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First trip report: Nyerere National Park (Selous), Tanzania, August 2022


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Hi, I'm new here, be gentle!


Last year I experienced my first (and only, for now) safari in Nyerere National Park, Tanzania. I came home with an itch that will only be soothed by more, and planning commenced for a second safari in 2024. In my planning I discovered Safaritalk and the phenomenal wealth of information in your trip reports - what a treasure trove!


Those trip reports gave me a different perspective on my own safari. In a way I'd already experienced that trip three times over. First through anticipation of what was to come, second through the actual lived experience, then thirdly in recollection as I browse and edit photos and reminisce with family. But as I browsed the reports on Safaritalk, I began experiencing my trip for a fourth time - seeing it in a new light, calibrated against the accumulated experience of this enthusiastic group.


I feel obliged to add to that treasure trove. A small singular contribution for now, but I hope there will be more to follow. It will take me some time over the next few days to flesh out a detailed report as I refer to photos, videos and notes. For now, here's a summary itinerary and a teaser view of the Rufiji river with bonus hippos.


Day 1 Fly London -> Doha-> Dar Es Salaam (Qatar Airways)

    1 night: Dar Es Salaam (Hyatt Regency)

Day 2 Fly Dar Es Salaam -> Mtemere Airstrip (Auric Air)

    4 nights: Selous Kulinda Camp, Nyerere National Park

Day 6 Fly Mtemere Airstrip -> Zanzibar (Auric Air)

    5 nights: Breezes Beach Club (Zanzibar)

Day 11 Fly Zanzibar -> Doha -> London (Qatar Airways)



Edited by JimS
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Looking forward to more @JimS! It's exactly ten years since my first trip to Africa, we've been back four times with a fifth planned for February.  Going to Africa can be dangerous! 

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10 hours ago, JimS said:

I came home with an itch that will only be soothed by more,


Welcome @JimS - once caught that safari bug is persistent !

It's a long time since I visited Selous and I'm looking forward to your sightings, thoughts and impressions.


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Welcome to safaritalk and many thanks for writing up a report!!! 

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Thank you for the kind encouragement so far. I'm sorry this is slow going, I'm not dragging it out to tease you all, just quite busy at the moment - not least trying to nail down plans for a Zambia trip next year - but for now here's more Tanzania.


Getting there:


I won't dwell overly much on the journey other than a few points.


Flights: We flew with Qatar from London Heathrow to Dar Es Salaam via a connection in Doha. We had a theoretical 1hr40 connection time in Doha, but our first-leg flight landed approximately 1hr20 late. I was expecting we'd miss our connection and wasn't looking forward to the subsequent hassle. As it happened, we disembarked the plane to find an army of Qatar ground staff each gathering up passengers for specific connecting flights before leading them off in walking trains through the terminal like teachers on a school trip. I was impressed with how well organised this was, and it made me more inclined to use Qatar in future.


Overnight in Dar Es Salaam: We overnighted at the Hyatt Regency in Dar before taking Auric Air flights to Mtemere Airstrip at the gates to the NP the next morning. The hotel was fine just as a place to get some rest, there's a swimming pool which was welcome to unwind a bit and relax in the heat.


Zanzibar/Safari combo: We had open-jaw tickets, but more like "slightly ajar jaw" as we flew in to Dar Es Salaam and would be departing from Zanzibar (we were spending the last few days of our trip in Zanzibar). For anyone else considering a Zanzibar add-on, the open-jaw flight isn't strictly necessary as bush flights to Nyerere NP can be taken from Zanzibar just as conveniently. In fact, our little Cessna Grand Caravan from Dar actually flew first to Zanzibar to collect another family before flying on to the NP. For anyone considering a combination beach/safari trip, Zanzibar is a decent option. We saw a larger prop plane land at Mtemere and spill out a sizeable group of tourists wearing beach attire with no baggage - I can only assume this was a fly-in safari day-trip from Zanzibar.


As first-time safari-goers this flight was a thrill in itself.


