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Lakes, Baobabs, Falls and Islands - Green Season in Southern Tanzania


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The world has changed. But two months everything was still good - it was "before". Corona was just some obscure thing happening on the other side of the world, and we did not think twice about going on holiday. We did not even discuss it. How fortunate we were, to spend two untroubled weeks before, to do what we love most - enjoy stunning Africa. We all will again, I´m 100% sure of that, but at least for a while all we can do is cherish our memories. And let us share these most recent memories with you - of a safari in Tanzania´s less-visited South.


The Lakes of the Selous:








Baobab paradise Ruaha:








The Forests and Falls of the Udzungwa Mountains:








Coastal time on the Mafia archipelago:






We are big Green Season fans. Yes, animal density might be a bit less but there´s plenty of the classics around:








Birding is fantastic - all the palearctic migrants are there, and all of them sport their very best-looking breeding plumage:






Also a good time to seek out new places and find a few unusual things:








Oh, and we definitely got wet! B)




And we got kicked out of camp! Had to dine armed with pistols! Got stuck in the mud in the middle of the most scary thunderstorm!  Had our cars break down! Had to escape angry Bees!


But most of all we had a fantastic time, and how could we not - in Africa?






Edited by michael-ibk
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Looking forward to this! Definitely an area I dream about visiting, someday... 

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So excited. Won’t be able to sleep. 

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Looking forward to your green season TR, Southern Tanzania is one of my favourite safari destinations.

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Me too and I can't help going back to that photo of the warthogs bejewelled by the carmine beeeater. Captivating!

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As I said before Ruaha is perhaps my favorite safari park until now notwithstanding that Zambia is my favorite country as a whole   ; I did go at the end of the dry season but heard a lot about the beauty of southern Tanzania in the wet season and you showed us just that ! Thanks a lot .

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@michael-ibk Looking forward to your report, we were in Ruaha and Lake Manze in september, and green season looks tempting.

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Looking forward to this report... Only been to Ruaha(back in 2003) in southern Tanzania, and that was amazing :) 


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Green season was a success.  There has to be a story behind that double snake shot, and you probably would not have gotten that in the dry season.  Excellent start!

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oh...sounds like a lot of excitement! Dining with pistols is not something one usually reads about in a trip report. Can't wait :) And off to a great start with some fabulous photos!


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Like all the others, I am also looking forward to your report!

We booked Ruaha and Selous for June. Yesterday our flight was cancelled. We will try to do it now in 2022.

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17 hours ago, Athene said:


Like all the others, I am also looking forward to your report!

We booked Ruaha and Selous for June. Yesterday our flight was cancelled. We will try to do it now in 2022.

Lucky for you - Selous and Ruaha is flooded - still a  lot of rain 

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Brilliant start, Michael ....... is that a Northern Carmine on Warthog?

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4 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Brilliant start, Michael

Okay Michael.  Let's get going.  Now it's 3 sleepless nights of anticipation.

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Thank you everybody!


On 4/14/2020 at 7:14 AM, Caracal said:

I can't help going back to that photo of the warthogs bejewelled by the carmine beeeater.


"Bejewelled" is a great word, I always learn new things here on Safaritalk. :)


On 4/14/2020 at 6:50 PM, Atravelynn said:

There has to be a story behind that double snake shot


There definitely is - this one was one of our most unique and remarkable sightings so far, David Attenborough stuff.


On 4/14/2020 at 9:06 PM, janzin said:

Dining with pistols is not something one usually reads about in a trip report.


A new experience but a fun one actually.B)


8 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

is that a Northern Carmine on Warthog?


Yes Hari, exactly!


4 hours ago, kilopascal said:

Okay Michael.  Let's get going.  Now it's 3 sleepless nights of anticipation.


Very sorry about that, I hope I can make it up to you. :)

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Our itinerary was:


1.2.-2.2.20     Vienna/Addis Ababa/Dar Es Salaam/Selous

2.2.-5.2.20     Lake Manze Camp, Selous Game Reserve

5.2.-9.2.20     Mdonya Old River Camp, Ruaha National Park

9.2.-12.2.20   Hondo Hondo Forest Camp, Udzungwa Mountains National Park

12.2.-15.2.20 Chole Mjini Lodge, Chole Island (Mafia Archipelago)

16.2.-17.2.20 Fly back to Dar Es Salaam/Addis Abeba/Vienna


Ruaha has many fans here on Safaritalk, and we long wanted to go there. It works well in combination with the Selous, so that was another easy choice. The Udzungwa Mountains - this is purely because of @inyathi´s trip report from some years ago which sparked my interest. I always enjoy seeing less visited places, and this park certainly fulfilled that desire. And Mafia? We really enjoyed being at the Sea last year in Gabon, and I was also hoping to get some Coastal birds.


