A week in the Selous Game Reserve
Earlier this year, and it seems like an age ago already, I hosted a week long private Guided safari in the Selous Game Reserve. Beho Beho, and specifically Bailey’s Banda, was our base for this safari which had two objectives. The first was to find and photograph the Wild Dogs of the region (Selous is known for its wild dog population) and the second was to reccie the region for the now confirmed Ruaha and Selous Expedition.
Rather than a full day by day breakdown I thought I’d share highlights form the week across a number of categories. The first has to be the history of the region…
The History of The Selous
The Selous Game Reserve is a protected area in southern Tanzania. It covers a total area of 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi) and has additional buffer zones. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its wildlife diversity and undisturbed nature. Some of the typical wildlife of the miombo inhabits the reserve, such as African bush elephant, black rhino, hippopotamus, lion, East African wild dog, Cape buffaloes, Masai giraffe, Plains zebra, and Nile crocodile. Permanent human habitation is not permitted within the reserve. All human entry and exit is controlled by the Wildlife Division of the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
The reserve was named after Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, who died at Beho Beho in this territory in 1917 while fighting against the Germans during World War I. On 4 January 1917, Selous was fighting a bush war on the banks of the Rufiji River against German colonial Schutztruppen, outnumbered five-to-one. That morning, he was creeping forward in combat during a minor engagement when he raised his head and binoculars to locate the enemy. He was shot in the head by a German sniper and was killed instantly.
Upon getting the news, American president Theodore Roosevelt (his close friend) wrote:
He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, with just the right alternations between the wilderness and civilization. He helped spread the borders of his people’s land. He added much to the sum of human knowledge and interest. He closed his life exactly as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country while rendering her valiant and effective service. Who could wish a better life or a better death, or desire to leave a more honourable heritage to his family and his nation?
He was buried under a tamarind tree near the place of his death, at Chokawali on the Rufigi River, in today’s Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, in a modest, flat stone grave with a simple bronze plaque reading:
“CAPTAIN F.C. SELOUS D.S.O., 25TH ROYAL FUSILIERS, KILLED IN ACTION 4.1.17.”
I can honestly not think of another region outside of the Masai Mara where the lion sightings were as spectacular as the ones we enjoyed during our time in the Selous. Beho Beho Camp was ideally located in terms of gaining quick access to the core of the Beho Beho pride’s territory. The fact that the pride had several youngsters in their midst made it all the more special. The lush, short green grasses provided a splash of contrast which is so often missing form safari destinations whilst the palms thickets ensured that the images captured here conveyed a unique sense of place.
Wild Dogs were a key focus for my guest’s and boy did the Selous deliver. We had every single sighting to ourselves with no other vehicles around and were able to spend extended periods of time trailing the pack as they went about their hunting activity.
The story of how we found them on our first day out is worth sharing…
Whilst scanning the plains for signs of lions we were drawn to a pair of side-striped jackal which looked very alert and disturbed. We stopped and watched them for a while, scanning the horizon expecting to see the pride resting beneath a palm thicket or shrubs. Suddenly, on the horizon, a lone wild dog hot on the heels of an impala caught our attention and we wasted no time in getting to the top of the ridge where we found the rest of the pack. They were all starting to settle down and se we spent a good hour and half with them as they reseted. Just as suddenly as we had found them they got up and started hunting again, this time running right past the lions that we had originally been looking for before disappearing into the thickets fringing a nearby river system.
We had two more encounters with them during our time at Beho Beho and managed to capture some great images.
The Scenery and Environment
Wildlife and birdlife aside, the scenery of the Selous is mind-blowing and there are photographic opportunities around every corner.
Beho Beho was the first camp to be sited in The Selous Game Reserve, not on the banks, or the flood plains of the mighty Rufiji River, but in the cooler highlands so as to enjoy the ‘cooling breezes’ from which its name derives. Always designated as a ‘private camp’ it has fiercely protected its individuality and privileged location as one of the most ‘magical’ places it is possible to visit in safari Africa.
