Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Selous Game Reserve, the largest in Tanzania and Africa as a whole

IN Southern Tanzania, there has been set aside the largest game reserve area known as “The Selous Game Reserve” which is the famous with the largest fauna reserves of the world representing over 5 percent of Tanzania's total land area. The Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa, with an enormous land covering an area of 55,000 square kilometers (21,081 square miles) This game reserve was named after an Englishman who was a soldier with the rank of a Captain, Sir Frederick Courtney Selous, a famous big game hunter and an early conservationist, who died in this territory in 1917 while fighting against the Germans during World War I. The area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to the diversity of its wildlife and undisturbed nature. The history of the area dates back in 1905 when it became a hunting reserve under the German colonial administration when few people in East Africa thought of land conservation and the preservation of wildlife for posterity and consequently portions of the area were earmarked for a hunting reserve.
Seventeen years later, four reserve areas were combined to establish what is today the ‘Selous Game Reserve’. The game sanctuary is one of the largest protected areas in the world and it runs in almost five regions of Tanzania which includes, Coast, Lindi, Mtwara, Morogoro and part of Ruvuma. For nearly thirty years Selous was a self-employed professional hunter across the great uncharted regions of Southern Africa. But he was also a naturalist and at the same time as killing a prodigious tally of game, he was also studying it and considering the future of its survival at a time when this kind of forward thinking had not really come into being.

A group of elephants in their grazing grounds at Selous game reserve park.

Being a British explorer and hunter in East Africa, he wrote a book about the region and his travels, and was tragically killed in land now named after him during the First World War. Nowadays it also has a touristic importance, though most of it is rarely visited by humans. Presence of the Tsetse fly and very difficult road access discourage visitation, however, it is easily accessible by small aircrafts from Dar es Salaam Today, Selous game reserve is the single largest game reserve of Africa probably in the world, the geographical features in this game reserve is that, it’s well fed by different tributaries and streams. These are the Rufiji River and its tributaries, the Great Ruaha river and Kilombero river. The Rufiji River empties out its waters into the Indian Ocean along the Tanzanian Coast. The vegetation in Selous game reserve varies remarkably, there are savannah grassland and deciduous Miombo woodland which dominates most of the reserve. It’s also covered by the dense thorn bushes and ground water forests as well as rocky outcrops. Selous game reserve contains the world’s largest concentrations of the typical animals of the savanna land who includes elephants, buffalo, crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Other animals are Leopards and African Wild Dog as well as lions can be found in this park in larger numbers than in any other African park.

A group of gazelles have a tendency of walking together and feeding closely in an open space for their security from predators.

Interesting places in the park include the muddy river Rufiji which is full of many marine creatures that includes fish eagle, skimmer, waders, herons, kingfisher and weavers. Antelopes, white bearded wilderbeest and giraffes are commonly seen north side of the river which flows into the Indian Ocean in front of the Mafia Island and the Stiegler, a canyon of 100 metres depth and 100 metres width. Around this canyon can be found most of the touristic facilities. Its rivers, hills, and plains are home to roaming elephant populations, the area is famous with wild dogs, and some of the last black rhino left in the region. Due to its remote location, and because it is most easily accessible only by small aircraft, the Selous Game Reserve has remained one of the untouched gems of Tanzania’s national parks and game reserves, and offers visitors a chance to see a wild and expansive Africa far from paved roads and curio shops.

Giraffes on their feeding habitat at Selous national park

In 1922, the land area was increased and named after Frederick Selous. From then until 1975, when the current boundaries were delineated, the Selous Game Reserve increased steadily in allocated land. These days, tourists flock to the north of the reserve, while large portions of the south are still reserved for hunting. The Rufii River is the largest water catchment locations in the region, and as such, is home to a plethora of varied water and bird life. Along its shores, oppulent hippos sleep languidly in the mud and sun themselves, mouths wide open, as the river passes by. Crocodiles are also common along the Rufiji’s riverbanks, their armour plated skins the only rough edges in the rivers incessant flow. Stiggler’s Gorge, where the Great Ruaha River meets the Rufiji River, is a breathtaking example of the diversity and spectacular scenery along the game reserve's waterways.

This is a wild dog specie that can be found at Selous game reserve park.

Zebra at the park

The Selous is unique among Tanzania’s more renowned preserved areas because it is a game reserve, not a national park, and therefore a larger range of activities are permitted. Boating safaris are becoming a popular alternative to vehicle-based trips, and offer visitors a chance to see the diverse life along the Rufiji River up close in all its splendour. Hiking safaris and fly camping are also ideal ways to explore the country and add a bit of adventure to your African experience. If you are looking for elephants, this is the place to find them, there is a large population of these giant mammals. The vast majority of Tanzania's elephant herd live in one remote stretch of safari wilderness the Selous Game Reserve. Other species commonly seen are lions, wild dogs, buffaloes, bushbucks, impalas, elands, baboons, zebras, ostrich and greater kudus. The Rufiji River system, the greatest in East Africa flows through the reserve and is home to countless hippos and crocodiles. Linked to the Rufiji is Lake Tagalla, where waterbucks, reedbucks, bushbucks and the rare sable antelope can be seen. Walking safaris, game drives and boat trips are organized. The Rufiji River provides excellent opportunities for sailing or rafting to view game. Fishing is allowed in the rivers of the Kilombero Game Controlled area to the west of the reserve, where tiger fish and catfish are plenty. Much of the reserve is available for hunting.

This is an ostrich, the only bird specie which mixes with other herbivorous animals while feeding on a vegetation. Its height is about 6ft high.

The wilderness of the Selous Game reserve park that shows an area with well conserved vegetation.

The Selous wildlife is all the more interesting because it attracts both East and Southern African wildlife, both resident and migratory, and over 440 known species of birds. The waterways of the Rufiji River Delta attract elephant herds, and are packed full of grunting hippopotami and yawning crocodile that lumber into the water at the first sound of a boat. The banks attract large herds of plains game depending on the season, dispersing after the rains and regrouping when the water sources concentrate. Selous scenery is widely varied, with unusually green grasses and tangles of vegetation.

No comments: