Reviews of Selous Impala Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Selous Impala Camp Review July 14
We stayed for 3 nights in July 14. We were both impressed by everything at Impala camp - the rooms were great, food wonderful, staff exceptionally helpful and guides keen and knowledgeable. We went on walking, boat and vehicle trips - all good - saw huge variety of wildlife, the highlight being tracking down a pack of wild dogs and spending some time viewing them.
I can honestly think of no 'negatives' about this camp and would highly recommend it.
Selous Impala Camp review
Some background before we go into the details:
We are experienced safari travellers who have been on safari in South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Kenya before visiting Selous, and we have stayed at 20 different lodges and camps while travelling. Because of this we had high expectations and quite a lot to compare with. We'll divide our comments into 2 parts: The Impala camp and the safari experience.
The Impala Camp
The camp was very nice. Very friendly staff, excellent service, very comfortable tents with electricity and hot water and beautiful location by the river. Excellent view with palm trees, hippos, crocs and birds. Lunch and dinner was always very good, and nice pool area to spend the afternoon at. It was a nice surprise with a private dinner for two one of the evenings!
We would say that the Impala camp is for anyone who wants a very convenient stay while out on safari. Highly recommended for families with children, older people or anyone who enjoys a premium and effortless stay. It's probably not for people who enjoy roughing it a bit more.
The safari experience
While the camp was very nice we weren't as happy with the safari. The landscape was quite bushy and for periods of time pretty empty of wildlife, especially around the Impala Camp, and we spent a lot of time in these bushy areas going out and back to the camp. It felt that you had to just drive for at least one hour out from the camp to get to the areas with more wildlife. We knew going out there that game viewing can be more challenging in Selous compared to other reserves and parks (since the animals aren't that used to vehicles), but the wildlife was a bit more skittish and prone to running away than we had anticipated. This is important to have in mind if you have been on safari before with more relaxed wildlife.
That being said, we still saw a lot of exciting wildlife, like wild dogs, colobus monkeys, lions and elephants. These encounters were however pretty far apart, so you did have a few hours here and there where there were very little to look at. You can definitely get some nice encounters while staying at the Impala camp, but if you want to experience more wildlife we would recommend staying at the Lake Manze camp in Selous instead, since that area felt more populated and was more enjoyable to drive around in.
We had nice guide and driver, but we felt they weren't really as dedicated as some other guides and drivers we've had at other camps. The driving especially was a bit frustrating at times, since it was very slow. This may be a very good thing for families with kids or people that don't really want a single bump, but for us it felt like we were at times missing some good things because the driving was so slow. We did miss our only chance at seeing a leopard because of this. Priority for the guide and driver should be wildlife sightings first, bump free driving second.
The boat safari was really beautiful with lots of hippos, crocodiles, kingfishers, bee-eaters and other birds, highly recommended!
Important note about cheetahs
There is one major error on the Expert Africa webpage. It clearly states that there are ´huge populations of cheetah´ in Selous. There are however NONE. This is major issue for people who book safaris based on wildlife to experience and photograph. It's very important that facts about the wildlife is correct, since it at least for us is of big importance when choosing where to go.
Expert Africa comments
Expert Africa forwarded these travellers' feedback to Impala Camp, who thanked them for their comments and explained that every safari is different, and the game congregates in different areas each day. No particular area is necessarily better all year round - so at the time of this trip the game may have been better around Lake Manze, but this doesn't not mean this is always true, as the animals are constantly moving.
They also pointed out that fast driving means that you miss seeing the animals, so the guides keep to a relatively slow pace.
Expert Africa would also like to apologise to these clients for the incorrect information regarding cheetahs in the Selous on our website. This has since been amended. Thank you to these travellers for pointing this out to us.
Selous Impala Camp review
The staff where very friendly and it was easy to spend time and do the games with our child (4yrs).
Excellent food and super service. Also good guides.
Glamping on the Rufiji River
Interesting experience. Excellent guide (Girard), comfortable tents w/solid wooden floors and great verandah overlooking the river, good food. Incongruities: hoses and sprinklers watering the grass daily (!), swimming pool, Poland Spring water cooler in dining area. My first thought was, hmmm, this doesn't sync up with eco-tourism but by the end of my 4 days, I had succumbed to the luxury.
