Ivanhoe

The river runs wild in Tanzania

Written by: David Liebst at Selous Impala Camp

Boat safaris are a must when you visit the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. There are other places in the world where you can experience something similar, but I personally feel that the size and diversity offered by the Rufiji River lends itself to the greatest water safari in any park in Africa.

When the Rufiji River passes through the Selous, it is about 150km away from the end of its journey – the Indian Ocean. The altitude has dropped by this point, and the river lies at roughly 50m above sea level. This slows its down on its course and, as a result, the waterways are able to spread out into wide areas, creating lakes and channels to explore.

Lake Siwandu at sunset. It's very difficult to describe how beautiful the colours were on this wonderful evening.

Lake Siwandu at sunset. It’s very difficult to describe how beautiful the colours were on this wonderful evening ©David Liebst

Selous Impala Camp is situated on the main body of the Rufiji River in the Selous, close to Lake Siwandu, which is where you can find Bird Island. This little idyll is where some of the river’s noisiest and most beautiful inhabitants choose to roost in large numbers.

A goliath heron takes flight over the river to look for a better spot to spend the night.

A goliath heron takes flight over the river to look for a better spot to spend the night ©David Liebst

Hippos are often seen on the shores of this river, but they can also be spotted in the water during the hottest times of day and when they have been startled. Able to hold their breath for four minutes, they are believed to not swim but rather walk along the bottom of the river. As a result, they are usually found by sandbanks, either towards the edge or in the middle of the river, near to a deep underwater pathway.

Hippos are just everywhere on the Rufiji River.

Hippos are just everywhere on the Rufiji River ©David Liebst

Here are two of a group of about 10 animals that we saw re surface after fleeing into one of these path ways. I was able to capture a lucky shot of one expelling its breath.

Here are two of a group of about 10 animals that we saw re-surface after fleeing. I was able to capture a lucky shot of one expelling its breath ©David Liebst

The river is teeming with life. Fish are plentiful, which means that a vast number of crocodiles and birds are able to rely on this source of food to survive.

Above is an African fish eagle in mid cry, one of many seen along the river. The lonely song of this wonderful bird is one of the most iconic and representative sounds of Africa.

One of the many African fish eagles seen along the river is in mid-cry. The song of this wonderful bird is one of the most iconic sounds of Africa ©David Liebst

A feisty croc that decided we were getting too close, makes its way into the water. This was a small one, and you can feel somewhat confident when you see one of these flee that crocs are not too bad, or anything that serious to worry about.

A small but feisty crocodile makes its way into the water ©David Liebst

 Until you see one of these... 15 feet of pure and frightening promise that a swim would be a very, very bad idea.

You’ll be sure not to go for a swim when you see all 15 feet of a crocodile ©David Liebst

Bee-eaters burrow their way into the sandbanks along the river and create nests, but you have to wonder how they remember which one is theirs. Maybe they don’t and this is nature’s way of making sure that all chicks are fed evenly by the members of the group.

 Here are a few of the hundreds of Bee-eaters we watched for about an hour, nesting in the side of a river bank.

Here are a few of the hundreds of bee-eaters that we watched for about an hour, while they nested by the riverbank ©David Liebst

I was sadly only able to spend one glorious afternoon out on the river on a boat safari, but it didn’t leave me disappointed. This sort of safari is very special as there are only a few places in the world where you can experience a water source in this way; and it is most certainly not to be missed.

Adventure Camps

Adventure Camps has three fixed camps in the southern wilderness of Tanzania, as well as the only mobile safari and overland transfer operation in the area, who can take you where no-one else can go. We offer a genuine safari experience with few frills but rustic comfort.

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