The first time we thought we had heard the word “safari” on our trip was when the flight attendant greeted the passengers in Kiswahili after arriving in Dar es Salaam. But we weren’t sure…what could a flight attendant have to say about a safari? The next time was from a passenger when our bus arrived at its destination….funny! It really sounded like safari!

We started planning our safari already in Germany. We had been told a safari in Tanzania was quite a bit more expensive than for example in South Africa. So, we did some research as to what options we had. At the end we decided to skip the so-called northern circuit and not to go to the famous Serengeti or the Ngorongoro crater, but to visit the southern Selous Game Reserve and to have a lodge outside of the park boundaries, but right at the Rufiji river.

We also decided to make the way to the reserve on our own instead of being picked up by private transport. Like that our three night/two and a half day safari was going to be “only” 500 Euros per person.

The southern gate of Selous was close to a tiny village called Mloka. And as we had a half-day game drive on our arrival day already, we knew we would have to leave Dar es Salaam one day before the safari and overnight somewhere close to the reserve to be sure to be there on time for the afternoon game drive. Mloka seemed so small that accomodation was unlikely. We therefore decided to make our way to the largest settlement close to Selous, which was Kibiti.

We left Dar at 8 o’clock by bus…after the usual hick-ups: the bus that we had bought a ticket for was not leaving for our destination that day and some friendly men hanging around at the bus station assisted us in getting on a bus and convincing the driver to take us along at no extra cost.

Bus in Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam Busstation#1

Vendors Umbungo Bus Station Dar es Salaam

Vendor Umbungo Bus Station Dar es Salaam

Waiting at Ubungo Bus Station Dar es Salaam

After only one and a half hours we arrived in Kibiti, a small market village with nothing much for us to do for the rest of the day. There are about three guest houses in the village of which only one is the slightest bit close to a standard that even roughing-it backpackers like us could bear. We stayed at Victoria Guest house that was actually more a bar cum restaurant with some rooms in the back….no English spoken by the staff…which made it difficult for us to explain that we would appreciate the removal of the giant turd in the toilet and for them that the rooms had not yet been cleaned…what a relief!

Guesthouse Kibiti

Kibiti Tanzania

Market Kibiti Tanzania

The restaurant ended up having an uber-friendly manager with a bit of English knowledge that took to us right away and kept us “safe” from the hyperactive young man that joined us at our table chatting about the millions of topics he knew something about: “Keep away from him! He is not good!”

Nightlife Victoria Guesthouse Kibiti

The next day our manager accompanied us to the bus station to catch a small local bus to Mloka. That bus ride was an adventure in itself. V sat in the second row and I was seated right behind the door that was opened every 7 minutes when we stopped again to unload someone or something or to let new passengers enter the already bursting bus. I ended up having several bags, arms and a huge butt squashed against my head during the three and a half hour journey.

Sandwiched in the bus Tanzania

Upon our arrival in Mloka we were met by our guide for the upcoming days, Aminata and our driver, a friendly man whose name I was incapable of understanding, let alone remembering…. Aminata greeted us with the words “How was the safari?” Good thing I had looked up the meaning of the word safari in the meantime. In Kiswahili “safari” just refers to any journey. So, I was not puzzled that our guide was asking how our safari had been, when picking us up for our safari (this time the one with big, dangerous animals).

Guide and driver Jimbiza Lodge Selous

As it was low season, we were the only guests at Jimbiza lodge and were upgraded to tents. This may sound weird, but the tents are the truly luxurious kind, in which you can walk upright with a real bed, mirror, bathroom, toilet and all…plus you are pretty much right out there among the animals…sounds AND view!

Jimbiza Lodge Selous

Tent Jimbiza Lodge Selous

Inside of tent at Jimbiza Lodge Selous

View of tents at Jimbiza Lodge Selous from Rufiji river

After lunch in the pretty dining area we got ready for our first half-day game drive. Our vehicle was a classical open safari Jeep with three rows of seats. Aminata sat in front with the driver and we sat right behind. As it was in the middle of the day and therefore the hottest time of the day, many animals where hiding somewhere in the shade, resting from their morning hunt or just trying to keep out of the sun. Considering those circumstances, we did see a few animals though. We got to see crocodiles, impalas, kudus, zebras, the omnipresent giraffes and our first of the big five: lions taking a nap under a tree. The nice thing about Selous is, you don’t have to stay on marked roads. You can go offroad and can thus get really close to the animals if they are not too shy and let you.