Tent (#6) was very nice; particularly liked the writing desk and chair; large porch that wasn't buggy; full-size bed net as requested; large table in sink area was handy for organizing clothing, etc. I liked the location since the hippos had a river exit/entry area literally five feet from my porch, so was able to hear & see them grazing and snuffling their way back into the river. Food quality and variety was good to excellend (still remember an amazing chocolate creme caramel dessert and pieces of fruit stuck onto acacia thorns). I liked the individual tables (versus communal) since I'm quite happy on my own. When I mentioned that I don't eat fish, the kitchen provided tasty alternatives.
Bar area was nice for pre-dinner gatherings; the lounge section was a great spot to while away a few hours between lunch and the game drives since it got a very nice breeze. Pool was also a treat during those hours (or a quick pre-lunch dip).
Drives: I liked the 6 hour boat safaris since the length provided enough time to go further afield and having a bush breakfast on a beach was a novelty! Girard did a super job tracking animals, including hyena tracks that led us to their den & cubs; a civet midden; not to mention numerous elephants and lions. He provided just the right amount of information. He arranged a special trip to a local village which was a highlight for me.
Not as much sense of camp management & employees & guests all being "in it together", as in the other 2 camps (hard to define, but in the other two places the camp managers were around at all meals and had real conversations with each person where topics touched on animals, other experiences, and were a two-way sharing of opinions.)
I think I would return since the location and the physical camp itself was hard to beat, and I did like the fine dining aspects, plus the guiding was superb.
Great stay at Impala Camp
Gerard ia an excellent guide, making our trip informative, interesting and tailored to our wants. The meals and service were excellent, we arrived for lunch and informed them one member of our party did not eat fish (it was on the menu for lunch) by the time we had freshened up an alternative meat dish had been prepared.
A place where close encounters with the animals are the norm, especially the hippo's one actually joined us for dinner, one decided to sleep under our tent platform, both were quickly removed by our own Masai security.
Early July was perfect for us with the weather, greener bush and good animal sitings. Our walk was interesting but we were prepared to be further from the camp.
Thanks to all the staff at Impala Camp and Angela for suggesting it. The comment at Impala was Angela would not send a guest to somewhere she had not visited herself.
Selous Impala Camp: very comfortable
We really enjoyed our stay at Impala Camp. Due to the time of year, there were fewer animals in the immediate area around the camp than at Manze but the birdlife was excellent.
Barbara was very helpful in arranging for us to have a more experienced guide once she knew that we had been on a number of previous safaris and that we enjoy birdwatching. Expert Africa usually let the camps know of particular interests in advance but for some reason the message had not been passed to Barbara that we like birds. As soon as she realised she contacted the manager at our next camp to let her know too. Our guide and driver (Gerhard and Rajabu) and they were really enthusiastic about the things we saw (particularly the chameleon and crowned eagle).
The food at Impala is very good and it was nice to have a choice of main course. Like everywhere there was far too much!
Our tent was very comfortable, spacious with lovely furnishings and a good bathroom area. The only slight disappointment was the decking in front of the tent was in full sun in the afternoon and with no shade it was far too hot to sit outside in the break between game drives.
We went out on two boat trips on the river and were a little disappointed to find the boats were very noisy and the petrol fumes were quite noticeable. I think this would be less of a problem when the currents aren't as strong as there would be more opportunity for cutting the engine.
Selous Impala Safari
This is a very slick operation. The staff are very attentive without being intrusive, friendly without being over familiar, the guides very knowledgeable without giving you too much information. As we were there as a couple on our own we were very spoilt having our own game drives by vehicle and boat.
Whilst being considerate to the animals the guides got as close as one could and we liked the fact that the vehicles were open rather than some we saw that were enclosed. We only saw other vehicles occasionally on drives which was a real plus. The initial boat journey from Mtmere airstrip was a great idea bringing us close to hippo and crocs straightaway.
We would have liked to do some fly-camping but the weather wasn't in our favour. An excuse for another trip.
Wonderful First Safari in Selous
First, about Selous Game Reserve - the reserve's main feature is the Rufiji river and lakes system which allows for boat safaris and game drives near the water sources. We went in January which was supposed to be a bit more wet but it had not rained much this year, so we got semi-dry season instead. This led to very prolific game viewing near the lakes.
We saw lions (including 2 hunts - one of which was successful), wild dogs, lots and lots of giraffes, zebras, impalas, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, buffalo, and lots of beautiful birds, especially the bee eaters and lilac breasted rollers. There were animals everywhere.
