​Expert Reviews – Nyerere NP (Selous)

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Expert
Gemma Pitcher   –  
Australia AU
Visited: Multiple times

Gemma authored several Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

14 people found this review helpful.

My top tip for Tanzania
Overall rating
5/5

Nyerere National Park (Selous) is my favourite game area in Tanzania, and possibly the whole of Africa. The landscape, with its emerald-green swamplands, dead trees submerged in water and shaggy-topped palms, is ravishingly beautiful. You have to work a bit harder for your game sightings – this isn’t the Serengeti – but that’s half the thrill or being in such a huge area – 30,000 square kilometers of uninhabited bush, only a fraction of which is open to the public. If you have a competent driver and guide, you can quite easily pass a whole day out here without seeing another soul.

A walking safari here is a must, even if only for a morning – the thrill of getting near elephants or giraffe on foot is incredible, and without the noise and smell of a car, you’ll spot the smaller often overlooked birds, insects and mammals that you’d miss in a vehicle. If you can, I highly recommend a multi-day walking safari - camping on the banks of a river, sleeping in a bedroll or a small tent and emerging at dawn to a steaming mug of coffee in the African dawn. You’ll wonder why you ever went anywhere else…

Expert
Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

11 people found this review helpful.

Southern Tanzania’s Ultimate Wilderness
Overall rating
4/5

A lot of the publicity for the 30,893km2/11,928mi2 Nyerere NP (formerly Selous) focuses on its status as one of Africa’s largest national parks. This can set up false expectations, however, as most of the park’s lodges, camps and game-drive circuits are concentrated in a relatively small area of lake-studded bush immediately north of the Rufiji River.

In my view, it is the Rufiji – a muddy grey perennial meander through the dry miombo woodland that otherwise characterises the region – that is the real star of Nyerere. My favourite activity here is a motorboat trip along the river or one of several pretty lakes that are fed by it. These boat trips provide a thrilling opportunity to see hippos, crocs, buffalos and a variety of waterbirds at close quarters, as well as elephants drinking and swimming.

I also enjoy the guided game walks offered by most camps, and game drives can be superb too. Highlights include the high chance of spotting the endangered African wild dog, especially in the denning season (June–August), and the aggregations of several dozen giraffe that frequently converge at the lakes. Nyerere is perhaps the best place in Tanzania to see a lion kill, especially in the late Dry season, when hungry prides spend their days snoozing below lakeside trees, ready to pounce on any antelope that comes within range.

Nyerere used to harbour the world’s largest population of elephants, but an outbreak of commercial poaching in the early 2010s has led to a decline from around 70,000 individuals in 2010 to an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 today. As a regular visitor to Nyerere since 1992, the decline in the frequency of elephant sightings north of the Rufiji is quite tangible, and the herds we did encounter on my last two visits tended to be rather skittish.

Negatives, especially towards the end of the Dry season (October in particular), can be the intense heat (far more so than anywhere in northern Tanzania) and large numbers of tsetse flies.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

8 people found this review helpful.

Floating down the Rufiji River in the Nyerere National Park
Overall rating
4/5

Although Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous GR) is part of one of the largest eco-systems in Africa, the area accessible to tourists is remarkably small. The game drive area runs along the crocodile infested Rufiji River and is dotted with small lakes, which attracts an abundance of wildlife. I’ve often seen lions lazing around these waterholes waiting for an opportunity to kill. Elephants are more often than not skittish. Nyerere is known for its wild dog population, but I didn’t see any on my last visit. In fact, I was told that there have been no dogs in the main tourist area for a few years. Obviously, that can change anytime. It is possible to have a very rounded safari experience in Nyerere as walking and boat safaris are offered alongside the usual game drives. The boat trip on the Rufiji River is highly recommended, and you’ll spot some of the biggest and most placid crocodiles you’ll ever see. Even better is the boat trip in Stiegler’s Gorge. Floating down this narrow, 100m deep gorge with hippo calls echoing all around, is an amazing experience.

Expert
Sue Watt   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Dry season

Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

6 people found this review helpful.

