Sand Rivers Selous

Selous, Southern Circuit, Tanzania Book from

Reviewed by Gemma Pitcher
One of Tanzania’s classiest independent bush lodges, combining luxury and wildlife expertise in lavish quantities
How wild would you like your game? When it comes to going on safari, it doesn’t get much wilder than the Selous Game Reserve. Covering an area slightly larger than Switzerland, the Selous is a vast paradise of untamed bush, untouched forests, crocodile-filled lakes and emerald green floodplains in the little-visited south of Tanzania.

In the midst of all this sits a small luxury lodge, built from stone and ebony and set on a cliff. Its 8 open-fronted cottages overlook the great muddy sweep of the Rufiji river with its pods of honking hippos. Forget about queuing behind 10 other vehicles for a peek at a lion kill - Sand Rivers has a vast tract of wilderness all to itself, with expert guides to show you around it on foot, boat or by Land Rover. It's a birder’s paradise, with carmine bee-eaters swooping low across the grass of the plains, and fish eagles perched on palm trunks like totem poles. Walking safaris are a speciality here, as is fly-camping: sleeping out under the stars amid the sounds of the African night.

Highs

  • No other vehicles in sight on game drives
  • Lagoon swimming pool and stunning river views
  • Walking and boating through the wilderness was a highlight of our 2013 visit
  • Fly-camping under the stars - romantic and exhilarating
  • Lively conversation around the dinner table at night

Lows

  • It can get very hot at certain times of the year
  • Game can be harder to see than in the northern parks
  • Availability is limited, book ahead

Best time to go

June to Sept
Climate: warm comfortable days with cool nights. Dry.
Wildlife: the sandy dry river beds east of camp are good for elephant and buffalo en route for the lakes. Wild dogs start to den. Best time for walking safaris.

Oct & Nov
Climate: becoming dry and increasingly hot
Wildlife: heavy concentration of game around the inland lakes and along the river. Elephant and buffalo often seen wallowing. Lion and leopard not moving too far from the water, waiting to ambush. Hyena and wild dog lie in the shallows to keep cool. Migrant birds start to arrive, trees start to leaf. Pythons and crocs at their most active!

Dec to mid-March
Climate: hot with chance of rain and high humidity
Wildlife: miombo tree is in leaf, and pans start to fill with water. Lots of elephant and other game in woodland. Migrant birds are prolific, esp. on lakes (waders and water birds). Most animals are calving, so lots of babies! Not good for walking safaris.

Mid-March to May
Lodge is closed.

Our top tips

Pack walking boots, binoculars, hat and sun cream, insect repellent, swimming costume, long-sleeved shirts and trousers to fend off the mosquitoes, anti-malarials and a sweater for cool evenings.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 8
  • All inclusive
  • Over 8s 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
  • Safaris/wildlife
Room:

Rooms

The cottages are divided into 5 Standard Riverside Cottages and 3 Hillside Suites. All are raised off the ground and open-fronted to allow a view of the river. The principal furnishings in each are massive wooden four-poster beds, plus a set of easy chairs for watching the view. Some rooms are individual cottages, while others are ‘semi-detached’ with an extra shared veranda. Even in these rooms though, the design is such that there’s no problem with privacy - each is completely screened from view by the bush along the river. The Hillside Suites have the additional benefits of a private lounge with sumptuous sofas, and plunge pools set on their outside deck. Perched higher on the hill, they have awesome views and that bit more privacy, so they're ideal for honeymooners.

The huge bathrooms have no bath, but rock cascading waterfall showers, a flush toilet and plentiful hot water. Ceiling fans keep the temperature down a bit, but there’s no air-conditioning save for the breeze that blows in through the open front. Cheeky vervet monkeys sometimes scamper along the balcony rail or even venture into the bedroom in search of morning biscuit crumbs, and bats swoop in and out under the roof at twilight.

Features include:

  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is either a picnic eaten somewhere in the bush during a morning game drive, or a 'Full English', slap-up affair taken later on. Morning tea or coffee with homemade shortbread is served first thing as a wake-up call.

Lunch is fairly light - perhaps a few salads and quiche or cold meat - while dinner is a more substantial 3-course affair. Everything we tried was tasty and imaginative, with extremely fresh produce used throughout. We tucked into a delicious beetroot soup, homemade fresh pasta and a decadent chocolate pudding, accompanied by a few bottles of good wine.

Lunch and dinner tend to be taken communally around the 'Captain's Table', making for a great atmosphere and a lot of interaction with other guests. But if you’re after a romantic dinner a deux, tables can be set up by the swimming pool or in the main dining area (on request).

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Communal dining
  • Private dining available
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a walking safari with an armed, expert guide through the untouched bush, creeping downwind of a herd of elephant feeding; available on an exclusive basis for groups of 2-6 during certain times of year (May-October) - enquire when booking

  • Chug upriver in a boat, then float back through the pristine forest of Steiglers gorge. You’ll have a good chance of seeing animals coming down to drink, or you can take a rod and fish for catfish or tiger fish

  • Sink into the swimming pool at sunset and contemplate the hippos in the river below doing just the same

  • Spend an afternoon in the game viewing hide, equipped with beer, book and binoculars

  • Or soak in a set of thermal hot springs, tumbling into rock pools in the midst of the bush

  • Fly camp under a mosquito net on a sandbank or a dry river bed, miles from anywhere and lit by the moonlight. This should ideally be booked in advance, although it is possible to arrange fly camps when you arrive

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fly camping
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children over 8 are welcome and, provided they are robust and interested in wildlife, should have a great time. However only children of 12 years and above are allowed on the walking and fly camping expeditions. An extra bed can be added to the cottages, or children can share their own cottage (enquire about pricing in this instance).

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

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