Tanzania national Parks

Tanzania National Parks – Combine the Best Experiences

Tanzania national parks can broadly be divided into North, South and West amongst which are the most famous safari destinations but also a few hidden gems.

19 Tanzania national parks and nature reserves in Tanzania cover about 37% of the country. These 155,000 square miles of protected areas are home to an incredible 310 mammal species, including the Big Five and over 910 different types of birds.

Which national parks are in Southern Tanzania National Parks?

There are six national parks and game reserves in Southern Tanzania:

Ruaha

Selous

Mikumi

Kitulo

Katavi

Udzungwa

The Southern national parks boast some of the most exclusive safari tours and diverse ecosystems in Tanzania. 

Selous Game Reserve

Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) is the largest wilderness area in Africa. Wildlife is abundant and there are few tourists. Some of the 4000 lions can usually be seen on the lake shores and you have a good chance of finding leopards and wild dogs. Boat trips are offered along the Rufiji River to see crocodiles and hippos. 

Size: 21,000sq miles / 54,000km²

Notes: Animals spread out over the wet season.

Selous Game Reserve FAQs

Why is Selous Game Reserve so famous? 

Selous Game Reserve is famous for a number of reasons. For one, it’s the biggest wildlife conservancy area in all of Africa. Second of all, it contains some of the world’s largest number of animal populations like elephants, black rhinos, cheetahs and giraffes. 

Located on Tanzania’s less crowded southern safari circuit, Selous Game Reserve covers an immense area of 50,000 square kilometres (roughly 19,000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Serengeti National Park. In 1982, Selous Game Reserve was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Originally a hunting reserve, Selous was named after Frederick Selous (pronounced as se-loos) a big game hunter and conservationist who extensively explored East Africa. Selous died in 1917 when he was shot near Beho Beho camp during the First World War. In 1922, five neighbouring reserves were combined to create Selous Game Reserve.

Are Selous Game Reserve and Nyerere National Park the Same Thing?

The northern part of Selous Game Reserve is now officially called Nyerere National Park. It was named in honour of Tanzania’s first president, Julius Nyerere. Nyerere National Park includes the Rufiji river and buffer zone to the south of the watercourse. The park is still widely known as Selous Game Reserve. 

Which parts of Selous Game Reserve can I visit? 

You can visit all parts of Selous Game Reserve as there is so much to see in the way of wildlife and unique ecosystems. 

The landscape of Selous Game Reserve is divided into four key areas:

  • Northern Selous
  • Southern Selous
  • Rufiji River
  • Stiegler’s Gorge
  • Northern Selous

North Selous, or Nyerere National Park, is a no-hunt zone dedicated to photographic tourism. This piece makes up 8% of the total reserve and is a visitor-friendly location for all accommodation and safari activities.

Southern Selous

The southern side is the bigger part of the reserve which is divided into blocks and leased as private hunting concession areas. Safari tours do not operate in this region of the game reserve.

Rufiji River

Tanzania’s largest river, the Rufiji River, defines the landscape of the reserve by providing a year-round water supply and creating a diversity of habitats. The slow meandering river and its tributaries form swamps, palm-fringed channels and lakes while seasonal flooding creates rich grasslands. The smaller Kilombero and Ruaha rivers also cross the reserve.

Stiegler’s Gorge

Stiegler’s Gorge is a 5-mile long (8km) and 330 ft (100 m) deep canyon along the lower reaches of the Rufiji river in the north of Selous. The gorge is named after a Swiss explorer who was killed there by an elephant in the early 1900s. This is also the site for the controversial new dam and hydraulic power plant in the park. Conservation authorities fear the dam will have long-lasting negative impacts on biodiversity and the communities downstream.

How much does a safari to Selous Game Reserve cost?

The cost of a Selous Game Reserve safari ranges from $400 per person per day to $1500 per person per day. These costs also include other travel expenses like flights, car rentals, accommodation and meals. 

We recommend that you also take advantage of safari tour packages where certain locations (including other southern national parks like Ruaha and Mikumi), specialised activities (hot air balloon flights and game drives) and a guided tour are included in the overall price. 

When is the best time to visit Selous Game Reserve?

The best time to visit Selous Game Reserve is during the dry season, which is from June to October.

Here is a complete breakdown of the seasons in southern Tanzania and what to expect while visiting Selous Game Reserve: 

Dry Season (June – October)

As with most Tanzanian national parks, dry months (June-October) are best for game viewing in Selous. Thankfully, the reserve remains relatively crowd-free over this peak period. 

Animals do not migrate away from the north during the year as they have consistent food and water sources in Selous.

Wet Season (November – March)

The rainy season is November till March. If you plan on visiting the reserve during this time, note that some roads may be flooded.

Humidity is also higher, bringing along more mosquitos. Some camps close over this part of the season.