True Wilderness – and wild dogs
Overall rating
5/5

If you’re after a true wilderness sensation that goes beyond the confines of a Land Cruiser, then come to Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve). A vast chunk of Nyerere, most of the land south of the Rufiji River, is sadly out of bounds for photographic safaris. But the small section north of the river, with beautiful grassy plains and acacia woodlands, is still wild enough and unfrequented enough to feel that blissful bush solitude. Don’t expect to see wildlife around every corner – this isn’t Ngorongoro – but do expect an exhilarating experience, walking, canoeing, fly camping and hopefully seeing the rare and elusive wild dog, along with elephant, buffalo and a host of hungry predators.

It took me 16 years of travelling to Africa to finally see African wild dogs – or painted wolves as they’re now called. And I saw them in Nyerere. For that reason, it has very special memories for me. I’d become almost obsessed with trying to see them, so when we came across a pack of 23, from very young pups to the alpha male and female, all resting by a muddy pool, I didn’t want to leave. We stayed with them for three hours, watching them greeting each other and socializing, playing, hunting, feeding, sleeping and squealing: it was one of our best-ever wildlife sightings, and well worth the wait.

Expert
Mary Fitzpatrick   –  
United States US
Visited: Multiple times

Mary is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including South Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Africa.

6 people found this review helpful.

Boat Safaris, Wild Dogs & Wilderness
Overall rating
5/5

For repeat Tanzania visitors, Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous) tops my list of recommended safari destinations. Attractions include the sublime riverine scenery, year-round greenery and the complete climate and topographical contrasts from the northern circuit. Wildlife is not present in the same concentrations as in Tanzania’s northern circuit parks, but there is still plenty of it. Elephants, hippos and crocodiles are guaranteed, and species variety is excellent. Boat safaris are a highlight unique toNyerere, and an experience not to be missed. Another essential Nyerere experience is a walking safari, exploring the bush on foot by day and sleeping in the wild by night. The chance to see wild dogs is a draw too, although sightings shouldn't be counted on; I've only seen them once in numerous sojourns.

For those on safari for the first time, a northern circuit itinerary will likely be more satisfying due to the greater abundance of wildlife, the ease of animal spotting and the north’s more developed roads and facilities. For visitors who have already experienced the northern circuit, or for those who want to combine a coastal or island-based itinerary with rewarding wildlife watching, the Selous is ideal.

Expert
Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: August

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

5 people found this review helpful.

A wilderness in terminal decline
Overall rating
4/5

The gigantic 30,893 square kilometre Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) has always been lauded for its raw wilderness and abundant elephants. Sadly, the latest poaching pandemic sweeping Africa has hit hardest in Nyerere where elephant numbers have plummeted and black rhino appear to have been wiped out completely. The rapid demise of the iconic Nyerere makes it the poster child for African wilderness on the brink and a World Heritage Site in danger.

Much of Nyerere is covered by miombo woodland, making wildlife viewing more challenging. When combined with the skittish nature of the persecuted animals, this is not the most appealing prospect for visitors. The freshwater lagoons created from old oxbows of the Rufiji River are the prime area for game viewing with giraffe, impala and yellow baboons being the dominant terrestrial species. You will see signs of elephants and we heard them around the camp at night, but sightings are infrequent nowadays and usually limited to terrified herds running for cover. Spotted hyena and wild dog are the most frequently sighted predators.

The ultimate highlight of a Nyerere safari is undoubtedly the Rufiji River and Steigler’s Gorge. A boat trip along this picturesque, crocodile-infested river, enjoying the colourful and abundant birdlife, before culminating with a picnic deep inside the gorge is (in my humble opinion) an unparalleled safari experience.

Expert
Stuart Butler   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: July

Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

4 people found this review helpful.

Africa’s Ultimate Wilderness
Overall rating
4/5

Southern Tanzania’s Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) is an outstanding, and genuine, wilderness. For a start it’s huge. At around 30,000sqkm, it’s the largest national park in Africa. But, in fact only a small section of it is accessible to photographic safari tourists. There’s a massive number of animals here although densities can’t compare with places like the Serengeti. The park is famous for being one of the last places in East Africa where Wild Dog sightings are likely. On my first visit to Nyerere I had encountered a pack within an hour.

Aside from the sense of space (emphasized even more if you drive there from Dar) and wonderful scenery, the highlights of Nyerere for me are the boat trips down the Rufiji River and the opportunity to walk in the bush. I can’t over emphasise how much more rewarding this can be than being crammed up in a safari jeep all day even though you won’t get as close to the big animals.