View over Dar Es Salaam on approach to land:



Pool and port view from room in the Hyatt Regency:



View of the Rufiji river as we come in to land at Mtemere airstrip:



Mtemere airstrip is a pretty major hub as airstrips go round here. In this view taken from the "lounge" you can see the toilet block in the background, and the larger Unity Air flight that brought a dozen or so beach tourists from Zanzibar on a day-trip.


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Welcome to Safaritalk Jim, and thanks for contributing already. Really love your first photo, captures the essence of what it´s like being on safari. Looking forward to more!

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Let's move things along to some real safari action....


We arrived at Selous Kulinda Camp around lunchtime. The camp consists of 14 Meru tents accommodating up to 28 people, but we found we were the only guests. I hope this scarcity of business was a hangover from Covid and things have picked up since. But for now, we're here for the wildlife, so I'll come back to describe the camp and it's pros and cons later.


We would be here for 4 nights, with the following schedule:


Day 1:

  • Lunch at camp
  • PM: boat safari on Rufiji

Day 2:

  • All day game drive, lunch in the bush

Day 3:

  • AM: tour of Mloka village
  • Lunch at camp
  • PM: boat safari

Day 4:

  • AM: walking safari
  • Late morning to PM: game drive, lunch in the bush

Day 5:

  • AM: game drive
  • PM: transfer to Zanzibar


I had my GPS watch with me, and recorded our movements over the days. This map shows the general routes taken on either the full or half-day game drives, and the boat safari:



Boat safari on Rufiji river:


Our driver/guide Maarufu drove us through Mloka village to a nearby spot where a few boats were pulled up onto a beach by the river - some small pontoon-style boats for safari tourists, as well as the canoes used by villagers for fishing. We boarded a small pontoon boat (just our family of four) and spent the next 2.5 hours on the river.


Remember this was our first time on safari, so I hope we can be forgiven for getting incredibly excited at the slightest sign of a hippo:



By the end of the trip we'd be almost bored of them (is it ever possible to be bored of hippos? I find them very charismatic).


The main draw of the boat safari was the birdlife. I'm sure I'm missing lots, but among the birds we saw here were white-fronted bee-eaters (large colony in the river bank), African skimmers, African fish eagle, kingfishers (malachite-, pied-, brown-hooded-), heron (green-backed/striated, purple, grey, goliath), yellow-billed egret, yellow-billed stork, maribou stork, black-headed Ibis, hamerkop,  African harrier hawk, spoonbill.


None of us are (were) birders, but really enjoyed all this and I could see myself getting converted.





Edited by JimS
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welcome @JimSwe are always very gentle especially with newbies. we need them to fill our world with rides on their journeys  into the safari world every day so that we won't miss the bush so terribly. And you are off to a great start!

that shot of landing into the airstrip with the view of Sealous made my heart beat a little faster. why am i not there too? 

Looking forward to more adventures and tales from you. 

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... still on day one not counting our overnight in Dar...


After our boat safari, Maarufu drove us back to camp for dinner, and we discussed plans for the morning. I am nothing if not an enthusiastic follower of the 7 Ps, so despite this being our first safari I felt I knew what to expect from "plans for the morning" - ie an early start, a 5:30 wake-up call, a hurried coffee and snack, on the road by 06:00 sharp, gasping at the lions tigers and bears, then back for a hearty brunch and a well earned snooze.


OK, not the bit about tigers and bears. But at Selous Kulinda it seems also not the bit about the early start. The plan is an all-day drive, but only after a leisurely breakfast at 08:00. I was a little disappointed by this, but was outnumbered by 3 other family members all relieved to have more sleep, so the plan was confirmed.


Day 2 - all-day game drive

Breakfast was simple but satisfying. A few options of cereal/pastries, fresh omelette, strong coffee, then we all pile into the vehicle with Maarufu for the day's adventure. Being the only guests in camp, we had the vehicle to ourselves. As we drove to the park entrance Maarufu talked to us about what we were hoping to see. I'm sure we gave typical first-timer answers, listing a typical wish-list of large mammals. At this point we were unsure how likely predator sightings would be - on one hand thinking we'd be lucky to spy a glimpse of a lion from half a mile away, on the other hand hoping we'd be a few metres away from leopards snoozing in trees.


