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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Mon, Jul 14, 2014

Sitting Skimmers

A little bit of a gap in the morning and we decided to hop on the boat and go for a walk on an island sandbank. We were met by an unhappy African Skimmer who was calling and circling us. We knew there were babies around but where were they. 

So we were searching all over but could see absolutely nothing. Until Hamza said, 'look down'...we thought he was joking at first. 

Can you see it?

Take a closer look...

They lie extremely flat, digging a small hole into the sand. They even flick sand onto their backs with their wings to cover up even more. 

You can see the famous Skimmer bill forming here with the lower mandible extending beyond that of the upper mandible. These little guys were at fledgling stage and have a few developed flight feathers and they can fly for very short distances, but really they are 'sitting ducks' and maybe a change in that saying to sitting Skimmers is a good fit for when you are on Safari here with us.   

We were then lucky to spot this little nest right out in the open with 3 Skimmer eggs...hopefully Mum will be back to shade them from the hot sun soon. 

Mon, Jul 7, 2014

Undertakers Under Threat

The Vulture has never really been at the forefront of our favourite species amongst African avian varieties, they come with a lot of negative connotations....most commonly someone known for benefitting from another’s misfortune is considered to be a vulture in modern society. 

A White-backed Vulture salivates at the thought of some fresh meat

But these ancient creatures serve a very specific and fundamental niche in the animal kingdom. They are very much the undertakers, cleaning the land of rotting flesh that can very easily spread disease throughout. Without them an animal carcass would take far longer to be found and thus decompose slowly. They are capable of cleaning a carcass in a matter of hours if there are enough of them.

A flock of White-backed Vultures ascend as we approach

These great birds have evolved within their niche of scavenging to each serve a more specific niche. For instance we can look at the most commonly seen species here in the Selous, the giant Lappet-faced Vulture will be the one to open up the carcass using its powerful bill, and it will then generally dominate the carcass as it is more aggressive than the others. The White-back Vulture is the classic African Vulture who descend the heavens hopefully in large numbers and will clean a carcass down to skin and bone, each one filling their crops in a matter of minutes, Then we have the Hooded Vulture who uses its delicate bill to finish off the scraps on the bones. 

A Hooded Vulture away from the main carcass has found a bone with some meat to peck at

Vultures are a guide's best friend as they very much indicate the activity of predators, so if your guide sees a lot of vultures you know you will be finding some evidence of the great carnivores that you have come to Africa to see. The locate food using their impeccable eyesight, they fly at incredible heights covering many hundreds of miles a day in search of food and when one vulture drops out the sky all the others will see and follow suite. 

A mixed group of White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures spiral up in a thermal.

But with the current poaching crises of Africa, the vultures traits are not being appreciated by such poachers as they will give away poaching activity to rangers and conservationists. Poachers use poison, quite often something as simple as diclofenac, to booby trap a carcass and kill of hundreds of vultures at a time. Putting vultures populations under increasing pressure and forcing some of them into a vulnerable state. Without vultures performing their crucial duty who knows what will come of the land and spreading disease. 

A Lappet-faced Vulture shows off its powerful bill used to break the tough animal hide. 

So next time you see these formidable creatures please pay tribute to the duty they perform that no other creature can on such a massive scale. 

Wed, Jul 2, 2014

Beauty and the Bush….!

Packing for your holiday to the bush is something of an art, you have the teeniest weight restrictions, you may be visiting several locations requiring different footwear, warm weather clothes, cold weather clothes and then a visit to the beach!  How on Earth does one fit all this into one little duffle bag!?!

Not only this, but some of us like to keep looking chic even if we are bouncing around in cars, boats, climbing mountains and meeting wildlife face to face, here's a few tips from us who's years of living in the harshest environments can keep you looking cool in the heat of the bush!

When it comes to clothes, loose, lightweight layers tend to be the best.  If you are visiting some of our camps in the North it can get a little chilly on the morning game drives, this goes for Ruaha too so a jumper, gillette, light fleece or wind breaker jacket will suffice for those nippy early game drives. 

However you can forget any ideas of warm clothing needed for the Selous, it rarely gets below 18/20 degrees Celsius here, between June - August we have lovely balmy temperatures and sunny days with ever so slightly cooler mornings.  September onwards gets hotter and by January/February you can have free saunas courtesy of temperatures and humidity reaching the high 30's - great for that glowing skin and open air Bikram Yoga studio!!

Game and boat drives are easy going and you can happily take in the incredible scenery and wildlife in shorts and sandals - just don't forget the suncream, hats, a good pair of sunglasses (polarised are great), binoculars and your camera!  

