Siwandu: Our full report
High-class and luxurious, Siwandu (formerly known as Selous Safari Camp) is set amid miombo woodland on the ...... shores of Lake Nzerakera, in the central part of Selous Game Reserve’s prime wildlife viewing area. Lake Nzerakera is located a few miles north of the Rufiji River, connected to the main river by the network of waterways that laces through this part of southern Tanzania. Siwandu is an expansive camp, occupying a long stretch of lake frontage. Divided in two, each section of the camp its own public area with swimming pool, lounge and dining room.
On arrival at Siwandu your briefing is held in the spacious reception area, where the camp office and a small souvenir shop are located. It is here that you’ll get your first impression of Siwandu’s stand-out professional and personal service.
Siwandu is divided into two camps, North Camp and South Camp. The 7 tents of South Camp are usually filled first, followed by the 6 tents of North Camp. Occasionally, North Camp is allocated a private group.
The central areas of South Camp, located between the southernmost tents, #6 and #7, are tastefully decorated and comfortably furnished, with interesting African art and wooden furniture that includes beautiful writing desks. The main area is raised on stilts, offering lovely lake views from a deck partway up the structure. The lounge and bar are on one side of the top level, and the dining room on the other. Nearby, a paved area and deck surrounds a small swimming pool.
If you're staying in a room in North Camp, you'll find its communal bar/lounge area set on one level. Comfortable seats under a thatched roof provide the perfect relaxing spot in the shade after a morning's safari and a good place from which to take in the view and watch the prolific birdlife that frequents the area. A small but well-stocked bar is in one corner, and traditional African bao boards are scattered around should you feel like challenging someone to a game. Adjoining the lounge is a swimming pool, surrounded by wooden decking, with plenty of loungers. Dining usually takes place on this decking, under the shady doum palms.
The octagonal tented rooms in both the north and south wings of Siwandu are identical: permanent tents on slightly raised platforms, under thatched roofs. Their unusual shape, large windows and high thatched ceiling maximises air flow. The bedroom is spacious and makes the most of views of the surrounding woodland and lake beyond. A canvas doorway that can be secured open or closed for privacy leads through to an ensuite bathroom with twin sinks, storage space and toilet. Wash the dust off in an outdoor shower, enclosed by a wall lowered at the front for lake and wildlife views. Inaya Zanzibar toiletries are supplied including shower gel, conditioner and shampoo.
Natural shades of red, green and yellow are used throughout the rooms, resulting in an understated stylish feel, while subtle touches such as full-length mirrors and wrought iron coat stands add a tone of luxury. The furniture is locally made, and includes a bed, reading chair, wardrobe and dresser. The décor is enhanced by selection of artefacts from around Zanzibar. Each tent can be set up with a king-size double or twin single beds, and can take an extra child bed if necessary.
There are convenient power points where you can charge batteries using a multiplug adaptor (UK, European and American), and for hot nights there is a cooling ceiling fan. There are no mosquito nets over the beds, but the windows are screened, so the whole room is essentially insect-proof. The Siwandu area seems mercifully free of tsetses and has few mosquitos.
Each tent’s best feature is the private deck where comfortable seating offers a quiet spot for a nap, or the perfect position from which to watch passing animals and spot melodious birds.
Activities at Siwandu include boat safaris, walking safaris, 4WD game drives and catch-and-release fishing for catfish and tigerfish. Vehicles at camp include a 200Tdi 7-seater Land Rover Defender, six 110 Defenders with 7 seats and one 5-seater 110. The 7-seaters are all fully open, with high canvas roofs, with the seating arranged 2-2-3 and storage boxes between the seats in the front two rows.
In 2016 we went on a long morning walk that rewarded some of our group with a bush pig sighting and all of us with enjoyable wildlife along the way, including giraffe and just-disappeared buffalo. Our chief guide George, from the UK, was outstanding, though we found some of other guides in camp had slightly inadequate English. We had an excellent bush breakfast along the way (taken out in advance by the staff in a vehicle). One day we were given a lake-based surprise (no spoilers…) and coming back from evening activities, we were treated to tiny shots of cold banana liqueur at reception. Siwandu excels in smart little touches like this.
