Selous Project

Selous Project: Our full report

Rooms
4 safari tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (100%) From 1 review
Open
1 July to 30 November

***This lodge is unfortunately now closed. Please ask us for more details***

Located on a private concession in the remote southern section of the Selous Game Reserve, the Selous Project is a thoroughly unique experience in Tanzania. Until now, photographic safaris in the Selous have been confined to the area of the reserve which is north of the Rufiji River. The rest of the vast Selous Game Reserve, south of the river, has been divided into exclusive hunting concessions.

Stop press: Currently this camp, and its concession, are closed to visitors; it seems very unlikely that it will reopen for photographic trips in the near future.

The 'Selous Project' took over one of these private hunting concessions and in 2008 they turned it into a purely photographic area – ending the hunting that had gone on there for decades. With around 1,200km² of untouched wilderness, you book this concession out exclusively and as a result you get a fantastic sense of wilderness here.

Started by Anton Turner and Ryan Weinand, in partnership with Great Plains Conservation, the aim of the Selous Project is to sustain the area on low volume, low impact tourism. On a personal level, for Anton & Ryan, it's also about going back to a way of running 'safaris without rules' that used to prevail in Africa – which means having the freedom to take their guests to roam the concession, walking, canoeing, camping and driving at will; going wherever they please, without any plans in mind. Days spent here are like expeditions, and a far cry from most current camp- or lodge-based safaris.

As the wildlife in the southern Selous has been hunted in previous years, it is certainly more skittish than elsewhere in the game reserve. However, the fact that the game is intrinsically wild is part of the draw. To get close to the animals you can't merely drive up to it, you need to get out on foot and employ tactics used by skilled trackers to approach game without being seen. The Selous Project is not the place for visitors who want to see lots of big game and in close quarters, but for people who want to explore a wilderness area and to track the game that they do come across.

The main camp here, Lukula Selous Camp, is a smart tented camp, put together with a lot of thought and high quality. Tucked into a stunning patch of riverine forest than lines the Luwegu River, as little as possible has been cut down and the result is a lovely cool and shady spot – natural air-conditioning. Sandy paths lead through the trees, between the mess tent and the bedrooms, all of which are nicely spaced apart for privacy.

Lukula Camp's mess tent sits above the river, and has a comfortable lounge and dining area. Dark wood and leather campaign furniture, mixes with Arab accessories such as lamps, floor cushions and gold platters, resulting in a colonial explorer feel. The dining area at Lukula has a beautiful mahogany table, with deckchairs set around, and is usually decorated with interesting seeds and pods from the bush.

Adjacent to the dining area Lukula Selous Camp has a lounge which has strong Arab influences, including huge comfortable floor cushions set around beautiful brass platters that act as tables. For those less inclined to sitting on the floor, there are also some very comfortable leather chairs.

In front of the main mess tent at Lukula, down a few stairs and slightly closer to the river is the camp fire. In the evening before dinner directors chairs are set facing the fire and guests can gather here for a pre-dinner drink. Though you might find that a pre-dinner sundowner has been arranged on a sandbank in the riverbed itself.

The bedrooms at Lukula Selous are all set apart, on the banks of the river in cleared sections of the forest. The rooms are spacious tents, all of which can be made up as doubles or twins, depending on the group. Each tent has a very comfortable bed, with high quality cotton sheets and some of the biggest and softest pillows we have come across. An antique style fan stands in the corner, along with a writing desk that fits in with the campaign style furniture in the rest of the room. Through the bedroom is a slightly separate changing and storage area, where you can store your clothes in upright trunks, in which there are hanging space and draws. Here you will also find twin brass sinks, with water in jugs for washing.

The rooms are all stocked with drinking water, mosquito spray and have electric lighting which is solar powered.

Through the back of the tents are the open-air bathrooms, which are built around the trees that were here originally – in keeping with the eco-aims of the Selous Project. The trees give the bathrooms a 'garden' like feel – which is enhanced by the use of natural materials. The walls are made entirely from reed, with large portholes so that you are not totally cut off from the surrounding bush. The floor of the bathroom is made from chipped quartz rock, with a stone footpath. In the centre is the 200 litre bucket shower – with more than enough water and hot water brought in the mornings and evenings, it is as good as any hotel shower! Each also has a flush toilet.

The activities at the Selous Project are really flexible – this is not the kind of place where you will have a morning and an afternoon safari walk or drive. Generally speaking, the activities involve walking, canoeing and game driving - but the length of each activity and the plan of the day will change and evolve depending on what you see. There is no fixed plan here!

Because the Selous Project is booked out exclusively, the day can be entirely based around what you want to do. So if you feel like heading out on a full day safari expedition to explore the far end of the concession, then you can. Or if you would rather relax at Lukula Camp for a day, then that is also fine. When we were there in October 2008 – we left Lukula each day with lunch on the vehicle, so that if we found something interesting we wouldn't need to get back to camp.

Visiting the Selous Project is not really your conventional safari experience – especially in regards to the game driving. Really the vehicle is to help cover distance and as soon as you see something interesting, the idea is to leave the vehicle behind and approach on foot. You walk with Anton, his tracker and a ranger – and employ old hunting tactics to approach the game without it realizing. The result is that you can get to within 20m-or-so of herds of buffalo or elephant, which is a very humbling experience.

