In my previous post I described my journey from Kigali – Rwanda, to a place where nature rules. This place is called Selous Game Reserve. To get there we had to fly for about 45 minutes on a Cessna Caravan aircraft operated by Regional Air from Dar es Salaam airport to an airstrip called Stiegler’s.
During the flight you cannot fail to notice how urban and settled Dar gradually gives way to the clouds and then to the huge stretches of Miombo woodlands, swamps, lakes, meandering rivers and lot of animals. Through that small aircraft window one gets introduced to the mighty Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania.
When we touched down at Stiegler’s we were welcomed with a cold glass of fresh juice before jumping into the open jeeps to where we were to spend the night. Our host was an affable gentleman called Nickson Kanyika. Nickson, the lodge manager of Serena’s Mivumo River Lodge, gave us a briefing on what the day’s programme looked then off we went.
On the way to the lodge we started getting a real feel of the Selous Game Reserve. Which shall henceforth be referred to as the Selous – feel free to treat the last S like a suggestion box; ignore it. Now that we have the pronunciation fixed we can continue. The Selous was named after an English conservationist , Sir Fredrick Selous.
It is so vast that it occupies over 54,600 square kilometres. To put that into context, it is slightly bigger than Rwanda and Burundi combined! For those friends of ours who love to think Africa is a country and therefore don’t know what or where Burundi and Rwanda are, get this – the Selous is bigger than Switzerland.
The game reserve has over seven airstrips and Stigler is just one of them, named so because it is close to Stiegler’s gorge along River Rufiji. When it comes to flora and fauna (by the way those are not some girl’s names), Selous has it all and in big numbers. In most game parks one is bound to brag about how many lions they saw, in Selous you just talk about what they were doing.
The reserve is so big that as you drive around you often get the feeling you have been kidnapped by the driver but not yet aware because you can drive for hours or even a whole day without meeting another tour truck or van. In some areas, all you can see are the green trees and shrubs.
Then in other areas you will find lots of trees that met their untimely death a couple of days back. By the way is it just me who is always bothered by that phrase untimely death? Is there like a right time for death? Isn’t all death untimely except when we are talking about suicide and executions? Anyway, I was talking about elephants. These beasts are not really interested in short cuts. The prefer using vectors and so the trees painfully have to pay for that decision if they are in the path of the elephant.
Driving around the reserve, I noticed the nonchalant attitude of most animals. Around Lake Tagalala, the crocodiles could be seen just relaxing in the water with only their eyes exposed. I saw one leaving the land and heading for the water and I could not tell whether it was done with breakfast or looking for breakfast.
The problem with watching too many wildlife TV shows is that you keep thinking animals are always looking for something to eat yet sometimes all they want to do is chill and probably meditate about their life decisions like us. I think this is exactly what the hippopotami do with all the time they spend in the water.It’s the only explanation I can think of.
We later chanced on some lions. At first we met three of them sheltering under a tree. They were so close to the car and I was forced to pray that they were either fasting or vegetarians. You know there are times when your brain indulges in so much stupidity that you feel like it should never be donated to a medical school for research. Anyway those crazy thoughts helped me gather the courage to do what anyone else in my place would do – take a selfie!
We drove away and met two other lions, a male and a female. They seemed not to be on talking terms, you know like couples do once in a while. We chose not to interfere in their relationship matters and so we continued and this time found a lone male lion but about 50 metres later we stumbled upon the real show. We found two lions and after about five minutes they started making out. Since all of us were above age, no one looked away or pretended to. Would you?
Anthony just seemed bothered by the fact he could not zoom anymore while Bernard was asking all sorts of irrelevant questions like, “Is he done? Are they going to cuddle? Morris didn’t pay much attention probably because he has seen it all on Youtube or maybe because he was sure Anthony would share with him the video soon after. By the time we left that place somethings were clear, lions do not cuddle after ‘doing it’ and some more lions will be born soon in the Selous.
Another thing that fascinated me about the wild is how sharp the drivers’ eyes are. One moment he speeding down a track and the next moment he has stopped the car to show you an animal that is trying its best to hide behind the vegetation. however it is not always rosy for them. Our strong Toyota Land Cruiser at one time got stuck in a ditch after we gone off the main track to follow some shy elephants.
We spent time trying to dig the car out of the mud as once again my brain went into that ‘what’s the worst that could happen now’ mode. The driver called for help but before that the car behaved and soon we were heading back to the lodge. And this lodge brings me to the real secret of the Selous.
The Selous is not all about wildebeest, lions, Nile crocodiles or elephants. By the banks of River Rufigi and its brown waters you will find the exquisite Serena Mivumo River Lodge. A property that comprises of twelve timbered chalets each with a private viewing deck complete with a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower.
I made it a point to use the outdoor shower each morning just to send a message to the hippos that some human beings are well endowed with very big thighs – I am sure hippos needed to know this. Yes, thighs, just thighs, what did you think I was talking about you perv…?
Away from big things, the chalets are so comfy and after a long game drive going to your chalet is such a rewarding experience. Just throw off your shoes and feel the polished wood under your feet. Feel free to set the lighting to what you want because it can be adjusted with a knob. The furniture is generally from a time before now probably to relax you further so you can stop worrying about time itself.
In the chalets there is not TV to remind you of where death and destruction are happening or wifi for people to bother you with requests to type ‘Amen’ on pictures of strangers on Facebook. It is your time and space. Only best to share it with a special person. If you were thinking honeymoon. Oh honey this place has so much moon!
There is a central dinning area and safari bar where we enjoyed many crazy stories about anything and everything over a drink. Often times someone would laugh so loud that I suspect the animals would stop what they were doing and talk about humans and the noises they make.
The experience at Mivumo River Lodge is not complete without a boat ride along the Rufiji river where you get real close to the hippos and crocodiles. The best thing about the boat ride is that you get to see how incredibly beautiful the chalets you are staying look like from a distance. My favourite moment was seeing baby crocodile on the banks of the river. They just look like well fed geckos and yet soon they will grow into one of the most skillful hunters in the animal world.
About an hour’s drive away you will find another Serena Hotels property, the Serena Selous Camp. Here you will also find twelve widely spaced safari tents with natural thatch roofs, elegant Victorian-styled bathrooms and private viewing decks. I am talking about canvas walls, opulent rugs and elegant rosewood furniture. What more would you want?
Then there is the villa for those who really want to live like or are royalty. Words cannot describe it. And I will not pretend to. Indeed the real secret of the Selous, is that amidst all the abundant natural beauty, one will still be blown away by the awe-inspiring beauty of the Serena properties therein. My only regret was not using the Jacuzzi. As I left my chalet on the last day, I felt as if I was leaving behind a new friend that I never got know quite well and yet I should have. For that one reason, I will be back!