Birding. Safaritalk regulars will have noticed that I have gradually become quite serious about this over the years. So expect the report to be quite full of twitching stuff - although I promise to not overdo it. Or promise to try not to overdo it. ;)




African Pygmy Kingfisher


Birding was also one of the reasons for the choice of season. There are many more species to be found at this time of the year. Palearctic migrants are present, and most birds sport their very best looks - they are in breeding plumage. Even more importantly, we greatly enjoy the lushness of an emerald Africa - I love the combination of green, white and blue. And even though there´s always the risk of rain and animal densitiy is definitely lower the pros outweight the cons for us- especially considering the lower prices! And after the number of safaris we´ve under our belt now we are far more laid-back about sightings - there´s something very relaxing about a trip without any special "wishlist animals".




We booked with Expert Africa, a well-reputed UK company many members here have often used. Absolutely perfect in every way, everything you want a safari operator to be, so I´ll recommend them 100 %. We had bush flights between all camps so did not lose any time on long transfers outside parks. The one exception is Udzungwa, we flew to/from Mikumi and had a couple of hours drive there.


International flights: We were a bit unsure if it was really wise to have our bush flight into the bush only three hours after arrival in Dar but in the end decided to try our luck. We were a bit nervous - we had not suceeded in getting an online visa (that registration site is a nightmare!). And we had to change from international to domestic as well. So did we really have enough time to disembark, get through immigration, change airports, check-in again?


In our case: Yes, plenty off! We landed at 13:20 and were out of international at 13:55! Only 10 minutes to domestic and we actually had to wait around quite a while until we took off at 16:30 (a bit delayed because of heavy rain).


Visa was no problem, we had made an effort to be out of the plane quickly so were the first to get to the counters. First get the visa, pay it at the next counter (USD 50,-- pP) then go to passport control. No photo needed.


Bush flights were all perfectly on time and as comfortable as these things are. The planes are a bit bigger than most used in Botswana or Zim, seating around 10 (or more) people.


Enough technicalities - let´s get into the parks!




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I have talked about the risk of rain. Well - it´s the rainy season. And this has been an extreme rainy season so far with an unprecedented amount of precipitation. Flash floods caused major damage to local infrastructure, livelihoods and personal properties. Schools, roads and bridges have been destroyed as well as lots of farmland. Some areas are only accessible by boat. As already stated by @Africalover unfortunately the situation has not improved at all, March and April have also brought heavy rain over the country.


The weather was nice enough when we were landing in DAR (some mobile pics/vids coming up now):






The very high-tech counters at the domestic airport. :)


Suddenly a rainstorm started to rage while we were waiting and for a while it did not seem so certain we could depart at all. Some other passengers heading to Zanzibar were very reluctant to go, the airport manager (or whatever the correct term is) had quite some trouble to convince them that they would be in safe hands with their pilot after the rain had decreased a bit. Well - the concern was understandable:



But finally we were good to go. The rain softened more and more but it was very dark and gloomy. But still we felt elated - great to fly over African bush again!



As you can see in the latter part of the video Selous was a land under water - huge parts of the reserve were (and probably still are) flooded. There was not too much solid ground left for the runway:






But our pilot suceeded - not that easy on such a muddy underground. We met our guide and driver from camp, and off we were. We were in for quite a long drive, it was already way past 1700, and everybody has to be in camp by 1900 by park rules. And it was a long way to camp, I´d estimate more than 40 km. Normally Lake Manze is serviced by Siwandu airstrip but that one was not operational (probably submerged) so we landed at Mtemere gate farther East - see the Expert Africa map here for reference:



So we were very short on time and were told we had little, no no time at all to stop for sightings. We tried to adhere to that but how can one not stop for African Wild Dogs? Lying on the main road just as if they had been waiting for us, acting as the Selous´  official welcome committee?