Our walking safaris are a highlight to any trip as you get to stretch the legs and work off all those safari pounds acquired from endless tea treats and sundowner G&T's!  Be sure to have some sturdy footwear and something to cover the ankles from the long grass.  Neutral colours are best but white isn't recommended as the wildlife can spot it before you've said "Look Leopard!"

The warm evenings at Sand Rivers are a relaxed affair, we like you to feel at home and welcome you to join us and your fellow Safaris friends for a drink and nibbles as we hear your tales of the day and watch as the hippos stretch their short legs out of the water.  Come dressed to the nines in your finest holiday outfit or take it easy in a Kikoy (as often Cameron does) anything goes!

We love the feeling of the wind in our hair and warm breeze on our face whilst adventuring around the bush in safari vehicles and boats but it can sometimes leave you feeling a little frazzled after long days out in the wilds, here are a few little grooming tips we can't live without..

Tame your mane (ah hem - sorry!) with a good hair oil to stop the ends drying out in our harsh African sun.  Hours of wind whipping through your locks can leave you looking more wild than desired so oil really helps you get that comb through at the end of the day or even a thick moisturising treatment conditioner will help!  

Getting up at the crack of dawn often in the dark to head out in search of wild beasties you have many things to think about - camera - check - suncream - check - water bottle - check - binoculars, hat, husband - check!  The last thing you want to do is faff around in front of a mirror.  Suncream is so heavy on your face that you'll sweat all morning underneath it! The ultimate time saver and top choice for looking fresh and staying protected is a tinted moisturiser with an SPF for your face, one quick swoop and you are good to go all morning!   Who said beauty and the bush couldn't go together!

In fact I generally find that any oil based balms, moisturisers and conditioners are the best bet out here were dry really means dry!  Lip balm with an SPF in is great for being out and about all day and hand and foot cream or salves a must to stop you drying out like a warthog!

When thinking what to bring, don't forget your essentials!!  Camera/iphone chargers, spare batteries, notebooks for recording all the fabulous wildthings you'll be spotting, books, swimming costume, torch etc…….

….but most of all a sense of adventure and an open mind for having the most incredible experience of your life!  

We also happen to think Warthogs are the most beautiful of all the animals…!

Tue, Jun 10, 2014

Birding Returns

Birding couldn't get much better than it is right now. After a very rainy period the Selous is a lush green...grasses are full of seeds, flowers are blooming and insects are numerous. This has given the birds a boom and there are some very interesting species around. Here are our favourites so far of the season.

The African Skimmer is always a special sight, they have recently returned to the Rufiji River in order to nest on the sandbanks. They are truly their own species, they have a lower mandible that is extended which it skims along the surface of the water and picks up small fish as it goes along, hence its name.

This is the male Eastern Paradise Whydah, he grows this special long tail when it comes to breeding season in order to impress his lady counterparts. Those ladies are naughty as they do not build their own nests nor look after the egg and chicks. They are a brood parasite of the below bird the Green-winged Pytilia, so the Pytilia will do all the hard work of rearing one not of their own. 

Something that we share a common interest in with our friends Nic and Jana up at Lamai Serengeti is this beauty the Scarlet-chested Sunbird, they love their nectar and have been making the most of all the beautiful flowers around, here on the flower of an aloe. Interestly with these birds when they move out of direct sunight these iridescent colours turn back to black. This is only seen in males so it must be of use to attracting a female. 

The Violet-tipped Courser is the largest of its species. Its name is given to it by the violet tips on its primaries that are seldom seen. It is also predominantly nocturnal so you will have to keep your eyes peeled when the sun sets. 

Sun, Jun 1, 2014

A Training we Shall Go

So tomorrow is the 2nd of June and the first day of the season, quite odd that it happens to be a happy Monday.

Our guides have been at it the past week with Sacha, doing their training and learning literally everything that comes across them. The new age is upon us here in Africa, learning from tablets is much easier than lugging all those heavy books around.

We are rather lucky out here as the Selous Game Reserve makes for a great classroom. The guides have been touching from the smallest Termite to the largest of Bull Elephants and everything in between. Here they examine the stunning Witch Weed of the Striga family.

On a hot day there is nothing better than doing some tree studies under the shade of the tree you are learning about. You might not think that coming on a Safari will be about looking at trees, but when you find out how that tree interacts with surrounding environment you might just find yourself oddly interested

A great Safari is comprised of a mixture of everything in an ordered manner that when you are getting on the plane at the very end, everything seems to click and you understand that environment in its entirety. But what always helps is a pride of Lions walking down the road towards your vehicle and attempting to hunt a Giraffe on one of the days of your Safari.


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