THE FLY" SELOUS TO KIGOMA
by Karen Hoffman
24 hours in the Selous (pronounced Se-loo) is certainly not long enough for a wildlife safari in the world's second largest protected area and Africa's largest game reserve! But thanks to Coastal Travel Services, a charter flight took our press group of ten journalists from Dar es Salaam for the one hour scenic flight over this 21,000 square mile park. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 and more than half the size of the state of Ohio, the Selous is three and three quarters times as large as the more famous Serengeti in Northern Tanzania.
We arrived at the air strip where the staff of the Selous Safari Camp met us. Game viewing began immediately as we spotted giraffe, zebra and impala on the way to the luxury tented Selous Safari camp (formerly the Mbuyuni Safari Camp). Each of the 12 tents has a wonderful view of the Rufiji river, which, as the largest in East Africa, divides the park in half. Each tent is well appointed with every convenience, while totally eco-friendly, including private bathroom facilities inside the tent and an enclosed outdoor shower. We enjoyed river sunsets from the quiet of our own porch or from the camp's 'dungu' style (raised covered structure), open-sided, dining, bar and lounge area.
One of the unique attractions of the Selous is that it is the only game reserve in Tanzania to offer the visitor the opportunity of a boat safari, walking safari and game drive! And in 24 hours we did it all. After a gourmet lunch on the day we arrived, we climbed into the open four- wheel drive vehicles for an afternoon game drive. And here is a major attraction of the Selous-no traffic jams in the bush. You go on a game drive, often encountering no other vehicles. What you do encounter are the herds of elephants (Selous has about 50,000), and the pride of lions feasting on their recent kill. Instead of the chatter of other tourists, you hear only the new and thrilling sounds of the bush.
We returned after four hours, hot and dusty, but cameras ready for our next venture: a sunset boat safari. We fanned out on the Rufiji River in small, open, outboard motor boats. Our game viewing continued- spotting crocodiles, hippos, buffalo, rhino and elephant- all from the water. Everyone becomes a bird enthusiast with the stunning colors and variety of bird species found along the river banks. While sunsets everywhere are 'breathtaking moments', the combination of the cloud formations and river foliage called for quiet meditation to absorb the spectacular curtain of light mirrored in the water.
The camaraderie of the bush evening at the bar area is followed by dinner. Sal Economos, an American from the New York area, is manager of the camp and is also responsible for these tasty menus! All meals are family style around a large table, which encourages friendships and of course, game viewing boasting! For those guests who have more than the 24 hour fast track and have time for a refreshing swim, the Selous Safari Camp has a lovely pool, with luxurious lounges and protection from the hot sun.
At six in the morning our 'wake-up' call is a friendly 'jambo' (hello) from the tent porch where the Askari (guard) has left tea and biscuits. We gather at 6:30 am for the walking safari. All the guides are well trained and knowledgeable about their surroundings, but the guides' enthusiasm, respect and love of the wildlife, flora and fauna is what really makes the safaris so memorable. Being on foot and seeing the animals in the wild adds a frisson of excitement to the viewing. Two hours later we enjoy a hearty bush breakfast before we race to the landing strip for our flight back to Dar es Salaam. The bush experience was so intense and so remote, that it became a spiritual and totally uplifting experience.
Facts for Travel
Ras Kutani is a charming and secluded beach resort located just south of Dar es Salaam and provide a perfect base to explore Zanzibar. Later this year, the Jongomero Camp will open in the Ruaha national Park, also part of the Southern Circuit. Frank Cary, who was in charge of the safari at Selous Safari Camp will manage the new Jongomero Camp.
Seasons in the Selous: Most camps are closed during the rainy season from March through May. June through November is dry season and the best time for game viewing. If you don't mind the heat, December through February are also good game viewing months.
Land access has improved, but flying is still recommended over the 12 hour drive from Dar es Salaam, which is difficult and can only be made during the dry season.