Hi my friends, great to see you too!




We were delighted! Whilte the Selous has a good reputation for the Dogs (or Painted Wolves, as they are called more and more) they are never granted anywhere.








We spent about 15 minutes with them - a bit of a crime leaving them just when they were getting active in the golden evening light (notice how it has cleared up again?). But still a long distance between us and camp.


And some more challenges awaited us - once we left the main road driving became insanely tricky, and there were some black cotton soil areas where we could not really see how to get to the other side. But our driver Abuu really was champ. We got stuck a couple of times, once for 10 minutes, the guys went collecting twitches and branches to get something solid under the wheels and that finally worked.


So it was 1930 when we finally got to camp. We had 10 minutes to shower, then it was time for dinner. In the middle of the bush - oh how fantastic it felt to have G&T, eat sit and chat in the middle of nowhere. Hard to believe that just 24 hours ago we had been in Vienna. We were in a different world again - and had two weeks to look forward to!

Edited by michael-ibk
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@michael-ibk Did you see any evidence regarding the building of the Dam at Stiglers Gorge

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No, the location of the dam is a long way from Lake Manze. Dreadful to think what it will do to the ecosystem!




Without further ado some game drive pictures (not sure yet if I will do this report on a day-by-day basis, let´s see):




Giraffes are incredibly plentiful in the Selous. Mysteriously we have precious few pictures of them - it´s the Impala problem, when there are so many you stop noticing.




I threatened to do birds a lot, and here they are:




Northern Carmine Bee-Eater, one of my favourites.




Grey-Headed Kingfisher








I don´t know why, whenever I thought of the Selous I had pictured a dry and arid place. Well, it´s a wetland around the main waterbodies, especially this time of the year of course. Very different (in a beautiful way) to what I had imagined.




White-Throated Bee-Eater, very common in the Selous. I was really happy about them, I have only ever seen them before from great distance.






Greater Kudu, a regular (though not particularly numerous) presence in the park.




A young Bateleur - the most common bird of prey here.




We only encountered a couple of Dagga Boys throughout our stay, no big herds around.




Yellow-Billed Stork, seen regularly at water´s edge.






The classic safari animal. Dog Food!




This guy was only showing its profile to try to conceal the embarrassing fact that he was one horn short.B)




Everything looks good against the gorgeous Green Season background - even a Dove.




Cinnamon-Breasted Bunting




A familiar bird to Europeans - Little Ringed Plover. An unusual sighting here, Selous is out of range for them.






Southern Ground Hornbill, the only ones we saw this trip. Weather, as you might notice from the photos was back and forth. Pretty grey and dark at first, but later on a bit of sun would battle its way through now and then.






Bush breakfast - mmh. Nothing better to sit out there and enjoy the view.






I´m a bit confused about the Zebras here - according to some stuff on the internet these are Crawshay´s? I did not notice any difference to the ones in Ruaha (which are Grant´s) so maybe some of our experts would like to chime in?




Well, whatever race you are you are a pretty one little one!






Vultures always mean a kill. While we did find a Wildebeest carcass deep in unpenetrable bush the culprit was not around any more - or maybe just sleeping somewhere we could not see them.




Have never noticed this before - African Palm Swifts are particularly numerous when there is a cadaver around. I can only guess they are attracted to all the insects attracted to carrion.




A good long drive - we were only back in camp after noon.:)

Edited by michael-ibk
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It might be a rainy season, and wet, but skies are blue and clouds are white and bee-eaters are carmine ... you have chosen the right time and the right place for what might be the only trip in 2020!


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Bush breakfast brings back warm memories of our conversations with Mgomo and Kalisti, our driver and guide.

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7 minutes ago, xelas said:

you have chosen the right time and the right place for what might be the only trip in 2020!


bite your toungue there @xelas  We are still hoping against hope for our Patagonia trip with Michael and Andy to happen!

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Fantastic photos, and so cool to see Painted Wolves/doggies before even getting to camp! Love how they look against the green, too.

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@michael-ibk I know that building of the Dam is far from Lake Manze. I have camped at the lake many times. I have heard of heavy trucks driving to and from the building site. 

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Isn't it better to be positively surprised ;), @janzin ?! We two also have a trip to be done in November ... just don't know which year :D.


@michael-ibk indeed splendid photos; have you done post with Lightroom?

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