Our staff has been exploring Africa far and wide this year to ensure we have the most up-to-date information on lodges, wildlife activity and more. This keeps the fire burning for our jobs and lets us plan the very best safaris for our clients. Journey Specialist Sara Stark explored some of the lesser-known parks and reserves of Tanzania this autumn, and came back with some favorite experiences in the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park to share.
1. Wilderness without crowds
Most safari enthusiasts traveling to Tanzania visit the famous parks in the northern area of the country such as the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. These iconic destinations always deliver and are well-loved for good reason, but Tanzania has much more to offer. On my recent trip I was lucky enough to explore a much less visited part of Tanzania – the country’s ‘Southern Circuit’, which includes Selous Game Reserve (Africa’s largest) & Ruaha National Park. One of the main highlights of these two areas is that they are way off-the-beaten-track. Guests on safari rarely see another vehicle, and it feels like you have a slice of wilderness all to yourself.
2. Water in the Selous
Anyone who been on a safari knows there can be a lot of time spent in a vehicle. Selous is special in that it is a great destination for water activities. I enjoyed a sundowner cruise on the lake adjacent to camp and saw loads of hippos, crocs and birds. It was a peaceful way to end the day and enjoy the stunning African sunset from the boat. Boating on the Rufiji River is very popular, and Selous is also known for its fishing because of the plentiful water throughout the park.
3. Giraffes in the Selous
I wasn’t sure what to expect for game viewing in Selous, but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of antelope species, lion sightings every day, baboons, an overabundance of birds, and best of all, the huge number of giraffes. I have never seen giraffes in such great numbers! On one game drive in particular, we came across a tower of 16 giraffes. The group was especially interesting as we had the chance to witness quite a bit of social interaction, which is unusual to see. The highlight was seeing a baby under a week old. It was incredible, and I sat for quite a while enjoying the great surprise.
4. Elephants in Ruaha
Elephants are extraordinary animals and adapt well to their environments. The elephants in Ruaha were particularly fascinating because they had an unusual way to reach their water source that also benefited the rest of the wildlife. To my eyes, the river seemed to be completely dry in September, but in fact, there is water running under the sand year-round. The elephants dig holes in the sand and stick their trunks sometimes entirely into the hole to reach the water source. It’s fascinating to see them all drinking at once, moving from hole to hole. After the elephants depart these holes, what remains benefits the other wildlife in the area, as they are now able to access the precious water. You can frequently see baboons half-way in the holes getting a sip of water once the elephants depart.
5. Walking safaris
One of the highlights of my visit to Ruaha was heading out on a walking safari. This is true wilderness and you really feel it when you’re out on foot. There was a waterfall near camp that during the green season is raging with water. However, in dry season the surface water completely disappears, and you can hike the waterfall. The boulders are beautiful as they are all different shades and smoothed by water over time. There is no set trail – you set out with your guide ready for an adventure and find your path along the way. The reward is an amazing breakfast at the top of the hill overlooking the wide-open wilderness spotted with baobab trees as far as the eye can see.