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Selous Game Reserve and Rufiji River

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Posted by  Simba Sunday, 17 December 2006 20:52

Selous Game Reserve and Rufiji River

Selous Game Reserve

The vast untamed paradise of Selous is the largest unexploited wildlife area in Africa, and the second in the world. Its general inaccessibility, combined with the fact that no human habitation is allowed within its boundaries, has ensured a magnificent refuge for animals, birds, insects and reptiles. Here some of Africa's finest virgin bush, unchanged throughout thousands of years, is inhabited by three-quarters of a million wild animals. Second in number only to the Serengeti.

The isolation of the area is accentuated by the Rufiji River system; East Africa's largest. Its massive tributaries, the Great Ruaha, Kilombero and Luwegu, flow through the centre of the reserve. Although opened in 1905, Selous has remained one of the least known reserves. The reserve was named in honour of Frederic Courtney Selous, a naturalist, explorer, hunter and soldier, who was killed in 1917, during World War One. His grave lies inside the Selous Game Reserve, close to a ridge of hills known as Beho Beho.

Only the comparatively small portion of the reserve to the north of the Rufiji- Ruaha River systems and the Mgeta-Ruvu River systems is open as a photographic area. The vast south remains largely unfrequented.

The Great Ruaha flows into the Rufiji at spectacular Stiegler´s Gorge. The gorge was the site where German explorer Stiegler was killed by an elephant in 1907. After the Ruaha flows into the Rufiji river system, the waters have formed a string of lakes where schools of hippo up to 50 in number are frequently encountered, together with a wealth of other game animals and birds.

Tanzania is home to one of the single largest remaining elephant populations in the world. Most of these elephants are found in the Selous Game Reserve. Elephant may be seen bathing in the Rufiji River and the other rivers, browsing in the palm swamps, or crossing the track just ahead of you.

Lion are frequent, as also are vast herds of buffalo, the most numerous animal in the reserve. A pack of wild dogs may be observed. One of the last places in Africa where one may encounter the wild dog. In the savannah and woodland one may observe wildebeest, zebras, giraffe, waterbuck, baboon or eland, just to mention a few of the species found in the Selous. An extremely rich birdlife includes goliath heron, open billed stork, hammerkop, fish eagle, sunbird, kingfishers and many others to excite the ornithologist and nature lover alike. The Selous is best visited from June through to March, as during the remaining months, which are rainy, a large part of the area becomes inaccessible due to flooding.

The Selous Game Reserve was declared a "WORLD HERITAGE SITE" by the United Nations in 1982.

The Rufiji River

The largest river in Tanzania with its spectacular array of plants and animals can be devided into four distinct parts.

Starting up river where rivers like the Luwegu and Kilombero (Ulanga) form to become the Rufiji River at the Shuguli falls. Then flowing North- East through the Selous Game Reserve to be joined by the Ruaha River, entering its second part when entering the Stieglers Gorge. Here the Rufiji River makes his path through a 8 km narrow canyon, only approximatly 100 metres wide. In this gorge the river heads down over rapids known as "Pangani Rapids", Conman´s Foil and Ropeway Rapids.

Finally flowing out into a wide area where it splits into many different channels and lakes known as Lake Tagalala, Lake Manze, Lake Nzelekela, Lake Siwandu and Lake Mzizimia, the actual photographic tourist game viewing area within the Selous Game Reserve. All this time the river has been flowing through an area only inhabitat by plants, animals and birds, with the occasional tourists doing a boat safari.

As soon as the river leaves the Selous Game Reserve, the first village shows up on its banks, with fishing canoes and village farms. The Rufiji is free of swamps such as the Zambezi which prevent human appreciation of its waters from shore, and thus the Rufiji is also free from extensive mosquito breeding in this area, and many a village is prettily situated on his banks facing the river.

The river passes Utete, the starting point up river of larger canoes or boats, having travelled roughly half of its journey towards its delta from the Selous Game Reserve, and supporting grasslands, woodland, forests, swamps and thirteen other permanent lakes. Finally it reaches its delta which is the home to the largest mangrove forest on the eastern coast of Africa- a massive 53,000 hectares.

In the delta is also the last resting place of the "Königsberg", a German Cruiser sunk there by the British during World War 1 after sustaining damage and trying to fight off a superior force of attackers, it has however sunk even deeper into the Rufiji sands & silt, obscuring it entirely from view. Also the "Somali´s" last resting place is in the delta, being a coal ship to the "Königsberg" and also being sunk there.

 

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