A guide to the southern parks of Tanzania
Often overlooked by many safari operators in favour of the northern parks, the southern parks of the Selous and Ruaha are worth serious consideration, particularly for those heading off on their first safari...
There are many benefits to heading to the southern parks. The first is that they are still very much the frontier parks and so are noticeably less busy than the northern parks of Tanzania. The Selous Game Reserve (which is approximately double the size of Wales), has only 8 or so camps inside, and with the majority sitting on the banks of the mighty Rufiji River, the game viewing is never a disappointment. Similarly, Ruaha National Park, famed for its large cape buffalo and lion populations, is one of the least visited parks in Africa and only 6 or so camps operate within the boundaries of the park.
The second benefit is that, where the northern safaris are limited to vehicle based safaris, the southern parks offer a more varied, and fuller safari experience, as you are able to walk, boat and drive. The range of species that can be seen here is similar to that of the Serengeti with lions, leopard, elephant, hippo, crocodile, wildebeest, impala aplenty, with the addition of the incredible African wild dog. Whilst particular sightings on safari are never ‘guaranteed’, the variety of game viewing activities definitely gives guests more of a chance to see animals in different habitats!
The final benefit is that whilst the average price of a camp in the northern parks is around $800 per person per night, Selous and Ruaha can be considerably cheaper, especially if you combine their sister properties to take advantage of the multi-camps discounts.
Essential Destinations: Lake Manze & Mdonya Old River Camp
As part of the Essential Destinations portfolio, Lake Manze Camp in the Selous and Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha are the cheaper camps to stay in for a southern safari. The emphasis of these camps is entirely on the game viewing as they both sit in prime locations of the parks for wildlife. They both offer a rustic and authentic safari experience, with simple yet comfortable accommodation, cosy drinks around the fire and candlelit, communal dining. Lake Manze Camp is one of our favourites and with elephants often casually walking close or through the camp, it is no surprise that it gets such fantastic reviews! Essential Destination offer a free night at Mdonya River Camp when 6 nights are spent in their safari camps.
Selous Safari Company: Siwandu & Jongomero Camp
A step up in the level of accommodation are properties in the Selous Safari Company portfolio. With their 9 spacious tents overlooking the Rufiji River, Siwandu Camp is the perfect camp for those looking for some luxury when they return from an exciting day in the bush. Simiarly, Jongomero Camp which is their sister property in Ruaha offers a memorable and luxurious stay in utter seclusion. Although Jongomero Camp is located on the southern borders of the park (further from the game and other camps in the northern part), the experience whilst at Jongomero Camp is all about being immersed in the total tranquillity and remoteness of the bush. Selous Safari Company (SSC) offer a combination of special offers including multicamp discounts and super saver and low rates acrosds the high season.
Asilia: Roho ya Selous & Jabali Ridge
As the newest properties to open their doors in the Asilia portfolio, Roho ya Selous in the Selous and Jabali Ridge in Ruaha are definitely worth keeping an eye on! Translating as the ‘heart of the Selous’, Roho is perched on a hill overlooking the Rufiji and has been designed to combine the indoor and outdoor living. The stunning rooms each have air conditioning, an indoor and outdoor shower, and a private shady veranda to relax on. Moving on to its sister property, Jabali Ridge is arguably, the most luxurious camp in all of Ruaha. Sat on the rocky kopjes of the northern part of the park, Jabali Ridge offers many facilities that other camps in the park simply do not, such as an infinity pool, outdoor loungers, private verandas with day beds, wifi in the rooms and a spa!
Nomad: Sand Rivers & Kigelia Camp
Featuring in the Nomad Camps portfolio are Sand Rivers Camp in the Selous and Kigelia in Ruaha. Set out to the west of the park (in the northern, safari region of the Selous), Sand Rivers enjoys a privileged position, away from the relatively busy central region of Manze and Siwandu. The camp itself offers luxury in chalets overlooking the water, and for those looking for complete tranquility, the suites are located up on the hill feature wonderfully open rooms with lounge areas and private plunge pools. Its sister property, Kigelia is located in a quiet but game abundant region of the park and its guiding and attention to detail is generally very high. Nomad offer a 4 nights for the price of 3 on Sand Rivers alone but combine it with Kigelia and you can take advantage of their 7 for 5 offer.