We passed through the Mtemere gate around 09:00, and soon left the main road for smaller intimate tracks. Around the system of lakes just north of the river the woodland means that visibility of wildlife can be restricted until you're almost on top of it, but also means a more intimate experience without seeing many other vehicles at all, despite being so close to the main gate into the park. The first time we really came across any other people was when we stopped for lunch at midday in what seemed like a kind of safari motor-way service station, complete with picnic tables and a smelly toilet block full of wasps. Game viewing that morning was plentiful although lacking in predators other than crocodile. Nonetheless, we were just thrilled to be were we were, and so far satisfied by the abundant non-predator wildlife.


Fleet of vehicles at camp:


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We saw a couple of herds of buffalo, this one around 50-100 strong:

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A couple of dagga-boys we stayed well clear of:

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My camera let me down here, out of about 10 shots of this fish eagle none were sharp, this the best of the bunch (more about camera gear later):

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Safari motor-way service station:

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Edited by JimS
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I really like the Wildebeest under the silver Thorn Tree with the dark clouds above - very evocative.

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12 hours ago, AndrewB said:

I really like the Wildebeest under the silver Thorn Tree with the dark clouds above - very evocative.


Thanks @AndrewB - it's one of my favourites from the trip. I realise when I go back over old photos that I'm drawn to pictures that are wildlife + landscape, rather than ones that are just portraits of the animals. I really like the reminder of how it felt spending time in that landscape.


Another favourite for similar reasons is this kudu. I keep meaning to make a print of this to hang on the wall at home so I feel like I'm back there any time I glance at it.





game drive4-0002.jpg

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Driving on after lunch, we soon arrived at a dry river bed with a stand of palm trees on the opposite bank. Maarufu explained this is a popular spot for a well known local lion pride to sleep in the shade. We scanned the trees with binoculars, and sure enough here were our first lions.




We were alone here for a few minutes, then a few other vehicles arrived, possibly up to 4 or 5, and we decided to move on having spotted a couple of elephants digging for water further down the river bed.




The rest of the afternoon brought more lions among many other species of interest










Edited by JimS
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A short note on photographic gear:


Prior to this trip, I've always had a bit of an interest in photography, but not specifically wildlife photography. I was most interested in the kind of reportage/street style of photographers like Martin Parr. My own camera gear was aligned to this: Olympus Pen-F with 12-40 f2.8.


I'll save the detail for another post in a more appropriate sub-forum, afterall this is a trip report not a gear review. But the learning curve of the photographic experience was a significant part of the overall experience for me, so it feels worth commenting on.


The short story is: I decided to stick with the Pen-F, rent a long lens (Oly 100-400mm f5-f6.3) and add a grip for ergonomics. I found this combo to be adequate if not ideal: I have lots of shots I'm very happy with, but also lots of shots where the equipment (and photographer!) weren't quite up to it. Focus was OK, but struggled with birds in flight or when animals were framed by foliage. I also suspect in hind-sight I was over-afraid of high ISO and over-trusting in image stabilisation; if I shot faster speeds at higher ISO I might have more 'keepers'.


I also took both a bean-bag and a monopod. I quickly abandoned the bean-bag, it just didn't seem to help much, and was very difficult to maintain a comfortable shooting position. The monopod seemed to be much more useful. With more hindsight, I wonder if the monopod was giving me an impression of stability, but likely transmitted all the engine vibrations asking a great deal of the image stabilisation. In future I think I will just go hand-held and trust the camera.


My biggest learning from the trip was that I absolutely don't want it to be a one-off, and will gradually change up my gear. I'll stick with the M43 system though; the size/weight trade-off is equally attractive for safari as it is for reportage. Despite recently upgrading to an OM-1, I will be happy taking the Pen-F body on future trips as back-up.

Edited by JimS
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  • 2 weeks later...

Day 3 - Visit to Mwaseni and Mloka villages / boat safari


We started day 3 with a visit to the 2 nearest villages. We visited the school in Mwaseni and donated some supplies. Despite it being a non-school day many of the local children were curious enough to come along. My daughter played draughts with Maarufu and then with one or two of the local children - losing rapidly every time. Then we drove on to Mloka where we took a look around the market and had a beer and some "chips mayai" in one of the many pubs.