Please note: Malaria is a risk in Tanzania, so consult your doctor about medication options before setting off. Make sure to pack a first aid kit with necessities including band-aids, headache tablets and diarrhea medication.

What is the best way to get to Selous Game Reserve?

The best way to get to Selous Game Reserve is by airplane. It’s quicker and more comfortable than travelling by car over. 

With that said, here are some added tips for getting to Selous Game Reserve by driving or taking flights. 

Travelling by Road

By car, it is a 4-5 hour or 136-mile (219km) drive from Dar Es Salaam. The route goes through Mikumi National Park and enters Selous Game Reserve through Matambwe Gate. The last 50 miles of this drive is on a bumpy gravel road.

Flying In

Because of the long drive, many guests prefer to fly into Selous. A trip in a small aircraft from Dar Es Salaam will take 45 minutes, or 90 minutes alternatively from the airstrip in Ruaha National Park. 

What animals can I see at Selous Game Reserve?

You can see all kinds of animals at Selous Game Reserve. It has some of the highest animal numbers on earth, and they are well spread out over this immense landscape. Selous’s characteristic miombo woodland is more concealing than the open plains of the Serengeti. Even so, you are likely to check off most of the animals on your list plus some that are special to this reserve.

Elephants of Selous Game Reserve

Historically, Selous Game Reserve had the biggest population of elephants in the world. Sadly, rampant poaching over the last 50 years has reduced this population by a shocking 90%.

But even with the dramatic decrease, elephants still roam the reserve and sightings are regular. Over the decades, renowned organisations like UNESCO and the WWF have a played a vital role in reducing poaching in the region to protect these majestic large mammals.

Wild Dogs

Selous Game Reserve is one of the best places to see wild dogs. About 900 of the world’s 6000 remaining wild dogs can be found here. Also called painted dogs, these canines are some of the most successful predators with 80% of their hunts ending in a kill.

Black Rhinos

The park has one of Tanzania’s last remaining populations of endangered Black rhino. These shy animals prefer dense bushes where they are well hidden. 

Rare Antelope

Selous is home to the largest populations of puku antelope which graze the flooded grasslands of the park. The reserve also has good numbers of sable antelope, often seen around the northern parts of the reserve. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest is unique to the miombo woodlands found here.

Sable antelope

Big Cats

This is a great place to see big pride of lions and males with impressively sized manes. The reserve also has one of the highest concentrations of cheetahs.

Leopards are rarely sighted but you may pick up tracks or other signs of these elusive cats on a guided walk.

Other animals in Selous Game Reserve

A boat trip down the Rufiji River will get you close to some of the thousands of resident hippos and crocodiles. 

It is highly unlikely that you will visit Selous Game Reserve without seeing a giraffe, there are around 40, 000 of them! The diverse habitats are also home to waterbuck, greater kudu, wildebeest, eland, impala, plains zebra, Cape buffalo, hyena and primates including baboons, colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys.

Birdwatching

There are around 445 bird species in the Selous Game Reserve. The river system is particularly rich in bird diversity. Look out for crimson flocks of carmine bee-eaters clustered on the muddy sandbanks while pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers and squacco herons stalk the water edge and fish eagles, kingfishers patrol the open waters. At dusk, you may just spot a rare Pel’s fishing owl coming out to hunt. 

African fish eagle

The Udzungwa forest partridge and delicate rufous winged sunbird are endemic species to this area. 

What activities are there in Selous Game Reserve?

Selous Game Reserve has the biggest range of activities of all Tanzania’s parks. If traditional safaris aren’t your thing, there’s always scenic and cultural tours that you can enjoy during your stay. 

Game drives

Head out with an experienced guide who knows the landscape and animals. Predators and prey escape the midday heat under shady trees so take a drive before 11 am or after 3 pm for the best sightings.

Boat trips

A unique option for a safari, river cruises on the Rufiji River is a chance to get close to the many hippos and crocodiles on these waterways. Choices range from sunset cruises to half-day trips.

Walking Safaris

You will never feel closer to nature than on a guided foot safari. Appreciate the little things and learn about tracks and signs. 

Fly Camping Tours

A number of camps offer adventurous visitors the experience of sleeping beneath basic tents in the wilderness. An armed ranger and guide will keep you safe as you listen to lions roar and swap stories around a blazing fire.

Cultural Tour

Take a guided tour to the nearby Mwaseni Village. Always ask permission and be sensitive about photographing people.

 

3 night Selous Explorer Safari

  • Full Board
  • Game drives included
  • from $1400- $ 2700per person

 

THE SELOUS GAME RESERVE SAFARI HIGHLIGHTS

The Selous is Tanzania’s largest wildlife safari area. It is a game reserve, but it is absolutely massive. It is also all about water, so the monsoons control when best to visit. There are two seasons we recommend, high water and dry season. Both are stunning. 