Another cool thing about Selous besides the water, is that it is a game reserve, which allows for off-road driving. This meant we could drive up to 100 meters off road to get closer to the action. It makes for a much more wild experience on game drives and nice secluded spots for bush breakfast. Although, the place felt secluded enough as it is. We ran into just a few cars each day, with no more than 2 other vehicles, even at lion sightings. Most of the day, we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
Now about the guiding - Dennis was our guide during our 4-night stay. He took care of us on both the game drives and the boat safaris. You get to choose 2 activities per day. It was like we were on a private safari because we were in our own car/boat and could pick and choose what we wanted to see. Combined with the ability to go off-road and being the only car at a sighting most of the time, this meant almost total flexibility in seeing what you want from the angle you want, as long as you want. It was awesome.
Dennis is an excellent spotter. We are still impressed by how he could spot a lion's presence from very far away by looking at the giraffes' behavior. And I mean from very far. This led us to a lioness who was eyeing a baby wildebeest. We got to see the whole drama unfold... again, off-road, all to ourselves.
Camp and dining - Our tent was right next to the river so we had beautiful sunset views. The tents have en-suite bathrooms which was good to help us warm up to the bush. There was a hippo hanging out in the water near our tent and we could hear him (sometimes quite loud) at night. We also had elephants come up to the tent which added to the fun.
Sylvia and Barbara took good care of us. Everything was run beautifully at the camp. Dining was excellent with 3-course lunches and 4-course dinners. One of us chose vegetarian option which they executed very well. We chose the bush breakfast option every day we were there. Breakfast in the bush is a bit more limited than in the camp but we preferred the experience and having more time in the bush.
One thing we wished was a little more communal time at the bar before dinner. Since dining here is private, unlike at some other camps, the bar time would give a chance for guests to mingle and share their experiences of the day. We also want to suggest making drinks included during sundowners to encourage people to hang out at the bar / camp fire more. Since we already get a private safari and dining the rest of the day, an hour of communal time could be fun.
Luxury in the bush.
Barbara and Sylvia made us feel most welcome to this lovely camp. All the staff were attentive and efficient.
Our guide Dennis was fantastic and we had a great time with him on safari and on the water. Beautiful birds and many hyena.
The 35 elephants crossing the river at dusk was a highlight.
Superb guiding at Selous
Impala camp is a comfortable,well run camp ,which excelled in terms of the quality of guiding - always our first priority.
The weather was hot and humid and the recent heavy rains had dispersed much of the larger game , which we had expected would be concentrated round isolated water holes .Neverthless there was a lot to see and it was magical to experience the greening up of the bush. It rained one morning and substantial raincoats were provided .(umbrellas also available in the tent if needed)
Our tent was comfortable and the access to plentiful hot water and electricity was very convenient .Toilet and shower areas were separated off from the wash basin area so providing maximum privacy.
We were in tent 6 ,very close to the river ,the shore of which was frequented by hippo ,elephant and water buffalo -often noisily in the night .The dawn chorus around 5 am was the loudest and most joyful we have experienced .
The land cruisers were extremely comfortable due to proper moulded seats (not benches) and we were fortunate to be the only passengers in our 4 night stay.This enabled us to go at our own pace and linger to watch interesting animal and bird behavior and not bore others with our interest in the myriad birds. (By the way the bird list booklet in our tent was very useful and much appreciated.
The boat safaris (one morning ,one evening and one en route back to the air strip ) were fascinating .Faidh our boatman made some great spots and Ezra explained how the african golden weaver builds its nest . We enjoyed the walking safari as an opportunity to stretch our legs and focus on the micro habitats.Red velvet mites emerging from the sand were everywhere once they had been pointed out to us!.
Ezra was an outstanding guide who shared his knowledge ,enthusiasm ,stories and sense of humour such that we learned a great deal and enjoyed ourselves hugely .His excitement when a radio newsflash announced a sighting of wild dog towards Lake Manze resulted in a dash to the scene in time to have good sightings.Manuel our driver was superb- coping with the wet and muddy potholes remarkably well. Many animals such as impala,giraffe and wart hogs had very tiny newborns .
While we were aware that dining at this camp involved separate seating arrangements ,the prevailing atmosphere was rather more european than African bush and we did miss the informality and camaraderie that is generated by
sharing meals with fellow travellers and guides.
There was only one incident of concern in an otherwise great stay. On our way back to our tent after lunch the first day we came across a huge hippo grazing to one side of our tent. Now we are always warned that hippos are dangerous and fast running so i heeded instructions to call for a Masai to come to our aid.This prooved fruitless so i tip toed round the back of my tent. When I reported the incident later we were told 'don't worry, its only Andrea our resident hippo who knows us'. That may well be so but I think its not wise to treat wild animals as harmless pets -even if they have never been known to 'misbehave'.