Nyerere might not appeal to first time safari goers and it can be a bit of a challenge for those on a tight budget and with limited time, but for those who would rather take a sense of undiluted African bush over a non-stop parade of large mammals then Nyerere won’t disappoint.

Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: October-November

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

3 people found this review helpful.

Pure and peaceful wilderness
Overall rating
4/5

Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous) won’t appeal to the first-time safari-goer simply because its vastness means animals are not seen easily around every bend on a game drive. It doesn’t mean that they are not there of course; far from it, this wilderness is home to a huge diversity and numbers of wildlife, but they are more widely dispersed than in the parks of the Northern Circuit. But it is the incredible space that is the appeal of Nyerere – a massive, untouched corner of East Africa that has seen hardly any impact by humankind, where wildlife roams on natural migration courses over vast distances. For visitors, only a relatively small northern section between Matambwe and Mtemere gates is accessible. On my intrepid self-drive exploration along the Rufiji River and the lakes circuit, I saw just a handful of other vehicles. Easier ways to get to and around Nyerere is to fly into the handful of camps and go on vehicle, foot or boat excursions, and safaris can be combined with the other Southern Circuit parks such as Mikumi, Udzungwa and Ruaha. Whichever way you visit, Nyerere offers a well-watered landscape of open grassland and acacia woodland, cut across by slivers of riverine forest. I found it astoundingly peaceful where the animals were contented and relaxed – from antelope grazing quietly under the shade of doum palms to crocodiles napping in the sun on gently-lapping lakeshores.

Expert
Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

3 people found this review helpful.

A wilderness made for walking
Overall rating
4/5

Imagine a national park roughly the size of Ireland, with not so much as a square metre of tarmac and no habitation of any kind except for a handful of safari camps and lodges. Welcome to Nyerere (Selous), Africa’s wildest national park, jam-packed with animals, including 3,000 lions and at least as many leopards.

It’s also the wild dog’s last true stronghold and there’s an excellent chance of seeing these extraordinary predators here. Unlike the northern sector parks it is hot and humid, so the most pleasant time to come is in the relatively cooler months of the African winter (June-July-August). Boat trips on the Rufiji are brilliant for birding. Last time I cruised up to Stiegler’s Gorge I saw skimmers, trumpeter hornbills and a crowned eagle. But the best activity of all is to take off into the bush for a night or two on a walking safari. Apart from the Luangwa Valley there is nowhere better for foot safaris.

Expert
Kim Wildman   –  
Australia AU
Visited: June

Kim is a travel writer who authored and updated over 15 guidebooks, including Lonely Planet's South Africa and Bradt's Tanzania guides.

2 people found this review helpful.

Running wild
Overall rating
4/5

Without a doubt Nyerere National Park (Selous) is one of Africa’s most attractive and highly satisfying safari destinations. It remains largely untouched and you get a real sense of the wild which for me is its greatest draw. You’ll find it has an abundance of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and wild dog. The main game route follows the meandering Rufiji River which attracts thirsty herds of antelope and elephants and is packed full of grunting hippos and yawning crocodiles. On my last visit we spied lions, leopards and wild dogs and were woken to the sounds of elephants trampling trees right outside our tent. The reserve’s other great attraction is that it also offers boat trips and guided walks which add to its overall wilderness appeal.

Expert
Anthony Ham   –  
Australia AU
Visited: August-September

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

Wildlife-rich wilderness
Overall rating
4/5

Nyerere National Park (Selous) may be facing difficult times, with a dam being built in the heart of it, but it remains one of East Africa’s most prolific parks. With a series of palm-fringed lakes at its heart, Nyerere NP is simply gorgeous. I’ve never seen more giraffes in one place than I have here. The massive herds of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest support what many lion experts believe to be Africa’s biggest population of lions. African wild dogs are another Nyerere specialty, as are river safaris, which are especially popular with birders. Added to the mix are small numbers of elephants, spotted hyenas, leopards and cheetahs, as well as plenty of hippos, crocodiles and even a handful of rhinos. Selous has all the ingredients for a classic Tanzanian safari.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.3/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star 8
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