Fly-camping at the Selous Project is a fantastic experience and if you are staying for more than five nights you can even have a couple of nights fly-camping, walking or canoeing between different camps. The fly-camping tents are thick gauze walls that offer protection, but don't stop you from being able to sleep under the stars. The team will still be on hand to cook a fantastic three course dinner, and there will also be a bucket shower and short-drop toilet.

The service at Selous Project is really friendly and the team here try really hard to make sure that you enjoy your stay. It certainly isn't the slickest service we have come across; the team are made up mostly from local people who are new to tourism. As a result many of them don't speak very good English, and they are still learning a lot about service. However, with Anton acting as the constant host and guiding them through, the result is that the service always ends up working, and has a certain quaintness that is really endearing. They team here are so good humored and such good fun, that the occasional slip up is quickly and easily forgotten.

Our view

We were very excited about Selous Project when we heard about it. The opportunity to explore such a wild area and have it to yourself is becoming increasingly rare in Africa, and so the Selous Project really is breaking new ground in Tanzania.

When we visited the Project and stayed at Lukula Selous Camp in October 2008, we simply loved it! It was refreshingly original, totally engaging and tremendous fun. Our stay was a real adventure in a true wilderness area – an experience like this is rare today, and almost impossible to find in areas which where there is a lot more tourism. That said, the Selous Project really isn't for everyone. It won't suit those wanting to tick the 'big five' off a list, to see lots of game at close quarters or return home with close-up photos of big game. However if you come for the sheer experience – you won't regret it.

Geographics

Location: Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: When we visited the Selous Project in October 2008, we spent four nights here which is the minimum stay, but we would have loved to stay longer. Though we did explore large areas of the concession, we still felt that there was so much more to do – and didn't feel that we had had enough time to experience all the area had to offer. We recommend that travellers stay at the Selous Project for a week if possible.

Directions: Selous Project is located in an area called Lukula in the far south of the Selous Game Reserve, on a private concession. To reach the concession, it is a 90-minute flight by private charter from Dar es Salaam.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Anton Turner and Ryan Weinand, partnered with Great Plains Conservation.

Staff: Camp/Lodge Managers: Anton Turner. Anton is the guide and host to guests whilst they are in camp. He plays a vital role in the guest experience and handles all aspects of it.

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Breakfast varies, depending on whether you have it in Lukula Selous Camp, or out in the bush. If you have breakfast in camp before heading out on safari, then on the table you will find muesli, yoghurt, fruit, fresh fruit juice, tea and coffee. You can also order a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked to your choice, as well as toast.

If you have breakfast out in the bush, you will stop in a shaded spot and the team will set out a tarpaulin with a table and some camp chairs. Tea and coffee is provided and bacon and eggs are cooked over an open fire. After breakfast the team will then pack everything up so you can continue your exploration of the concession.

Lunch can also be eaten at Lukula Camp or out in the bush – depending on what happens at the time. In both cases lunch is usually a light cold meal of salads, pasta salad, mini pizzas, quiches, bean salads and other similar dishes. There is also fruit on offer as a desert. If you are in the bush, a picnic spot is set up under a shady tree, where you can relax for a few hours out of the heat of the day.

After a day out on safari and a welcome bucket shower, head to the campfire for a few drinks, before sitting down to a set three-course dinner. The first course is usually a light starter such as crab cakes, prawn cocktail or pan-fried liver. Then the main course is usually a meat or fish dish such as chicken with a creamy sauce or fish curry, served with fresh vegetables, rice or potatoes. Desert might then be a tasty crème brulee, bananas sautéed in liqueur or a fruit salad.

Dietary requirements can be catered for, though please note that this is a remote spot and ingredients have to pre-ordered. It is vital that dietary requirements are made known to us, so that we can pass them to the camp well before you arrive (at least a month). Then the camp can cater for it.

When we visited Selous Project in October 2008, we thought the food was tasty and wholesome. Providing good meals in this remote location must be a huge challenge, and the team at the Selous Project are doing a great job.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Drinks are included, except for champagne. However this is not stocked at the camp and so if you wish to have champagne (or any other very special wines or spirits) then tell us, as it must be pre-arranged.

Further dining info: Yes

Children

Attitude towards children: There is no minimum age at the Selous Project, and Anton and his team are keen on hosting children. That said, the African bush can be a dangerous place for smaller children, and some activities, like walking safaris, may be simply too risky, and they will not be able to participate.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions as such, but activities for families can be limited depending on the age and maturity of the children.

Special activities & services: There are no special activities here, and children are the responsibility of their parents at all times.

Notes: Good for families with mature intrepid children.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Communications: This is an area of real wilderness - there are no phones or mobile reception here. The camp has a satellite phone and long wave radio for communicating with Dar es Salaam and for emergencies.

TV & radio: There is no TV or radio here.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: A first aid kit is always carried when walking in the bush and in all of the cars. Note that travellers must have emergency evacuation cover – so that they can call in a private plane if there is a case of emergency.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Askaris (usually Masaai guards) escort the guests around camp.

Fire safety: The camp has buckets with sand in each of the tents and around the public area, which can be thrown over a small fire. Selous Project main camp, Lukula Camp, is tucked within a green shady forest, which acts as a natural fire break and so the camp is not at risk from bush fires.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Included

Money: There is no form of currency exchange here – no cash is kept in the camp at all.

Accepted payment on location: As most things are included, money is not required apart from for tipping. If you do need to pay for anything in camp, you can pay in US dollars cash.