When you think about going on an African safari, there are a handful of game reserves that would naturally spring to ones mind. Amongst many people the word ‘safari’ evokes thoughts of Kruger, Okavango Delta, Maasai Mara, Etosha and of course, the Serengeti.
But really, how many would have heard of the Selous?
Located in the central-southern part of Tanzania, Selous is an enormous 55,000 km2 reserve which was established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 1980’s due to the vast variety of wildlife that could be found in the area.
Unfortunately, a large area of the park is used for privately leased hunting concessions, but a smaller subsection of the park along the Rufiji River has been designated as a photographic zone – which means that wildlife residing within this area is protected from hunters.
The region is oft-overlooked by travellers due to its relative inaccessibility when compared to other Tanzanian offerings such as the famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and also due to the vast area over which the reserve covers. It is comparatively more difficult to find wildlife within the Selous due to the thick bush and huge amount of space that animals can be spread across.
Some may see this remoteness as a negative, but I see it as nothing but a good thing. This farawayness means fewer crowds, so when you do find wildlife, you won’t have to be fighting tens of other game viewing vehicles for the prime position.
Furthermore, the Selous just feels wild. It ignites a true sense of being alone in the bush – which is something that you just can’t get at the more popular game reserves.
But lets back up a moment and start at the beginning of our journey to Selous!
Getting to the reserve by road is possible, but definitely not advisable. The roads are not well marked and even rangers can get lost in the wilderness! The best option is to arrange an air transfer with the lodge or camp that you plan to visit.
The Selous has several small airstrips which are serviced by Coastal Aviation. Each of these airstrips is serviced three times daily via the domestic terminal at Dar Es Salaam airport.
There are between 15 and 20 camps and lodges in the reserve, but it is unlikely that you will ever see any more than the one you are staying in. The area is just so large that all these lodges and camps can afford to spread out and keep a bit of distance from each other.
While in the Selous, we would once again be staying at another Azura property – Azura Selous.
This remote and exclusive lodge is home to just 12 luxury tented villas which are stunningly appointed along the banks of the Ruaha River, which is home to an utterly astonishing number of hippopotamuses, many of which you can see from the comfort of your villa!
The retreat prides itself on providing a comfortable yet exciting safari experience for the discerning adventurer, something which is right up my alley.
We arrived late in the afternoon, so by the time we checked in the sun had already started to set. Luckily, we were able to catch those last few moments of light and used them to explore our tent and to watch the nearby hippos.
Each of the tented villas comes with a private plunge pool, and they are all kinds of beautiful!
Whilst Dan sat by the pool and enjoyed the view, I ventured off to get some better pictures of the hippos. What a picture just can’t convey is the sound of your partner repeatedly yelling at you to “not go any closer” and when that inevitably failed, just shouting “well please be careful!”
The tents were absolute perfection. Strung up in a traditional style, these canvas-swathed lodgings stayed cool during the day, yet we were kept completely cosy at night. They don’t come with TV’s, coffee machines or Wi-Fi, but they don’t need to.
Azura Selous is all about experiencing the African bush as authentically – yet comfortably – as possible.
Who needs a TV when you can watch the hippos play right in front of you? Who needs a coffee machine when someone will bring you fresh coffee and biscuits whenever you desire? Who needs Wi-Fi while on a once in a lifetime African safari?
While exploring the villa, I cam across an unexpected the surprise. The outdoor shower was a lovely touch. I had already showered with ellies in South Africa, but this gave me the opportunity to do the same in Tanzania!
At a first glance this may look like the most unnecessary door ever, but apparently these pillars are enough to keep the hippos at bay. The more you know!
As it turned out, the sunset was absolutely spectacular!
That evening we were treated to the first (of many) amazing meals on the banks of the river. Lanterns, teepees and candles guided us to one of the most romantic places I’ve ever eaten a meal, and the food tasted just as good as the set up looked!
Our arrival to Azura was absolute perfection. We had only been there a few hours and it had already exceeded so many expectations.
Little did I know, the best was yet to come. Stay tuned!
Getting to Dar Es Salaam: This international airport is incredibly basic, but does have connections all over Africa as well as to Dubai and Doha
Getting to Azura Selous: From Dar Es Salaam the best option to travel to Selous is via air transfer. These transfers can be organised through Coastal Aviation
Azura Selous: One night in a tented villa starts at $1400 USD for two persons including all meals and drinks. For more information about Azura Retreats, click here
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Bring strong insect repellant! The mosquitoes are particularly feisty in Tanzania