The Siwandu airstrip is almost an hour from the lodge so the 40-minute flight from the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, is usually followed by a leisurely game drive to camp where a traditional welcome of singing and dancing, cool drinks and face flannels awaits. Bags are whisked away to your room while the manager meets, greets and orientates.
The Selous (the size of Switzerland) is one of Tanzania’s least-visited, but most rewarding game reserves, located in the south of this vast country with few other safari lodges in the area. Roho Ya Selous (Heart of the Selous) is in a remote location on a small kopje (hill) overlooking the Rufiji River, near lakes Manze and Nzarakera. There are excellent numbers of giraffe (in particular), big cats, hippo, zebra, antelope and wild dog while the birdlife (fish eagles a speciality) is spectacular and the elephant population (which has historically been badly poached) is recovering.
The camp has a wilderness feel with both the dining and communal areas set on stone platforms with stretched canvas roofs and open sides with spectacular views down to the river through rolling tropical woodland. Solar power is used with a back-up generator.
During the peak dry season (June to November), the wildlife viewing is at its best especially along the river, but temperatures and humidity are high year-round due to the location of the Selous on a coastal plateau. While the wildlife is more spread out during the wet season (November to March), the bush is more lush (in particular February and March) and much more beautiful than in the dry season.
Spacious and elegant, the eight-tented suites are spaced far apart among the trees for privacy, with crazy paving stone floors and bamboo-covered back walls. The feeling of space is accentuated by the open sides screened only with fine mesh netting giving superlative all-round views. Fixtures and fittings are all in light, natural tones with wooden furniture. The “Evening Breeze” air-conditioning system is quiet and designed to cool inside the mosquito net, and it certainly gives us a comfortable night’s sleep. An electric fan is also provided. There is an en-suite bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers. Animals (hippos, lions, you name it) can often be heard going to and from the water during the night.
Camp staff are always on hand, but some don’t speak good English and an eagerness to please can be undermined by over-complicating simple tasks. Out in the bush, however, the guides are very knowledgeable and able to adapt to varying levels of knowledge and experience among their guests. Activities include a walking safari and a boat trip with fishing, although our stay was not long enough to try the latter.
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Breakfast – usually taken after the early-morning game drive – is a mix of cereals, fruits and yoghurts, plus a cooked breakfast to order with coffee, tea and toast. Lunch is full of hot and cold meats with accompanying salads. Dinner is usually taken around a communal table in alternative outside locations near the camp, with a buffet of a high standard on offer.
The sundowners overlooking the lake.
Some luxury establishments tend to treat their guests as if they are unable to carry anything or stand up unaided. This is a particularly bad example of well-meant, but unwanted, over-attention.
Great new camp in a genuine off-the-beaten-track wilderness area.
The bottom line
Rooms at Roho Ya Seleous (www.asiliaafrica.com) start from US$700 (Dh2,571) per person per night.