Over the years we’ve seen the guiding standard in the Selous improve in leaps and bounds, and the Siwandu guides are now some of the best. In 2019 we enjoyed a short boat cruise on the lake followed by an afternoon game drive guided by Mohammed. After joining the Siwandu team in 1993 and working in housekeeping for a decade, Mohammed decided to study the bush and become a qualified guide. He is now one of the best guides we came across in the Selous, with an animating personality and passion for imparting his knowledge of the bush.
Siwandu has a very comfortable, stylish feel and a lovely lakeside location. The tents are of a very good standard, offering high levels of comfort without detracting from the environment and safari feeling. Excellent service, delicious meals and memorable guiding mark this camp out as a very high-quality operation, which will really suit travellers looking to combine a wilderness safari experience with a touch of luxury.
- Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- To make the most of the camp, the area, the service and everything Siwandu offers we recommend a 3 to 4 night stay.
- The Selous is about a 45-minute flight from Dar es Salaam, and the camp is around a 15-minute drive from the airstrip.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- The food quality at Siwandu Camp is of a high standard with delicious and varied meals served.
Breakfast consists of a selection of fresh and dried fruit, cereals, cold meats, yoghurt, fresh baked muffins or pastries, pancakes and toast. You can also order a cooked breakfast with eggs of your choice plus bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, cheese, beans and peppers. This is accompanied by freshly brewed coffee and a selection of teas. The timings for breakfast are 7 to 10am, so guests can have a flexible start to the day.
A two-course lunch is served between 1 and 2pm, with a plated dish, fresh salads and a freshly baked bread, followed by a fruit-based dessert. It is perfect for the heat of the day – fresh, tasty and light. In 2016, our first lunch featured chicken kebabs and coleslaw, and the second some very good red snapper. In 2019 we had a delightful lunch whilst on a boat cruise and enjoyed very tasty aubergine beef rolls, rice salad and green salad accompanied by crocodile shaped herby focaccia. Desert was fruit salad and mousse.
Just before your afternoon activity, at around 3.30pm, there is afternoon tea in the main area, which often includes refreshing home-made lemonade, ice-tea and cookies or cake.
Dinner is served at 8pm, after a sundowner in the bar or around the campfire. On previous visits we’ve had vegetable samosas to start, chicken tikka and pilau rice served with spicy mango chutney and tzatziki, followed by a chocolate pot for dessert a fresh guacamole starter, followed by grilled beef and a lemon meringue pie. On our most recent visit (September 2019) we enjoyed a Swahili tasting plate to start, with a selection of ugali (form of polenta that forms the starch for most local meals), green banana soup, bean stew, fish in tomato sauce and spinach mchicha. Main course was delicious red snapper on a pumpkin rosti with mango salsa. We rounded off the meal with lime cheesecake.
- Siwandu is a small and romantic camp with a lovely setting and luxurious rooms. For special evenings the camp can arrange dinner on your deck – making this a good option for some indulgence while celebrating your honeymoon to Tanzania.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- With a wonderful location on the river, birdwatching around Selous Safari Camp is great. The guides are knowledgeable and there’s a wide variety of species. We had no problems sighting European rollers, hoopoes, fish eagles and hammerkops, amongst many others.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Walking safaris
- Enjoy a morning walking safari with an experienced guide from Siwandu, and discover the beauty of the bush up close.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- The Selous Game Reserve has a good population of wildlife throughout the year. There is always an abundance of giraffe and impala as well as a number of lion. The fortunate might see leopard, as well as wild dogs that occasionally move through the area around Siwandu.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Siwandu are happy to welcome children over the age of six years old, but they feel that whilst in camp children are the full responsibility of their parents.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children must be 6 years or older to stay at Siwandu. Only children over 16 years old may walk or fly-camp in the Selous.
