East Africa, Tanzania

Selous and Ruaha Game Reserves

Group of Elephants at Selous and Ruaha Game Reserves

Selous National Park, one of the largest nature reserves on earth — as big as one-and-a-half Switzerlands — is still, as Matthiessen wrote in Sand Rivers, his book about his 1979 safari, a gorgeous place of “river thickets, green mbuga, and dry black cotton marsh, grassy ridges, sand rivers, and airy open woods, yellow and copper, red and bronze, under blue sky.” As Matthiessen quoted one of the Selous’ fiercest admirers, the fabled Brian Nicholson, “The Selous is the real Africa…the heart of Africa.”

Access to the beating heart of Selous — sublime savannahs, verdant wetlands and animal-rich woodlands — is carefully monitored (no permanent structures or human settlements are permitted) and its animal population abounds (quite possibly more numerously than any African park or reserve) with the charismatic big beasts of the savannah: bubbling pods of hippos, African wild dogs, pleistocenic crocs, Cape buffalo, and, of course, happy confederacies of elephants.

Neighbouring Ruaha, Tanzania’s largest national park, is larger than Jamaica, with Luxembourg thrown in for good measure. Famous for its large elephant population, its rare kudu and impressive sable antelope, the lesser-visited park and its larger eco-system attract us with their quintessentially African landscapes and — because they are less visited, less interrupted by the outside world — they abound in warm, inviting quiet.

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