On to the shores of Lake
Kigoma, a thriving port town, is also the final destination on the central railway line from Dar es Salaam. The lovely 82-unit Kigoma Hill Top Hotel, is literally perched on the hill overlooking the Lake and Kigoma harbor, serves as a wonderful base from which to explore this region. The one story units are attached and include a number of one bedroom suites. All have modern conveniences and porches offering guests a beautiful panorama of Lake Tanganyika and Kigoma Harbour. There is a lovely dining room and swimming pool set amidst the lush tropical gardens.
Gombe Stream National Park, famous for Jane Goodall's Chimpanzee studies and movie, can only be reached by boat. Located only 10 miles north of Kigoma, Gombe is a short (45 minute) boat ride and makes a perfect one day safari. Gombe is a small park of only 20 square miles. The steep mountain range that rises from the shores of the Lake, with peaks reaching altitudes of 2235 ft to almost 5000 ft, form part of the eastern wall of great Great Rift Valley escarpment.
Another remote park on the Lake known for its chimpanzees and other primate species is Mahale Mountains National Park. Like Gombe, there are no vehicles in the park, and the main attraction is to walk among the chimpanzees. The best way to see Mahale would be to charter a small plane. The 95 -mile trip south by boat to Kigoma would take at least seven hours.
A visit to the historic fishing village of Ujiji, four miles south of Kigoma on the way to the airport, is a must before leaving Kigoma. Ujiji is famous as the place where Henry Morton Stanley, upon finding Dr. David Livingston, uttered the now well known phrase "Dr. Livingston I presume?" But the real lure of the Village is the activity along the water. On a stroll along the lake front you can gain an insight into life along the Lake; the dhows (dugout boats with sails) being repaired and the fishermen busy with their nets. A large dhow, or Mumbwi in the local language, takes seven people one month to build, using cotton and palm oil between the planks to make them water tight. In sharp contrast to the Selous, the attractions around Kigoma and Lake Tanganyika represent the diversity of the Tanzania Safari experience!
Coastal Travels Ltd. has been operating out of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania since 1988, with extensive experience in Air Charter and Tour Operating in East Africa that span several decades. Anna Westh, a young, active lady and accomplished pilot is the managing director and pilot, takes care of customer relations, development of new routes and special flying Safaris. Coastal developed the "Scheduled Flying Safari", thus offering the opportunity, to small parties and single persons, to join an adventure which would otherwise have prohibitive costs. Coastal's flying operators cover mostly the southern circuit of Tanzania offering flying safaris that combine the Selous Game Reserve, The Ruaha National Park, and the exotic island of Zanzibar.
Coastal's fleet consists of 9 aircraft, ranging from small three seats we use for very private Flying Safari, like honeymooners, to large (12 seats) turbine aircraft with high wing, to enjoy a better panoramic view.
Tanzania Tourist Board website:
Tel: (255) 22 2134802
(255) 22 2113220,
Fax: (255) 22 112794
Kigoma Hill Top Hotel:
P.O. Box 1160, Kigoma, Tanzania
Tel: (255) 285 4435, Fax: (255) 286 956434
Coastal Travels Ltd:
Tel: (255) 22 2117 959 or
(Great Flying Safaris) 960
Fax: (255) 22 2118 647 or 2117 985
Sheraton Dar es Salaam: The 251-room Sheraton offers a downtown location overlooking the Gymkhana Club and golf course. Outdoor swimming pool. Tel (255) 22-211 2416 Fax (255) 22-211-3981
E-mail: email@example.com, www.sheraton.com
Hotel Sea Cliff Hotel: This 86 room hotel is located right on the Indian Ocean. Outdoor swimming pool and casino on property
Tel: (255) 22-2600380, Fax: (255) 22-2600476
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, www. hotelseacliff.com
The Slipway- Sunset dining on teh Indian Ocean. Locatred on teh Msasani peninsula is a wonderful restaurant and shop[ping complex on the Indian Ocean. Formerly a boat yard, the Slipway has 4 waterfront restaurants, upscale arts and crafts shoips, fashion boutiques, a bookstore and bank. Tel (255) 22 260-893,
fax (255) 22-260-0908