get into hunting mode. I’ve got an image fixed in my memory, if not in my digital camera, of the dogs bounding through the still-thick bush after impala. Steve
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 04:57 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 4
Very nice report. I have read that the animals in Selous are more skittish because so much of the reserve is a designated hunting zone.

Your photos are great, and that is the cutest hyena pup with mom picture I have ever seen!
guixigirl is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 05:15 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 770
Guixigirl, thanks!

I'm not sure on the reason for the animals' skittishness in Selous, whether its simply seeing much, much less people and cars (I've read estimates of only about 1% of Tanzania's visitors doing the Southern Circuit) or hunting. Lions and dogs seemed mostly impervious to people. But when I was there baboons and hyenas, normally not so shy, took a long way around us. Zebra, other antelope and giraffe also moved away from us.
sdb2 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 07:28 AM
  #20  
TC
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,859
We were also told by our guides in Selous that animals are skittish because of hunting nearby - especially at the Sand River camp. We had fewer encounters there than any other spot. Selous Safari Camp gave us wild dogs, lion cubs, and all the wonderful lake animals - hippos, crocs and birds, birds, birds. Giraffe and zebra we saw many more in Ruaha, but fewer lions, which might be why there are more G&Z.

Our guide at Sand River told us that the lions in Selous have learned an ingenious way of killing giraffe -- one lion runs a giraffe up the stoney hills, while other lions lay in wait at the top. When they pop out in surprise, the startled giraffe will stumble and fall on the steep, rocky hillsides - tumbling to its death. We saw many, many giraffe skeltons in Selous.
TC is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:18 PM.