Days on safari in Africa are well-known for the many hours spent exploring the wilderness spotting wildlife, enjoying the superb cuisine which is now the norm in most camps and perhaps taking a siesta in the comfort of your room. However, when visiting Selous Game Reserve, this mould is broken, thanks to the huge variety of experiences that guests can enjoy in one day, with no two days being the same. Our Africa expert Peter has recently returned from the Selous, and gives the lowdown on a memorable day in this gem of southern Tanzania.
Early mornings are always my favourite time in the bush: the soft light, cool temperatures and slow but purposeful movements of wildlife are all indicators of a magical day ahead. After coffee and biscuits at Roho ya Selous, we set off to explore the reserve by vehicle, a wonderful way to experience its endless plains.
A relatively quiet start to the morning was ‘interrupted’ by a young lion and lioness who were quickly making their way through a dried-up pan, but the view of them was fleeting as they disappeared in to thick bush. Our eagle-eyed guide then spotted vultures circling a mile or so ahead - often an indication of a kill and potential predator sighting - so we set off in eager anticipation. As we approached the circling birds we met some other park residents who were keen to see what was going on - four adult lions who had also spotted the vultures and wanted to see what they had found.
Unusually there was no kill, rather a dead impala ram lying on the ground. The unlucky vultures were unceremoniously chased off by the lions and sat miserably to one side as they made quick work of the impala. Watching lions feed is a fascinating, if somewhat gory experience, and it is always remarkable to see what quick work they make of even a relatively large antelope.
After their breakfast, we stopped (at a suitably safe distance) to enjoy our own under the shade of an acacia tree, before our guide suggested a visit to Selous’ famed, but isolated, hot springs. Another hour in the car and a short hike brought us to a small pool with a number of others tiered above it and water cascading between them. A toe in the water in the lower pool indicated there was some heat to be enjoyed, but after walking up to the second pool we found a Jacuzzi – a hot natural swimming pool where we swam until the heat became too much.
A couple of welcome cold beers rounded off the morning as we made our way back to camp, stopping to see there was any sign of the wild dog pack we spotted the night before - sadly they had moved on, so we followed suit.
I tend to be a fan of long lunches on safari, not only because the food is superb but they offer a rare chance to relax in what can otherwise be busy days. However, today would not be one of those, as our somewhat excitable guide and camp manager were impatiently tapping their watches and getting us to eat up as they had an ‘surprise’ planned for us. This turned out to be a highly-anticipated afternoon of fishing. Following a bait-catching session, we made our way to the boat for the journey across Lake Nzerakera, dodging hippos and crocodiles as well as admiring the abundant birdlife dotted around the lake.
Once we reached our fishing spot, bait was hooked and the afternoon was spent catching tigerfish and catfish (on a strictly catch-and-release basis), enjoying the sunshine as well as drinks from the ever-present coolbox. I say ‘catching’ fish - this is a bit of poetic license, as ‘attempt to catch’ is more accurate with these somewhat elusive creatures, which enjoy the shallow, murky channels that lead into the Rufiji River. Despite the lack of fishing prowess, it was a memorable afternoon, brightened even more when a large herd of elephants emerged from the bush and strolled past us on the sandy floodplains of the river.
As the sun raced towards the horizon we returned to the boat and motored back across the lake, reaching the shore just as the light was failing, for the short drive back to camp. Any temptation to head back to our rooms was doused as we spotted a roaring fire in the riverbed with chairs set around it and drink-bearing staff waiting to welcome us back to camp. Drinks and a delicious barbecue dinner around the campfire were a perfect way to round off the day in this stunning part of Tanzania, and helped to create memories that will last a lifetime.
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