- Special activities & services
- There are no set additional activities or services for children, but the guides sometimes set nature quizzes for young guests that safari with them.
- An extra bed can be added to each of the rooms for a child under the age of 12 years.
- Siwandu is a small place that is happy to have children to visit. That said, parents should be aware that this camp is not fenced, and wildlife can and does pass through at any time; children cannot be left unaccompanied.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Siwandu
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Siwandu have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Mainly solar (for hot water), with generator assistance. The generator normally runs whilst guests are out on activities - roughly between 10am and noon and between 6 and 10pm. It is possible to use a hair dryer in your room during these times only, and you would need to bring your own.
Type of plug: Multiplug sockets (UK, European, American) in all rooms. You can charge items at any time. Inverter batteries provide overnight power for the lights and fans.
- There are pockets of Airtel cellphone reception through camp, though travellers should note that the use of cellphones in public areas is not allowed. There is WiFi available in the camp’s reception during office hours. However, the connection is slow and suitable for basic communications only.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Lake water is pumped up for general use, chlorinated and UV filtered. Like many safari camps, Siwandu is working to reduce their plastic waste and guests are provided drinking water in glass bottles during their stay.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There are first-aid kits at reception, in the vehicles and in the boats for minor injuries and illnesses. Managers and guides are first-aid-trained. For emergencies, the camp has links to the flying-doctor service in Dar es Salaam, which is a 45-minute flight away.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are guards on site 24/7, as well as Maasai armed with spears and pangas to escort you to and from your room at night in case of wildlife passing through camp All the rooms also have whistles, so that if you need help in the night you can call for attention.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in every communal area and room as well as a fire hydrant for the main area.
Please note that no smoking is allowed on activities, although a suitable spot can be found during a comfort break, if you warn your guide in advance that you may want to smoke.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included in the rates at Siwandu. It is hand washed, sun dried and ironed with a charcoal iron – so it is not advisable to put any delicate items in the wash.
For cultural reasons, underwear is not included in the service. The camp provides washing powder in each room for guests who would like to hand wash their own.
- There is no currency exchange at Siwandu. There is a safe in each room to store valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- The camp prefers payment for any extras in cash and accepts US dollars, Tanzanian shillings, British pounds or Euros.
They are also able to accept credit cards, although there is a 5% charge for Visa (the preferred card), MasterCard and Amex.
Room types at Siwandu
The octagonal tented rooms in both the north and south parts of Siwandu are identical: permanent tents on slightly raised platforms, under thatched roofs. Their unusual shape maximises air flow. These are large, private ensuite tented rooms, each with a pleasant view of the lake and with a comfortable sofa, writing desk and small table on your own spacious veranda. They can all be set up as a double or twin, and can easily take extra beds if necessary. In South Camp, tent #3 has a good view out across the lake, as does #4 (from both front and side), while tents #6 and #7 are the closest to the South Camp central areas and the ones to choose if you want to have the shortest walk to meals, drinks and socialising.
Natural reds and yellows are used throughout the rooms, resulting in a simple, stylish feel, while subtle touches such as full-length mirrors adding a tone of luxury.. The furniture is locally made, and includes a bed, wardrobe and dresser with a digital safe. The décor is enhanced by selection of artefacts from around Zanzibar.
Each room has convenient power points where you can charge batteries using a multiplug adaptor (UK, European and American). For hot nights there is also a cooling fan, but no air conditioning. There are no mosquito nets over the beds, but the windows are mesh-covered, so the whole room is essentially insect-proof. The Siwandu area seems mercifully free of tsetses and has few mosquitos.
The spacious bathroom is an extension of the bedroom, with a canvas partition that can be let down for privacy, double basins (deep brass bowls) and and a standard flush toilet. Stepping through the bathroom you reach the outside shower area itself, and in most of the rooms these have views down to the lakeshore, and the sight of passing wildlife. The shower areas have good toiletries – very nice shower gel, conditioner and shampoo – and plenty of warm water.
Other lodges in Selous Game Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.