Our 8-Day Ruaha And Selous Safari explores Tanzania’s famous southern circuit – from the meandering rivers of the Selous Game Reserve to the rugged, baobab-studded slopes and seasonal wetlands of Ruaha National Park. This 8-day tour offers some of the best wildlife-viewing and most bio-diverse destinations in all of East Africa, including the chance to see African wild dogs in their natural habitat. The Selous and Ruaha are both home to some of the most important remaining populations of this endangered 'painted dog' – and you will have plenty of opportunities to spot them in both locations.
We will meet you on your arrival into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam and brief you on your safari. We then transfer you to the domestic terminal where you board a scheduled flight to Kiba Airstrip in the Selous Game Reserve.
Upon arrival you will be met by a representative of the lodge and then taken on a gentle game drive en route to Sand Rivers, a beautiful lodge situated on the banks of the meandering Rufiji River.
The Selous is the largest game reserve in all of Africa and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, due to its vast tracts of unspoiled habitat, and high biodiversity. The reserve was originally named for Sir Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and conservationist from the early 20th century. Today it is best known for its sense of remote wilderness and vast populations of wildlife – elephants, hippo, buffalo and crocodile can be found here in larger numbers than anywhere else on the continent. It is also one of the last remaining strongholds for the rare and endangered African wild dog.
Despite such incredible wildlife, surprisingly (and rather pleasingly), the Selous gets few visitors. Your lodge is perfectly situated for exploring the surrounding area with game drives in 4×4 open-sided vehicles and daily walking safaris accompanied by an experienced bush guide and armed scout. Bush lunches are served on request – dining beneath the shade of a large acacia tree in the middle of the African savannah is the perfect way to while away the heat of the day.
During our time at Sand Rivers, the more adventurous may be interested in the optional extra activity of overnight fly camping. We will enjoy a short walking safari to a secluded location in the bush, where we will find a simple fly camp. Here we spend a night beneath the stars, with nothing between us and the wilderness but a thin mosquito net. The camp staff will be on hand to serve us a three-course candle-lit dinner in the bush, with a small but well-stocked bar available for that ice-filled sundowner moment.
Today we can enjoy more game drives or bush walks, or alternatively take advantage of the boat cruises and fishing trips offered; cruising along the Rufiji River, seeing the hippo, antelope and other animals which congregate along the shoreline, not to mention the rich variety of birdlife, is a serene and pleasant way to view the wildlife.
The lodge also offers fishing trips for those who want to spend more time on the river, or we can request a picnic lunch for a day trip to the dramatic Stiegler’s Gorge – a nearby beauty spot where the Rufiji River runs at its fastest through a narrow gorge. Here the water echoes with the grunts of hippo and otherworldly screeches from the hyrax in the forest-clad rocky walls either side. The wildlife viewing here is excellent – with plentiful hippo pods, wonderful birdlife, and the occasional leopard sighting.
This morning, after breakfast, we transfer to nearby Kiba Airstrip for a scheduled flight departure for Ruaha National Park. Upon arrival at Msembe Airstrip, we are met and taken on a relaxed game drive to Kigelia Camp, arriving in time for lunch.
Ruaha National Park is the largest park in all of Tanzania. Its remote location ensures it receives fewer visitors than it deserves – but it never fails to impress those intrepid enough to venture this far south.
Your time here will be spent on shared game drives in open sided 4×4 vehicles exploring pristine African bush. Guests enjoy excellent wildlife viewing in Ruaha. The park is second only to the Serengeti-Mara when it comes to big cat encounters – there are over 20 large lion prides spread across the park and sightings of leopard and cheetah are also reasonably common.
The rocky slopes of Ruaha surround vast open plains and seasonal wetlands that turn into a mini Okavango Delta in the wet season.
The most common ungulates are buffalo, zebra, giraffe and various relatively common antelope – with sightings of lesser kudu, the greater kudu and Grant’s gazelle not uncommon and also the rare roan and sable antelope. Elephant numbers in Ruaha are larger than any other national park in Tanzania with superb sightings of up to hundreds congregating by the river in the late dry season.
The birding is also excellent – with a count of nearly 600 species – with a variety of southern and northern birds including several noteworthy species.
Every day we are at Ruaha, there is the chance to get out of the vehicle and head out on daily forays into the bush on foot. Our trained and experienced guides will ensure our safety and enjoyment in these awe-inspiring natural surroundings.
Whilst on safari, there is nothing better than marking the beginning or end of another day in the bush with a breakfast or sundowners served in a secluded corner of the savannah. Imagine enjoying a cold beer at the end of a dusty day, swinging your legs from your perch on a fallen tree, overlooking the never-ending plains as the sun slowly bleeds into the horizon. These moments are what memories are made of.
This morning, after a relaxed breakfast at camp, we depart for Msembe Airstrip carrying picnic lunches. Here we will board a scheduled flight to Dar es Salaam and met to be transferred to the international terminal for your flight home.
Sand Rivers is the most isolated lodge in Selous. Overlooking a wide, sandy bend of the Rufiji River, this luxury safari lodge is situated in the wild south-west of the reserve.
Sand Rivers has been called the ‘Vogue magazine’ of lodges. Eight stone and makuti rooms, each with their own private verandah overlooking the river, offer airy and elegant relaxation after an early morning bush walk. Each room is comfortably furnished, with large beds and luxurious bathrooms, but all make the most of their panoramic aspects and cooling breezes which come off the river. The excellent food and friendly staff only serve to make guests feel even more privileged to have stumbled across this hidden gem in Tanzania’s southern circuit.
Your days at Sand Rivers will be spent exploring the bush around the nearby lakes, or the wide sandbanks of the river itself. Set off on foot, by vehicle, or by boat – the choice is yours. The lodge offers trips to nearby Stiegler’s Gorge, a well-known spot for leopard sightings, as well as some nearby hot springs. The reserve is an important sanctuary for the African wild dog, and spotting a roaming pack of these highly endangered predators is a highlight for any Selous based safari. But make sure you take time out from your safari activities to while away some hours on your private verandah, enjoying the sights and sounds of the river, as this can be just as rewarding as time out in the bush.
Kigelia Ruaha is a traditional tented camp located in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, and the perfect spot to relax in between exploring one of East Africa’s best kept wildlife-viewing secrets.
The camp is located in a secluded grove of Kigelia Africana or ‘Sausage Trees’, high up on the banks of the Ifuguru Sand River. The camp has just six large safari tents, each with glorious views across the plains and rocky slopes of Ruaha. En-suite bathrooms offer the convenience of flush toilets and the romance of outdoor safari-style bucket showers under the stars. Hot and cold water is provided on request, and all lighting is by solar power. This is a wilderness camp with a very small environmental footprint.
Ruaha is a large park with relatively few camps, so you can enjoy its high density of wildlife without the crowds. Large populations of big cats, elephant, giraffe, kudu and other big mammals make for some excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. The park is also home to a viable population of the much sought after rarity – the African wild dog. Shared game drives in open-sided vehicles are combined with guided bush walks, birding and sundowners to explore all aspects of this beautiful area, including its quintessentially African majestic columns of gigantic baobab trees.