Sand Rivers Selous

Life in the Selous Game Reserve

Hi. We live and work in the Selous Game Reserve, overlooking a wide bend in the Rufiji River. People from all over the world visit us, and tell us how lucky we are to live here. We're inclined to believe them.

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Thu, Feb 15, 2018

Year of the Dog

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year, and this new year is a Year of the Dog. So, we thought, it was the perfect opportunity to chat about OUR dogs, our WILD DOGS! One of the things that we love about Sand Rivers are those fantastic African wild dogs! Such rare animals to see in East Africa but Selous Game Reserve is for sure the place to spot them! And here we are with a pack of 24 of them on the hunt for a wildebeest. It was amazing! Especially when the action unfolded as they had to chase off some pesky hyenas wanting to steal their share of the kill.

African wild dogs or African painted dogs are among the most successful social hunters in Africa. Always seemingly on the run. They have dagger-like teeth, designed for eating meat, and when hunting prey, their bodies cool down remarkably quickly after running as fast as 37 miles per hour (60 km/p/h). They are called painted dogs for the combination of black, tan, and white blotches across their bodies. Wonderful. Each animal has a distinct pattern, but all have black faces and ears, tan foreheads, and white-tipped tails. 

Packs are made up of relatives. All members help rear pups born to the dominant male and female. The packs, which average 9 to 10 adults plus juveniles, are extremely social. So, witnessing a pack of 24 is such a rare thing! Both males and females leave the pack where they were born, but males tend to disperse a year after females and travel farther to new territories. Females in the pack are closely related to each other, as are the males to each other usually. However, males and females in the pack are not closely related to each other.

A pack’s average territory is about 234 square miles (606 km2), but varies based on how much prey lives in the area. African wild dogs aggressively defend their territory against unrelated neighbors and will fight intruders to the death. As you can see, they need a vast territory and unfortunately the decline of these populations is ongoing, due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution, and disease outbreaks. We are so delighted to still have the opportunity to witness them here, we take every moment with joy!!

Mon, Jan 22, 2018

Coastal cookies

At Sand Rivers we have a very good relationship with the local airlines, and in particular Coastal Aviation, as they fly here the most. We meet the pilots often as they stay for lunch and sometimes overnight in between flights. We know it’s a long day for a bush pilot with no shops nearby so we send a care parcel of delicious sandwiches and fruit to the airstrip on hot days.

However we need not forget the office and ground staff based in Dar es Salaam who work so hard for us; updating us on guests flight times, flying out staff at last minute requests and always making sure our guests are well looked after. So, to show our appreciation for all their efforts our wonderful Chef Bernadetta baked some cookies and muffins which we sent to them. They were so chuffed with Bernie’s baking that they’ve ordered a chocolate cake for the next round! 

Mon, Jan 15, 2018

Up close and personal

It is easy when on safari in the Selous, to get totally enthralled by the big guys - the big cats, the elephants, the buffalo, the giraffe. All seriously impressive, but when you take the time to notice the little guys, a whole other world is revealed. I met these critters over the weekend, and loved getting up close and personal with their weird and very wonderful designs. Isn't mother nature incredible? 

Thu, Jan 11, 2018

Art in the WC

It’s sometimes the small, but special things, that we miss when running around as a camp manager, and I wanted to share one wonderful example - ‘Geoffrey’s toilet.’

Geoffrey is our gardner and has been at Sand Rivers for eight years. Without being told he took it upon himself to decorate the public toilet with a different creation every single day. He comes up with beautiful ideas and it's always exciting to see what wonderful natural display he’s created that morning. Always using local shrubbery and findings (like a baboon skull) he turns it into a brilliant little art piece.

He loves nature so much that we sent him on Nomad's guide training program recently. He has shown such enthusiasm about becoming a scout, which is the first step towards training to become a guide. He just needs a little more practice and guidance with his English and we have no doubt that he will be a super star. We’ll be very sad to lose him in our garden (and loo!) but wish him well in his exciting future with Nomad. Perhaps we can still sneak him in to do his decorations every morning before he heads out on safari...

Thu, Jan 4, 2018

Frederick Selous 101 year anniversary

The 4th of January 2017 marks the 101 year anniversary of Frederick Selous' death. In fact this is quite a historical year for the Selous Game Reserve as it also marks the 100th year of the end of WW1, some of which was fought in our backyard.

Wondering around camp, I stumbled across some bullet casings, belt buckles and a horse shoe – I know we have no horses or mules here and that zebras don’t need shoes so it is more than likely from WW1. How fascinating to be a part of this reserve with so much history attached to it!!

A little history on Frederick Courtney Selous…December 31st 1851 – January 4th 1917

Not only was Selous a British soldier and hunter but also one of the greatest conservationists of our time. He was a keen explorer and learnt everything he could about Africa and its people, plants and animals. He sent over 5000 specimens of African flora and fauna to the British Museum of Natural History, including an incredible selection of butterflies. In 1920 they erected a bust honoring his life as an explorer. The butterfly collection and his bust still stand in the museum today.

Selous was a big game hunter but the American’ s method of hunting appalled him so much, that it made him change his attitude to hunting which is why he became a conservationist. For quite a while he had been thinking about the idea of putting limitations on the levels of hunting and providing areas to protect wildlife.  In fact, he promoted a ‘licence’ system for hunting that is still present today which protects animals from rogue hunters.

He spent over 30 years in the bush, hopping between UK and Africa but his heart always set on East Africa. At aged 63 he had a chance to stand up for Britain against the Germans at the 1st World War. Initially he was refused to join because of his age, but as they were needing more troops, it was decided that he could join in the end, and so he returned to German East Africa. He was a Captain in the Royal 25th Fusiliers, otherwise a unit knows as ‘the old and the bold’. His own unit which he assembled was made up of guerrilla fighters, professional hunters, French legionnaires, American cowboys, and an assortment of other characters, including an acrobat and a Honduran General.

All the while still collecting butterflies.

Selous was one of the fitter and healthier of the men, his only break was to be sent home in 1916 for a pile operation, during which time he was awarded the DSO. 

“The 25th Fusiliers were part of the northern thrust & Selous’ unit moved by train from DAR to MORONGORO in December 1917. From here they marched 8 days in appalling conditions, to KISAKI (where we get our resupply for camp every Friday).  The force dropped from 384 men to about 170. The Drive on New Year’s day 1917 but in fact the Germans were not entrenched and a small rear guard was left, making life very unpleasant for the British using dense bush, elephant grass, snipers and mines to halt their progress.  On the 3rd Jan 1917 they ran into a German rearguard in the hills of BEHO BEHO.  It was here on the 4th of January 1917 that Selous was shot by a German Sniper, and 5 other fusiliers died along with him.  Selous and his colleagues were buried about a mile from the battle in an appropriate spot – uninhabited bushveld, with his beloved birds and animals.  He was sewn into a blanket and a grave marked with a concrete slab and a simple stone with the inscription:’


In 1922, his memory was honored and the area of Selous grave fittingly became a wildlife sanctuary that later incorporated the whole of the Rufiji River and floodplain system – the SELOUS GAME RESERVE boasting an area of more than 17 000 m² (44 800 km²) along the rivers Kilombero, Ruaha, and Rufiji.

The wonderful Walsh family who just spent 5 nights with us at Sand Rivers, went to pay their respects at Frederik Selous grave on the 4th January 2018.


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