  • The Selous Game Reserve is the only park in Tanzania where you can do river safaris. Combined with landrover safaris this makes it so special.
  • The best time to visit the Selous Game Reserve and do boat safaris is June July and August. This is high water.
  • Great for single travellers. 
  • Good for a first time or repeat Safari
  • Selous safari tours in October to January are in the dry season and great for land tours.
  • If you are into avifauna,  you will see so many different types of bird as the Selous  is on a migratory route.
  • The Selous sits on a network of river tributaries and lakes, which makes it a must add on to a true safari itinerary.
  • Safaris in the Selous are often best combined with the rolling hills of Ruaha National Park as there is a direct air link between the two.
  • In the Selous you should always see hippos, giraffes, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, lions and Marabou storks and vultures. 
  • If you are lucky you may see the wild dogs and leopards.

 

Selous Game Reserve Safari Price Guide

  • The best way to explore the Selous Game Reserve, is a fly in-fly out 3 day 4 night-Safari, including domestic flights, all meals and game drives starts  (Approx $1400 -$2700 ).
  • Make its special and add the Ruaha National park. One week in both parks would cost from (approx. $2500- $7100).
  • Flights to Dar es Salaam,  the nearest international airport start at £440 from the UK (on Emirates) and US$1100 from the USA (on Turkish Airlines

 

ITINERARY – 3 Days Selous Game reserve by  in-fly out 3 day 4 night-Safari, 

Day  1 – Selous Game Reserve

On arrival in to Dar es Salaam fly by light aircraft to Selous Game Reserve. Transfer to your camp, the Selous Riverside Camp, hidden amongst dense forest and on the banks of the Rufiji River. Overnight: Selous Kulinda Camp (breakfast, lunch and dinner included).

Day 2 – Selous Game Reserve

Morning and late afternoon game activities in and around Selous Game Reserve. Relatively untouched, Selous is said to be the largest game reserve in Africa and to contain the world’s largest concentration of elephants. Overnight: Selous Kulinda Camp (breakfast, lunch and dinner included).

Day 3 – Selous Game Reserve

Morning and late afternoon game activities. The park is home to large numbers of buffaloes, crocodiles and hippos as well as relatively high numbers of lions and rhinos. Overnight: Selous Kulinda Camp (breakfast, lunch and dinner included).

Day  4 – Depart

After breakfast transfer to the airstrip for a scheduled flight by light aircraft to Dar es Salaam (approximately 1 hour). Transfer to Dar es Salaam airport, then proceed with your chosen extension, or return to Home  (breakfast and lunch included).

 

ITINERARY – 3 Days Selous Game reserve by Road

Day 1

Stop At: Selous Game Reserve, Morogoro Tanzania (Duration: 6 hours)

After breakfast, Pick up from Residence/Hotel and drive to Selous game reserve, picnic lunch will be served en-route. We will arrive late afternoon, rest and check in at our hotel before heading to Boat safari until sunset.

Day 2 

Stop At: Selous Game Reserve, Morogoro Tanzania (Duration: 12 hours)

Breakfast is served at the Lodge/ Camp, Morning and afternoon game excursions in the reserve. Walking safari in The morning followed by game drives.

Selous Game reserve is the largest protected wildlife area in Africa, due to unique ecological importance this pristine uninhabited area was declared as “World Heritage Site” by United Nations in 1981.

Day 3

Stop At: Selous Game Reserve, Morogoro Tanzania (Duration: 5 hours)

Breakfast is served at Lodge/Camp, short walk around the Lodge back to the lodge for check out, there after collect Picnic lunch and drive back to Dar es Salaam. On arrival drop off at the residence/Hotel or Airport.

 

What’s Included?

  • Meet and greet services.
  • Transfers.
  • Shared use of 4×4 safari vehicle with photo roof on safari as provided by the camps/lodges.
  • Internal flights with all airport fees and taxes.
  • Accommodation as specified in the itinerary.
  • Meals on Full Board basis.
  • Services of English speaking driver-guides.
  • All park fees and government taxes.

 

What’s not Included?

  • International Flights.
  • Visa fees.
  • Driver-guide gratuities.
  • Dining rooms tips and porterage.
  • Personal travel, baggage and medical insurance.
  • Drinks and laundry.
  • Telephone bills and any items of a personal nature.
  • Supplements during Christmas, New Year and Easter period.
  • Any other services not included in Itinerary and inclusions.

Additional Information

Prices above are per person in USD based on twin sharing. 


Notes

Game drives are conducted in the camp’s own vehicles, and a window seat cannot be guaranteed.

On occasion the itinerary may operate in a different order, or different lodges used according to availability and road conditions.

Travel times vary on road conditions and game sightings.

Pack a mixture of warm and light clothing in soft bags, plus sunglasses, camera and insect repellent.

Light aircraft baggage allowance is 15 kg – soft sided bags must be used.