Friday, February 20, 2009

Overland to Selous Safari Camp

We were up at 0530 on Feb 7 2009 for yet another early breakfast (toast, jam & fruit - alas no soy milk at Sand Rivers Lodge for cereal). With Philip behind the wheel, we set off for what turned out to be a 5.5 hour overland expedition to Selous Safari Camp. Initially, it was very slow-going due to wet and muddy roads. Kathleen and I were both a bit tense but Philip capably guided the heavy Landrover vehicle through or around some nasty spots where it would have been easy to get stuck. As time went by, conditions improved and we started to relax and enjoy the trip. Early on, there were literally hundreds of birds around hawking flying termites from the sky. It was particularly impressive to see many carmine bee-eaters swooping around.

Carmine bee-eaters seen en route between Sand Rivers Selous and Selous Safari Camp


Two more Carmine bee-eaters


And a last pic of these gorgeous birds, who are summer visitors to much of Eastern and Southern Africa


An LBR - Lilacbreasted Roller. These birds are a common sight on safari in much of East and Southern Africa due to their habit of perching very conspicuously, and of making very visible sallies to hawk insects in flight. Of course their brilliant coloration also draws attention


Bonus photograph of the same Lilacbreasted Roller, slightly different posture


As a game drive, the overland trip was very successful with good views of hyena, side-striped jackal, several small herds of wildebeest, some zebra (still skittish), kudu, warthog and loads of giraffe.


The local race of wildebeest is more tawny in coloration than the typical black wildebeest found elsewhere in East Africa

The kudu is truly a majestic antelope with its massive spiraling horns


Everybody's favorite. Warthogs are entertaining animals with their odd feeding behavior (often seen rooting around on their knees), their rather comical appearance and their habit of raising their tails like antennas when fleeing any sign of danger


The most amazing experience of the day was a stop at a small lake which produced as interesting a spectacle as I have ever experienced in Africa. There were literally hundreds of crocodiles in the receding lake, lined up side by side and nose to tail, just their heads and backs visible, lurking in the water while waiting for fish to get close enough. When this happy event (for the crocodile, not the fish) occurred, it resulted in jaws snapping shut, with a simultaneous splashing effect. As we were watching, all we could hear and see was one splash followed by another and then another, sometimes several in rapid succession. It's a tough life out there for a fish in an African lake, when there's literally nowhere to go. Philip told us that there was an estimated 1,000 crocodiles in this small lake. There were at least 300 of them visible from where we were parked, with many others either submerged or out of sight. There was also a massive raft of hippo in the center of the lake - with several egrets using them as convenient perching spots. Just to top it all, we spotted at least 20 different bird species in and around the lake. Too bad we couldn't spend more time here, but we had a long way to drive. Sand Rivers Selous Lodge uses this area for a stop-over point for their all-day game drives. I would recommending spending at least 3 nights at Sand Rivers and including the full day game drive in order to reach this area.

From here onwards the change in terrain is noticeable. It changes from riverine bush to open woodland approaching the Beho Beho Camp area, and then morphs into dense woodland in the eastern section of the reserve towards Selous Safari Camp. Just before we reached the designated meeting spot (where a Selous Safari Camp driver would meet us for the last stretch of the drive) we made a stop at Selous' gravesite.

Selous Game Reserve was named after Frederick Courtney Selous, an Englishman whose knowledge of the African bush has entered the stuff of legends. From 1871, and for 40 years hence, Selous developed his intimate knowledge of the wilderness and served as hunting guide for personages as illustrious as (then) former US President Theodore Roosevelt. He died during World War I when he was shot by a German sniper not far from the Rufiji River near Beho Beho on January 4, 1917. Selous was buried near the site where he died.

This simple plaque marks the last resting place of famed hunter, adventurer, explorer and soldier F.C. Selous, a legend in his own time


Bert, Kathleen and Philip near Selous' grave-site in the Beho Beho area


Our accommodations at Selous Safari Camp was one of the best designed tents we had experienced to date, octagonal in lay-out with a large veranda both in front and behind the tent; there is a large separate bathroom area and an outdoor (enclosed) shower.


Kathleen on the front veranda at our tent in Selous Safari Camp. This looks out over the lake; at night hippo move into the camp area to graze.

Interior of the tent at Selous Safari Camp.


Another view of the interior of our room at Selous Safari Camp


A view of the bath room and the outdoor shower. This would cause us a problem as some bees were constantly coming to drink underneath the wooden shower platform. They did not take kindly to competition and I got stung in the back of the neck.

Later that afternoon, we were taken on a pleasant boating outing on Lake Nzerakera, observing many species of birds, some gorgeous natural scenery as well as plenty of hippo and crocodiles. Dinner that night was one of the best on the trip, with delicious stuffed butternut squash as the main course.

The attractive pool area at Selous Safari Camp

On February 8 (another early morning) we enjoyed our first guided walk of the trip, with guides Mpoto and Mashaka. In single file, we walked for what must have been 4 miles or so total, through a variety of habitats including riverine forest and open woodland, making frequent stops when Mpoto would point out animal spoor, droppings, interesting plant species, etc. For example, Mpoto illustrated the symbiotic relationship between ants and a local type of acacia tree. As soon as the tree is disturbed (such as when a browser tries to feed on it), the ants appear in their hundreds and thousands, ready to defend their home against all comers. We also saw quite a bit of game which is unusual on a foot safari: hyena, warthog, giraffe, impala and elephant. At the end of the walk we were treated to a surprise breakfast in the bush, with fresh juice, tea/coffee, toast, egg frittata and oats porridge with soy milk for the vegan. There was also a fresh fruit starter.

Our Selous Safari Camp walking guides Mashaka and Mpoto at work


Guide Mashaka talking about the symbiotic relationship between this tree and the ants which inhabit it.


Surprise bush breakfast at Selous Safari Camp


When we first spotted this hyena at the base of a tree, it took a while before someone on the vehicle spotted the day-old puppy at its feet


As we approached the female hyena became somewhat restless and stood up. We kept our distance and she soon settled down


Looking for mother's milk, the young pup at first overshot the mark


Soon enough the young hyena had found its target and was happily feeding


Our last game drive at Selous Safari Camp was rather quiet; significant amounts of rain had fallen in the area lately and this disperses the wildlife. Even so, we had our best sighting yet of a hyena with a newborn cub. Other visitors who had stayed at this camp just days earlier reported excellent game-viewing. Given the abundance of resident wildlife in the area, one can confidently visit Selous Safari Camp with expectations for good to excellent game-viewing. The dry season from June through September is the best time of the year to visit for game-viewing. As for Jongomero and Sand Rivers Selous I would highly recommend spending a minimum of three nights at this camp. We loved Selous Safari Camp and would definitely want to return there. Camp manager Jenny could not have been nicer and the camp chef went out of his way to accommodate any special diets.


A view over Lake Nzerakera


We spotted this handsome Saddlebilled Stork during our last game drive at Selous Safari Camp


From one bird to another: this Cessna Caravan would take us from Selous Safari Camp back to Dar Es Salaam (30 minutes) from where we would be driven to our last stop, Ras Kutani Lodge on the Indian Ocean

1 comment:

johnking said...

Loved the animal pics, is National Geographic your side job? Stay healthy man, Im dealing with a nagging hip, see ya in 8 weeks!