Beho Beho is not really a camp in the true sense of the word, as it has individual bandas or stone built, palm-leaf thatched cottages, rather than the tented accommodation one might more readily associate with a camp. But also it is not really a safari lodge as it has only eight bandas, four on one side of the main house and four on the other, one tends to think of a safari lodge in terms of something quite a good bit larger. So we like to think of Beho Beho as being more of a home, a very private home situated in the middle of the African bush.
Totally rebuilt between 2004 and 2006 the bandas are spacious and airy and have been designed to capture even the slightest breeze – at seven degrees south of the equator this is an important consideration – of course there are strategically placed wide-blade ceiling fans to assist nature if required. This feeling of spaciousness is accentuated by the fact that the main suite area has no front wall or windows, but is totally open on to the front verandah of each banda. For those a little nervous of sleeping with just a mosquito net between them and the ‘great outdoors’ there is an ingenious arrangement of a curtain made out of tenting material, complete with gauze windows, which can be drawn across at night and securely fastened. The verandah itself reveals what must be one of the most magnificent views in Africa – a wild, unspoilt, wilderness stretching out to the far horizon liberally sprinkled with a wide variety of ‘big game’!
The bandas have been designed as a comfortable home away from home for intrepid travellers and to be planned as a sophisticated haven where guests can relax in privacy in order to enjoy the ‘holiday’ part of their safari. So you will find huge comfy chairs big enough to curl up in, a truly ‘king-sized’, mosquito netted double bed, a Zanzibari day bed to while away the odd hour in the afternoon when it is too hot to go into the bush, a proper writing bureau (with post cards supplied), ‘Persian’ carpets and even a tripod mounted telescope for private game spotting.
A separate dressing room with ample space to unpack and store clothes and belongings, including a personal combination security safe, leads into a spacious fully equipped bathroom with twin wash hand basins, a high flush W.C. and a spacious open-air shower where it is possible to shower and view big game at the same time. The bathrooms are supplied with Charlotte Rhys toiletries, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and soaps as well as a hair drier and his and hers bathrobes and slippers.
For the 2019-20 season plunge pools and individual sun bathing decks were constructed alongside each banda allowing guests to sunbathe privately and enjoy a cooling dip whilst enjoying uninterrupted game viewing.
The 2020 Ruaha and Selous Safaris
These 12 Night safaris explore the Southern Circuit of Tanzania’s lesser known National Parks, Ruaha and Selous. This combination of destinations will see guests enjoying game drives, bush walks, and even boat cruises along the Rufiji River.
Ruaha National Park has been dubbed the undiscovered gem of Tanzania and is often called “Tanzania’s best kept secret”. Situated far off the beaten track, away from crazy camera clicking crowds this rough tract of wilderness pulsates the real energy of an Africa long-forgotten. Visitors come to Ruaha to enjoy the dramatic landscapes and abundance of wildlife, with well-maintained roads and few visitors. The central spine of the Park is the watershed between the Mzombe and the Great Ruaha river, with its dramatic escarpment above which are large stretches of miombo woodland. Below this lie undulating plains with vegetation ranging from dry bush country to treeless grasslands, swamps and evergreen forests intersected by the many sand rivers that are such a spectacular feature of this area.
Highlights of the Safari
- 5 Nights in Ruaha National Park
- 5 Nights Selous Game Reserve
- 2 Nights in Dar Es Salaam (before and after the safari)
- Explore landscapes dominated by ancient Baobabs in Ruaha
- Enjoy game drives, bush walks, boat cruises and scenic internal flights
- With just 4 guests you’ll always have a clear view of any wildlife sightings
- Experience nature as it should be in two areas with low vehicle densities
- Additional Freight Seat included on all on internal flights (luggage restrictions of 35kgs pp)
Dates & Hosts
- January 18, 2020 – 29 January 2020 Tour: 3 Spaces left hosted by Andrew Beck
- August 29, 2020 – September 10, 2020 Tour: 3 Spaces left hosted by Andrew Beck
- October 30, 2020 – November 11, 2020 Tour: 4 Spaces left hosted by Andrew Danckwerts