You travel on to Selous Game Reserve via Mororgoro and the beautiful Uluguru Mountains these are part of a more than 25 million year old mountain chain, and although the mountain in the 1960s were still covered by forest, there are now luckily some established forest reserves and conservation projects.
For over three centuries the mountain and its surroundings has mainly been the home to the Luguru, the main tribe in the area. The name means “people of the mountain” and about 1,2 million of them now live in and around the mountains, mainly with agriculture as their way of surviving.
Throughout the area you’ll see large sculptured earth mounds; these are built by termites. Termites are sometimes called White ants, which is incorrect as they are neither white nor ants but related to cockroaches.
Termites are able to feed on wood because of an interesting symbiotic partnership. Small organisms called protozoa live in a termite’s gut and are able to breakdown the cellulose in the wood into a form that can be digested by the termites. The termite faeces give food to certain fungi and the termites again live on these fungi.
Termite mounds vary in size and shape depending upon the different soil types of soils and climatic conditions in the area. They are made up of a system of galleries that serve as air-conditioners keeping the temperature and humidity at a constant level suitable for their vulnerable thin-skinned termites.
The termite colonies are divided into interdependent castes of queen, king, soldiers and workers, each with a specific function to perform. The queen is the largest inhabitant and may reach a length of 20 cm. The passages of the mound are too small for her to enter, she is too broad, so she spends her life in a central chamber laying eggs, as many as 10,000 per day while the workers feed her. The king is the only sexually active male so the three million or so termites of the colony are all the offspring of the queen and the king.
During the rains, vast numbers of termites fly out from the mounds in the hope of founding a new colony. They are eaten by many different animals including birds, snakes, frogs and toads, as well as humans. Few survive and only those pairs that find shelter underground manage to establish themselves.
Many termite hills, which are not in use any more, are populated by mongooses. Quite a sturdy species is the Banded Mongoose, a stocky little animal with a wiry coat which is marked by dark vertical bands. They live in packs up to 30 individuals and can often be seen following one another very closely as the move like a huge snake winding through the bush. They eat snails, lizards, mice, grasshoppers and locusts. When crossing the termite hill in this rope-like chain, some of them will stop to balance on their hind legs. They’ll stare curiously at you and your safari vehicle before carrying on. In the end they disappear down the tunnels of the termite hill. From there, after some time, you might see anxious heads poking up, curious to know, what is going on. Individuals keep in contact with each other by continually twittering.
You now enter the western edge of the Selous. This is a wide plain of black cotton soil. Tasty grasses fill the mbuga and it is sometimes possible to see hundreds of elephants spread out on the marsh. Animals come to pools at the river, so watchful lions like to rest under the acacias that line the rim of the swamp. Keep a sharp eye on the branches of these trees: large pythons often seek refuge there from the trampling feet of buffalo herds, wildebeest and zebra. Although an adult python can attain a length of up to 6 meter, it is unlikely to present any danger to a human. It prefers to lie in wait for more manageable-sized prey such as small antelope, young warthogs, guinea fowl or baboons. Even if no lions or pythons are present, the shady acacias make an ideal break spot.
Stiegler’s gorge is a canyon-like structure that is part of the Rufiji river and inside Selous Game reserve western section. With a length of about 8 Km, a width of about 50m and a depth from its highest point to the water surface of 100 m, it was named after a Swiss big game hunter who was trampled to death there by an elephant in 1907, although some sources say he collapsed into the gorge and died .
In some areas, the banks are made of piles of rock towering high above the water’s surface where as in some, the banks are made of cliffs. However, both sides of the banks have a thriving plant life, mostly trees that go on for a few miles from the water’s edge. The gorge also marks the boundary between the middle and lower stages of the river as the water volume and speed changes significantly at its two ends, something that significantly limits boats reaching the upper entrance.
There are several Hot Springs or “Maji Moto” as they are called in Kiswahili, all found in the western area hidden amongst the Beho Beho Hills. Some of these Hot springs are easy to reach by vehicle and you travel to one of these. On the way to the Hot Springs one will pass the Grave of Frederic Courtney Selous, a naturalist, explorer, hunter and soldier, who was killed in 1917, during World War One near the Beho Beho Hills. The Selous was named after this great man
Hot sulphurous water flows from the rocks, pours down the mountain in little streams forming a series of picturesque pools. You can bathe and swim in these.
More than 440 bird species have been recorded in the Selous. On the lakes, you’ll discover pink-spotted pelicans, titan kingfishers, and African skimmers. The hummocks are home to carmine, and white-fronted honey bee-eater states. Pairs of palm swifts, palm nut vultures and ibises settle in the borassus palms. Water-birds found in the Selous include yellow-charged stork, white-delegated and various little waders, pied and malachite kingfishers. Pairs of trumpeter hornbill and purple-peaked turaco can also be seen between the riparian trees. Among an inventory of egrets and herons is the Malagasy squacco heron, a consistent winter guest. The slippery Peel’s Fishing frequently rises at sunset.
We are not sure where the name ‘fly-camp’ originates from. It may come from the term ‘temporary’, as these are little camps that can be effortlessly set up and brought down. It may even originate from the phrase ‘fly-sheet’ which portrays the external canvas of a little tent or a natively constructed haven. It surely has nothing to do with any winged bugs!
Wherever the name originates from, a fly-camp is a small, transitory camp that is situated up in the bramble. The tents are simply typical outdoors tents. Supper is cooked on the flame, and served close-by – after which it’s costmary to assemble around the pit fire and unwind in canvas chairs. There’s something entrancing about moving flares under an African sky, with the resonances of the wild out of sight.
If you’ve not done it before, then sleeping in the shrubs in Africa may seem a bit frightening. However there’s a dependable game scout provided to guide you. We enjoy fly-outdoors and recommend it for bold grown-ups. But, these treks are not for kids.