Learning some history of Tanzania in Mwaseni school



Playing draughts with Maarufu and the locals:



Mloka village market:



A few of the many pubs in Mloka:



Victor's restaurant (also known as the New King Lion Safari Pub) where we enjoyed a Kilimanjaro beer and Chips Mayai:



We commented on how busy Mloka was, and Maarufu explained how it is an important stopping point for any vehicles making the drive through the National Park to Kisaki, and more recently for the construction traffic heading to the (controversial) dam project. Every time we passed through the village we would see cement trucks being serviced or just parked up while the drivers got fed and picked up supplies.







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I'll depart from the chronological step-by-step report from here on, and focus on a few notable topics or sightings. Starting with...


The playful crocodiles of Lake Siwandu:


Crocodiles were plentiful on practically all our boat safaris and game drives. On one game drive as we circled Lake Siwandu we noticed a crocodile holding something in its mouth. Many of the crocs were gaping in typical fashion, but this one looked as though it trying to wedge its mouth open. Was this a way to ease the fatigue from holding its jaw wide for so long? That didn't see likely seeing as all other crocodiles seem to manage fine. Over the course of the day, we saw a few more that seemed to be holding things in their mouths, and asked Maarufu about it but he didn't have any insight to offer.








When back home, I googled for information about crocodiles holding things in their mouths, but perhaps unsurprisingly the only things the search engine thought would be held in a crocodiles mouth were other animals during their journey into the crocodile's stomach. I couldn't find any images at all of a crocodile holding a (non-prey) object in its mouth.


Then I was looking through some video from the trip, and came across a short clip of some hippos in Lake Siwandu. At the time of shooting I was oblivious to the crocodile in the background which gets its play-thing wedged in its upper jaw before violently shaking it free. Here's the clip, plus a zoomed in (apologies for the potato-quality) version centred on the hapless croc.


Spot the playful crocodile just above and to the right of the left-hand hippo:


And zoomed in on the croc:


It seemed odd that within the space of a day we saw multiple crocodiles exhibit a behaviour I couldn't find in any online images.


My scientist brain was triggered and I started a search for experts on crocodile behaviour. I soon come across Vladimir Dinets, who seems the perfect person to contact. In this article he specifically talks about the challenges studying croc behaviour, and how he crowd-sources research by collecting the observations of non-scientist visitors. And he has a web page of his own where he says "if you have any questions, email me". So I did.


I imagined the thrill this academic would feel when someone shows interest in his (poorly funded and unfashionable) research and sends him new data. This could be an important new area for investigation. Maybe crocodiles in this one location have developed behaviours not seen elsewhere. It could be the start of a new friendship as we discuss details of our observations back and forth. I might quit my job and devote the rest of my life to studying these unique reptiles.


OK, I'm getting carried away, but at the very least I supposed he might respond expressing some degree of his passion for these creatures, and pleasure that someone else showed an interest in them and took the time to contact him.


I did at least receive a reply, albeit perfunctory: "Crocodiles often carry objects in their mouths (bones, in particular) but nobody knows why. Form of play, probably."


Oh well. But I'll always have my playful Siwandu crocodiles to remember. I'd be interested to hear from other ST members if they've seen anything like it in crocs elsewhere?




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  • 2 months later...

Great photos @JimS! Just timing in over the holiday and thankful for your report! Great stuff!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/25/2023 at 4:28 PM, TravelMore said:

Great photos @JimS! Just timing in over the holiday and thankful for your report! Great stuff!


Thank you @TravelMore, you've reminded me that I left the report hanging a little, I'll find some time over the weekend to finish things off, including a brief summary of our stay on Zanzibar which proved a very convenient way to add a beach break onto a Tanzania safari.

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You had a great first trip.  Love your enthusiasm and getting carried away about the playful croc.  I have not seen something like that.  Your visit was about a month after mine and I felt like I was scrolling through my photos when looking at your report, but you had more lion and buffalo herd activity. The double pied kingfishers are a treat.   I like the map of your activities. This may be the first report that incorporates the 7 Ps of marketing!  Hope those 7 Ps accompany you on future safaris. 

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I finally got around to looking back through old photos, so I can add a little more.


