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Published: January 24th 2012
So the big three in the spectaclular Selous National Game Reserve are definitely Giraffe, Hippo and Impala but for those of you who know that my other passion besides leopard print clothing is all things dogs, the true show stopper found here has to be the African Wild Dogs. But I am getting ahead of my story.
Selous was noteable for a series of 'firsts'. First boat drive(s), first permanent tent sleeping accomodation (as opposed to lodges, etc. and the 'camping' tenting we will be doing later), first walking 'drive' (previously always in trucks - except for Gorilla/Monkey treks which are different than a 'drive'😉. As Mon wrote in Selous 1, being out on the water of the river and lakes provided a different and really enjoyable way to view birds, hippos and crocs and the landscape. Being in a tent at night brought us much closer to our surroundings - all night long we heard the the cacaphony of hippo grunts and snorts, hyena cries, baboon hoots and countless insects and night calling birds. The walk got us closer to the little things in wild Africa - getting to know specific footprints/droppings, getting (too) close to the thorny Acacia
bushes and trees and just seeing things from ground level (spotted some Mongoose, Warthogs and a Hyena).
A word about our 'tents.' The only resemblance they bear to the ones we know from camping trips are the canvas sides and roof. These accomodations are built on wooden platforms with porches facing the river and feature a large sleeping area and then a separate vanity area and a further separate shower and flush toilet in the back. They have their canvas roofs with net vents and then a canvas 'fly' or roof cover and then a further tarp roof cover over that. During the one night thuderstorm we experienced, absolutely no water got anywhere near us. These things are very much like the safari tents one sees in old Africa movies (King Solomon's Mines, Out of Africa) with the raised platform added in. Pretty posh.
Another feature of wonderful Selous Impala Camp is the resident hippo, named Andrea. Andrea (as in singer Bocceli; the hippo is a boy) roams the camp morning and evening serving as a living lawnmower, munching his was around the tents and other buildings. I thought it was too good to be true when I
spotted him on Impala Camp's website but he is real folks and a pretty funky addition to this spectacular lodge.
During our various 'drives', we saw all the usual suspects (see pics), most noteably a couple of hyenas (can't resist them) and hippos from the water. Our wonderful guide Ezra and driver Rajabu were great at spotting, softening the blow of potholes and ruts and setting out bush breakfasts with all the frills during our morning game drives. Ezra knew that we (like many who come to Selous) were keen to catch a glimpse of the endangered and somewhat elusive African Wild Dog. Hunted to near extinction by farmers and falling victim to domestic canine diseases like Distemper, their numbers have dwindled to alarming lows. They are now making a resurgence (mainly due to tourist interest) and Selous GR is gaining a reputation as one of their home ranges and increasing packs and numbers. But, as Ezra warned us, none had been spotted in the previous 4 days. You always know that spotting any particular animal species is a bit of a 'crap shoot' and after all Africa is not a zoo, so it is important to remain optimistic
but know that you may be out of luck. Such was not the case with the dogs.
As we were out on our second day morning game drive (again starting in near dark ), a call came over the radio and Ezra declared a 'news flash' - a pack of Wild Dogs had been spotted some distance away at Lake Manze. He informed us that it would be some distance's drive and would mean delaying our bush breakfast. Of course we all agreed to 'drive on' - one can always eat later (and sleep later, as I am increasingly learning). After an unknown time but somewhat painful drive (locals call driving on the bumpiest roads I have ever been on an 'African massage'😉, we came up on the pack of 5 resting under a palm thicket. Unlike daytime snoozing lions, they were awake, alert and on the move, albeit at a leisurely pace so we followed them for a good while (and took countless pics) as they meandered casually in search of game (mostly Impala). Words cannot desribe how interesting and beautiful they are and I have to let our pics do the talking.
Too soon we had
to call it a morning and head back to camp. This was undoubtably the top highlight of many highlights at this beautiful park - our first female Twin Otter pilot on our fly in to the reserve, a sunset champagne toast at the river's edge on our first night, seeing hippos up close and personal and open vehicle game drives (nothing between us and the game of choice but a bit of a jump up into the car!). Sensational Selous - if you have the chance , you must go.
Now we are back in Dar getting ready for our final departure from Carol and family and East Africa. I have truely grown to love it and would come back to see so much more. But it is time to get on the Tazara Train and head to the heart of Africa - Lusaka and Victoria Falls.
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