Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is the largest wildlife reserve in Africa, spanning some 48,000 square kilometres. Sliding right through the middle of the area is the majestic Rufiji River, which teems with crocodile and hippo all year round and is lit up through the vibrant colours of Selous’ many bird species, particularly in the wet season. Buffalos, lions and giraffes to name a few also have their home in the Selous Game Reserve and make for a fantastic wildlife viewing experience.

  • Best Time To Go


  • Average Safari Cost

    From $200 to $600 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Africa’s largest game reserve, a water paradise, lots of luscious woodland, perfect for wildlife photography, the Big Five, boat trips; off-the-beaten-track wildlife viewing in Tanzania

Why Visit Selous Game Reserve?

Selous is one of Tanzania’s hidden gems and is visited by far less tourists than other reserves and parks of a similar nature, such as the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Yet Selous is the largest reserve on the African continent and has the largest buffalo and lion population of all other reserves too, while also boasting superb viewing opportunities of hippo and crocodile in the river.

A large part of the reserve is set aside for hunting, though, and so the area open to the public wishing to observe animals is smaller than one would expect, but it still encompasses the beautiful, replenished green woodland of Selous and the tan plains spanning for miles.

Pros And Cons

  • Great wildlife viewing in the dry season
  • Brilliant bird watching in the wet season
  • Boat tours are available
  • There is a fantastic lion population
  • The Big Five are present
  • Selous is a special place for wildlife photography
  • Wildlife viewing circuit is quite small due to the area set aside for hunting
  • Hunting at the reserve makes the wildlife appear to be slightly on edge and they are sometimes difficult to watch
  • The entrance to the reserve (and further camping costs) is expensive

Best Time To Visit

We would recommend visiting the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania in the months of June through to October during the dry season. This is due to the fact that there is far less rain, meaning a lower chance of the river overflowing and thinner vegetation through which wildlife can be spotted. As well as this, during the dry season the inhabitants tend to congregate conveniently at waterholes, so they can be viewed in specific places and in strong numbers.

On a practical level, visiting the Selous Game Reserve in the dry season is also more beneficial as during the wet season, October through to May, the tracks are muddy and it is tricky to get through the park. Moreover, the months of the wet season also mean very hot temperatures which can sometimes be difficult to deal with seeing as it is so close to the equator and more rain which can disrupt viewing.

Though wildlife viewing is poorer during this time of the year, bird watching is much stronger and much better than in the dry season, so it is a matter of what you prioritise if you wish to head there in the wet season.

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Wildlife And Birds

The animal population at Selous is special. You are at once given the chance to spot the regal lions, their fellow animals, buffalos, zebras and giraffes to name but a few. You can spot them easily and although elephants and hyenas are only occasionally sighted, they can be seen if you are in the right place at the right time, so optimise your viewing times accordingly.
List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Black Rhino

Rare Animals

  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Wild dog
  • Black rhino

Frequently Seen Animals

  • Elephant (occasional)
  • Hyena (occasional)
  • Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest
  • Lion

Over 440 species of bird have been recorded at the Selous Game Reserve and it is one of the best places in Africa to spot some of the world’s most mesmerising winged creatures. The birds at Selous are often found on the sandbanks, hovering around the lagoons and hopping along the islands in the river. The best way to watch the birds is on a boat cruise, which also makes for great photo opportunities for any avid bird observer visiting the reserve.

Endangered Birds:

  • Long-billed tailorbird
  • Forest partridge
  • Kilombero weaver
  • Wattled crane
  • Greater spotted eagle

Endemic birds:

  • Yellow-billed storks
  • Kingfishers
  • Plovers
  • Palm-nut vultures
  • African spoonbill
  • Pel’s fishing owl

Getting There And Safety

As the Selous Game Reserve is in the south of Tanzania and is part of the Southern Circuit of the wildlife viewing circuit, you should fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR). Your tour operator will usually pick you up and ensure you travel safely to your accommodation and do the same for your departure. Ensure you check your country’s visa requirements before you travel, though you can usually obtain one upon arrival in the country.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Tanzania

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Tanzania

For more details see our Tanzania Safari - Complete Travel Guide.


For details about visas see our Tanzania Safari - Complete Travel Guide.


Please note that malaria risk is high around the year in all areas below 1,800m. To protect yourself you should avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve tops and long trousers especially in the evenings, using insect repellents and, when required, sleeping under a mosquito net.

For more details about vaccinations see our Tanzania Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Drinking Water
Tap water is not considered safe in Tanzania, so it would be advisable to always use bottled water or bring water sanitation tablets with you. These will come in handy for using water to brush your teeth.
Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Tanzania. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

What To Pack

You should pack clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather as days can be very hot followed by very cold nights. Your clothes should be in neutral tones, not bright colours. Other items to pack include: insect repellent, camera, torch, binoculars, sunglasses and sun block.

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.