Rufiji River Camp

Selous Game Reserve, Southern Circuit, Tanzania Book from

Walk, drive and boat alongside a dizzying array of wildlife in Africa's largest conservation area
There are almost a million wild animals in the Selous Game Reserve: lions, leopards and giraffes; hippos, hyenas and zebras, and the world’s biggest elephant population. Yet strangely, the park has far fewer visitors than Africa’s other reserves. Bisected by the mighty Rufiji river, the savannah plains stretch as far as the eye can see. In dry season (June-Dec) they are parched and yellow, in wet season (Jan-May), green and luscious. And the wildlife is on constant parade.

Rufiji River Camp, a 14-tent hideaway, has a spectacular setting in amongst it all. Perched on the river bank you’re ideally placed to admire hippos splashing and crocodiles sunbathing just below you. Vervet monkeys and baboons run through camp; waterbucks and kudus come to drink. It's mesmerising and you can sit and watch for hours. But tear yourself away because the Selous is one of the only places in the world you can do boating and walking safaris. Unleash your inner tracker and trace footprints and scat trails to understand animal behaviour. Dr Dolittle would be proud.

Highs

  • The opportunity to do walking and boating safaris, and to go fly camping under the stars. Excursions are bespoke, arranged at the time of stay
  • Lovely thatched Family Tents set on wooden platforms with 2 bedrooms and a private plunge pool
  • The swimming pool - perfect after a long game drive in the sun
  • Unusual species such as the sable antelope and white-backed heron, plus huge packs of wild dogs
  • Thanks to its size, the park seems relatively empty compared to Ruaha and Mikumi; you’re unlikely to see other jeeps on game drives

Lows

    • Meals are on the simple side and lack variety
    • We found the water pressure underwhelming
    • The tents are powered by a generator, and only have power in the evenings
    • Service can be mixed

Best time to go

The prime time for game viewing is during the dry season, from June through to early December, when wildlife concentrates along the river banks and around the few remaining watering holes. During the rainy season the park looks simply stunning, you still see masses of game and new species of birds arrive from other parts of the country.

Our top tips

  • Most guests who pass through Rufiji combine their stay with visits to the Foxes' camps in Ruaha, Stanley Kopje and the Lazy Lagoon lodge on the coast

  • Pack wet weather gear and some kind of fleece if you're here between December and May, a broad-brimmed sun hat, sun blocks and creams, binoculars and bird guide, mozzie repellent, a good head torch and masses of memory for your camera
  • Great for...

    Eco
    Family
    Great Outdoors
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Safari Camp
    • 14 tents
    • All inclusive
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Outdoor Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    Room:

    Rooms

    Eleven of the 14 tents are spread out along the riverbank on a platform, with the communal lounge, bar and eating area in the middle. Contemporary in decor, they have wooden floors, thatched roofs, walled ensuite bathrooms and voile netting draped over beds. The kitsch animal-print cushions are a great touch, as are the hand-carved writing desks and there are shelves to store your kit. Electricity is provided by a solar powered generator, and is only switched on in the evenings. This is means that showers are warm (rather than hot), and we found water pressure to be an issue. All tents can be set up as singles, doubles or triples.

    Outside, each tent has a private veranda with a mikuti thatch roof, table and chairs; guests can sit here and watch the animals in the Rufiji below. At dusk, a lantern is placed on the table to help light the tents; this is removed once guests are asleep.

    There are also 3 Family Tents, each made up of 2 adjoining tents on a private platform, and sleeping 4-6 people. They're more luxurious than the basic tents, and have a snazzy bathroom and a private plunge pool with loungers on their terrace. Perfect for families, friends or those wanting a little more privacy and space, we feel these tents offer the best value.

    For the ultimate back-to-nature experience, go fly camping for a night. The temporary camp is a 45-minute drive away on the shore of Lake Mzizimia, and consists of 20 simple tents. Each has fold-up cot beds with mattresses, and a table and safari chairs outside. The bathroom is shared between the group - 2 toilets and 1 shower - and soap and towels are provided. Meals are cooked on an open fire then served in a lakeside gazebo, and an armed ranger is on-hand at all times.

    Features include:

    • Extra beds
    • Fan
    • Internet access
    • Mosquito net
    • Safe box
    • Terrace

    Eating

    Expect good simple fare, although there's not a huge variety. Breakfast is a buffet consisting of hot cinnamon rolls, eggs and toast, served with coffee or tea, and juices.

    Lunch is a buffet or a simple packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit and cakes if you're going out on a full day drive.

    Dinners are a 3-course affair - often taken out on the terrace under the stars weather permitting. Starters are served at your table, think tempura vegetables or an onion soup with warm bread rolls. The main coursed is a buffet of various meats, pastas, curries and vegetarian dishes. Dessert was a sponge cake with chocolate sauce, a little bit bland, but we were told it’s hard to get a lot of ingredients so far out in the bush. If you're lucky, the Masai may entertain you while you eat, with singing and dancing.

    Features include:

    • All meals included
    • Bar
    • Children meals
    • Communal dining
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Head out on game drives in one of the lodge 4x4s: wildlife viewing simply comes no better. Rates include 2 drives a day: one in the morning (either before or after breakfast), and one in the late afternoon (around 4pm). Alternatively you can request full day drives. All guides are local and knowledgeable about the wildlife, plants and the game reserve in general. Each drive is accompanied by 1 guide and 1 driver, with a 2-way radio

    • Take a walking safari - the Selous is one of the only places in the world you can do this: experience the thrill of tracking animals alongside an armed ranger, and have local plants pointed out to you and their uses explained

    • Take to the Rufiji for a river safari at sunset. Utterly thrilling, you'll chug alongside hippos and crocs, and watch other animals drinking at the water's edge

    • Get out your binoculars: there are over 440 species of bird in the Selous: yellow-billed storks, Goliath herons, eagles, kites, pelicans, egrets and ibises are amongst them

    • Swim in the camp pool; towels are provided

    • Try sport fishing: go out in a boat and cast a line for catfish or tiger fish

    • Visit the thermal hot springs or the mighty Stiegler Canyon, where the Rufiji meets the Ruaha River

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Fishing
    • Hiking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Safaris
    • Swimming
    • Wildlife

    Kids

    Game drives can be tailored to suit and you can also set up fly camping trips en famille for an ultra personalised experience. Bear in mind that when taking kids on safari, it's best if they're over 8 (younger ones can't sit still for long enough or stay quiet) and it's a good idea to bring games and DVDs with you. There is no babysitting option here.

    The owners recommend splitting a family safari by doing maybe 3 nights on safari, then a break in the Highlands or somewhere where the kids can run around and do activities, then another 3 nights on safari and then back to the beach. In their experience, it has worked well.

    Best for:

    Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Family Tents are 2 interconnecting tents, on a private platform, with your own plunge pool. Each sleeps 4-6

    Children's meals:

    The camp host can accommodate special requests or earlier meal times to suit

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Swimming pool
    • Game drives; one of the Maasai guides is exceptionally good with kids
    • Boating on the Rufiji River

    Families Should Know:

    A Maasai escort will ensure families get between their rooms and the facilities safely; parents must keep their kids in view at all times

    Distances:

    • Airport: 10 minutes (airstrip); 40 minutes (Dar); 50 minutes (Zanzibar)
    Kid Friendly:

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