A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Selous Game Reserve is vast – in fact it’s Africa’s largest protected area. It attracts far fewer visitors than its northern counterparts, so expect a true wilderness experience. At 54,000 km², Selous is two and a half times larger than South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and although much of the reserve is set aside for trophy hunting, the best game-viewing areas along the mighty Rufiji River are exclusively set aside for photo tourism. In fact, the Rufiji River defines the Selous safari experience – with its interconnected lakes and doum palm forests, offering both boat-based and vehicle-based game drives.
Habitat types include extensive deciduous woodland (known as miomo), acacia savannah, riverine forest, marsh and grassland. These support good populations of lions, leopards, wild dogs, hippos, buffaloes, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, many antelope species and over 440 bird species. Poaching has dramatically reduced the population of elephants, although they are still seen in significant numbers. Rhinos are present, making Selous a Big 5 game reserve, but are difficult to see.
Wildlife densities are lower than they are in the more popular northern game reserves and Selous’ vast size and remoteness makes wildlife harder to find – so Selous is a true wilderness safari experience. Off-road game driving and walking safaris are permitted – unlike in many of the northern game reserves.