Safari Jeep

crocodile Selous Game Reserve

Impala Selous Game Reserve

Kudu Selous Game Reserve

Running Zebras Selous Game Reserve

Giraffes Selous Game Reserve

The night at the lodge was really fantastic. We could see thousands of stars, while sitting in front of our tent and from within the tent the cry of the so-called bush baby could be heard, just like several other animal sounds. In the morning we were woken by a rustling in the bushes and witnessed a family of baboons pass right before our tent.

Jimbiza Lodge Selous Game Reserve

Sunset at Jimbiza Lodge Selous


Warning! Long video! Only suitable for monkey lovers… 😉


The second day at Selous was even more rewarding. On our way to the gates of the reserve, we actually saw the back side of a leopard while scurrying into the bushes. We had a full day game drive and dubbed the day “elephant day”, as we saw many herds. Lunch was taken in the middle of a plain under a tree…really nice and also quite exciting experience. Even “going to the bathroom” was done in the middle of the reserve under the watchful eyes of some monkeys. We learned, as long as smaller animals were around or there were no bushes close to hide in, it was safe go get out of the car. We ended up seeing three and a half of the big five that day thanks to our great guide and our skilled driver.

Elephant Selous Game Reserve

Elephants Selous Game Reserve

Lake Selous Game Reserve

Lunch at Selous Game Reserve

Monkey watching Selous Game Reserve

Toilet in Selous Game Reserve

Safari Selous Game Reserve

Lion Selous Game Reserve

On our last day at Selous we had a walking safari planned for the morning and a boat safari down the Rufiji river for the afternoon. We had thought a walking safari was going to be a walk among the smaller animals. Actually we walked around close to the gate of the reserve with an armed park ranger, who explained the trees, the animal tracks and their droppings to us. The whole thing was definitely less exciting than expected, but we learned quite some interesting stuff that morning.

Walking Safari Selous Game Reserve

In the afternoon we got into a boat and went up and down the river. Unfortunately it had been raining quite hard, so most animals were in hiding on the shore and even the crocodiles were beneath the water. We did see some pretty birds and got quite close to a family of hippos though.

Boat Safari Selous Game Reserve

Birds Boat Safari Selous Game Reserve

Rufiji River Selous

Hippos Boat Safari Selous Game Reserve

During the time at Jimbiza we had been contemplating how to continue our journey following the safari and had decided to go to Zanzibar afterwards. And as we had been told how amazing the atolls around the island are, we agreed to splurge and take a flight from Selous to Zanzibar to see for ourselves.

The next day we were brought to the airstrip at Selous right after breakfast to wait for our plane which was scheduled for 10 am. When there was still no sign of our plane at 10:45 and two other planes had come and gone already, Aminata decided to enquire what was going on. She found out that for reasons not quite clear the flight had been postponed to five in the afternoon. That meant heading back to the lodge for lunch and some free time to hang around. At least we got a good shot of our favourite monkeys that were jumping in the trees above the camp, the black and white Colobus!

Breakfast Jimbiza Lodge Selous

Air strip Selous Game Reserve

Black and White Colobus Jimbiza Lodge Selous

At 4:15 pm we were back at the airstrip waiting for our flight to take us to view the atolls before sunset. In the end our Cessna arrived 3 minutes before the airstrip closed business for the day, at 6:30 pm. By this time it was clear that we would not be seeing any atolls, as dusk was already falling. We were both very disappointed, but realized this was Africa…you just couldn’t expect things to work out exactly as planned. The flight with us as only passengers and a pilot that spoke fluent German, having studied in Berlin was special nevertheless.

Airstrip Selous Game Reserve

Boarding Cessna Selous Game Reserve

Boarding flight Selous to Zanzibar

Onboard Cessna towards Zanzibar

Aireal view Selous