Our final morning game drive was probably my favourite memory of the trip. Maarufu, our guide, began the day asking us if there was anything we hadn't yet seen that we wanted to really focus on. We told him nothing in particular, that we just really wanted to savour the experience of being in this wilderness, and a slow drive with no particular aim in mind was perfect. He seemed to take this on board, and there was no hurry, sometimes he'd just stop the engine in a picturesque spot and we'd watch and wait to see if anything of interest played out in the scene.


Early in the drive, we rounded a bend by one of the lakes and he pointed out this impala standing stock still staring not at us but at something among the trees stage left. I had my phone out filming at the time, this is a screen scrab from the video - I circled the impala in case it's hard to pick out on the video frame :).




"She's more scared of something over there than she is of us, let's go see what it is"


Sure enough, following the track we find this lioness trying to get some rest.




We watched her for a while, but if I learned one thing on my first safari, it's that well-fed sleepy lions are not that interesting to linger around once you've got your photos.


Then nearby we found a very well-fed male dozing next to their kill. Presumably she and her female friends were likely the ones responsible for the kill, but he was the one who got to sleep next to the buffet in case he got peckish again.




We watched him for a while. Sometimes there was a moment of excitement when he rolled over and we'd think he might tuck in to some more... but each time he'd soon doze off again. Lying there almost comatose with such a rounded belly he just reminded me of the sensation I feel after a big Christmas lunch. All this time we had not seen another vehicle all morning. After a while another vehicle arrived and shared the sighting with us, but only the one.



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As I said, well-fed sleepy lions are not that interesting to linger around. The animals who proved most interesting to observe for long periods were the elephants and the baboons. Sometimes both together.


Our game drives were in the area around lakes Mzimima, Siwandu, Nzerakera and Manze to the north of the river, and we spent a lot of time in woodland where we'd encounter elephants browsing singly (like the young-ish bulls below)...






... in pairs of adolescents engaged in playful sparring...




... or in small groups often with calf chaperoned by mum and aunt(s).






Norman Carr, in "Valley of the Elephants" provides a useful gauge for estimating the age of a young elephant. In this case, as the youngster would just about fit under the belly of its (assumed) mother, Carr would place it somewhere shy of 1 year old. Maarufu felt it was around 6 months.


Another youngster (below) was also under a year old, and showed the characteristic lack of trunk control. There was no lack of dexterity with its hind legs though, deftly back-heeling an unfortunate egret.






On that last morning, when we asked Maarufu to take it slow, we sat in silence for a long time watching one elephant browsing around a Doum palm while baboons in the tree above tossed down fruit for him.



While nearby another was practicing his own technique to dislodge the fruit without waiting for the baboons to help out.





Edited by JimS
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@JimS- thanks for this and Selous looks wonderful ..... What is the current situation of Wild dogs in the park? thanks....

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6 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@JimS- thanks for this and Selous looks wonderful ..... What is the current situation of Wild dogs in the park? thanks....


Hard for me to judge. We didn't see any on our trip, but they are in the area, as mentioned in @Galana's recent trip report from a stay by Lake Manze


(and yes, it was wonderful. I don't yet have any other safari destinations to compare it to, but it was wonderful enough to make me want more)


Edited by JimS
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Just got this @JimS. Fascinating to see someone on the first, of many, safaris.

Two of your comments I may be able to help with.

Crocs and stones. When a dead croc is opened for analysis they have all sorts of 'rubbish' in the stomach. Obviously stuff just gets accidentally ingested in the swallowing process but there are stones too. I think from a mix of observation and 'imagination' that they may 'suck' on the stones to stimulate moisture/saliva. I know it is a remedy for thirst when in the desert so why not? We used to suck pebbles when kids.  I know crocs are cold blooded reptiles but no doubt they require saliva for their tongues to stop them sticking.


Dogs are doing well in Nyerere.

Edited by Galana
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  • 1 month later...

Hope you can do another safari before too long.  Nyerere/Selous provided a wonderful introduction for you to enjoy a variety of animals without a lot of other vehicles around.  Adorable baby ele!  Thank you for circling the impala.

Edited by Atravelynn
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