Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve)

At 30,893 square kilometers, the vast Nyerere National Park is Africa’s largest stand-alone National Park and one of the largest in the world. The park is located in South-Eastern Tanzania, roughly 230 kilometers by road from Dar es Salaam city to Mtemere Gate, and was carved out from the Selous Game reserve, a huge wilderness area and safari destination in Southern Tanzania.
Nyerere Park boasts of the largest concentration of wild animals and a rich collection of wildlife that is abundant and diverse. The fact that this park is new and largely less frequented by tourists means that the animals here tend to be less exposed to humans. Good numbers of Big Cats such as Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah are to be found here along with other large game animals such as Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Giraffe, Eland, Zebra, Wildebeest, and other wildlife. With the new establishment of this park by the Tanzania Government and TANAPA ( Tanzania National Parks Authority ) in late 2019, it is expected that the park will be developed further and managed more professionally for a better tourism experience.

The Nyerere National Park, formerly part of The Selous Game Reserve is enormous, wild, and remote. And it has great wildlife – big game, cape hunting dogs, sable, roan, greater and lesser kudu, raptors, ostrich, crocs, hippos, etc. But the main point is that this wildlife can be enjoyed in such a variety of interesting habitats within this fabulous place. Most places that are currently accessible have a lot of small informal tracks. This makes it much easier to get reasonably close to the animals you want to enjoy, and there is no sign that this is having a negative impact. This factor of the many small game viewing tracks is important (and unlike some other National Parks in East Africa) because many a safari visitor has come on safari hoping to witness what they have viewed on TV or social media, not understanding that much of what they view has been filmed by people with off-track privileges. In the Nyerere National Park, it is possible to get within a reasonable but respectful distance of wildlife. The Rufiji River, Tanzania’s largest, flows through the northern part of the Park, and The river which is slow moving and wide, has created several oxbow lakes in its northern flood plains, and they create a beautiful landscape of plains and woodlands interspersed with expanses of water. The lakes are fringed by borassus and doum palm groves and other attractive trees, and besides being home to very large populations of hippos and crocodiles, these lakes are a magnet for wildlife in the dry season. The hinterland away from the river is characterized by extensive savannahs and woodlands, with occasional baobabs, and large stands of Terminalia trees with their tiers of attractive leaf tables These are intensively browsed by giraffes which arrived relatively recently into this area and are now increasing fast in numbers. As one winds around this interesting landscape on small intimate tracks enjoying the wildlife it is easy to understand why the Selous was declared a protected area in 1896 part of which is now the Nyerere National Park. Altitude: The National park is at a relatively low altitude, averaging about 1000 meters above sea level. Seasons: The dry season starts in June and lasts until about November, and although the remainder of the year is relatively wet the National Park is green and beautiful from December to February, with many parts easily accessible. History It was first given formal protection in 1896 when Tanzania was a German colony, and hunting was allowed from 1905. In 1922 the area was given its name The Selous Game Reserve in memory of Englishman Frederick Selous who hunted and wrote extensively about the area. In 1940 it was enlarged to 54,600 sq © Robert J. Ross 27 Tanzania unforgettable Tanzania parks and in 1982 became a World Heritage Site. In 2019 about 30,000 km was separated from the reserve and made into a National Park and renamed the Nyerere National Park in honor of Tanzania’s first President who was himself a devoted conservationist. This makes it the second-largest National Park in Africa after the NamibNankluft Park in Namibia which is almost entirely desert

nyerere national park

With its largest wilderness area in Africa, Nyerere National park has relatively undisturbed ecological and biological processes, including a diverse range of wildlife with significant predator and prey relationships.

The mighty Rufiji with its renowned population of hippos and rhinos flows to the Indian Ocean. The river has been designated as a photographic zone and is a popular tourist destination.

The sheer volume of the game in the Nyerere is just outstanding!

Elephants, buffalo, and lions are found in greater numbers, and the park, together with the remaining part of Selous has the last true stronghold for African wild dog

Visitors to this vast park will be able to enjoy the widest diversity of safari activities in the country, like boating safaris as well as standard game drives, walking safaris, and legendary fly camping trips.

Its wildlife is spectacular, with some of the largest populations of mammals and reptiles in Africa, including buffaloes, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles which can be seen here. Nyerere National Park, together with the remaining part of Selous Game Reserve, is considered to be the last stronghold of the African wild dog. Other common wildlife includes the wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, eland, the greater kudu, sable antelopes, black rhino, waterbuck, impala, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, cheetah, baboon, vervet and blue monkey, and the black and white colobus monkey which can be viewed in riverine forests. About 440 species of birds both resident and migratory have been observed in the national park.

Nyerere National Park is located in southeastern Tanzania, bordered by Mikumi National Park to the northwest and Udzungwa Mountains National Park to the west.

The park offers a wide variety of game viewing opportunities including the thrilling experience of a walking safari in the company of an armed ranger. The many waterways in the park provide an excellent natural setting for boat safaris, both for big game viewing and bird watching. This is in addition to the game drives in specially designed safari vehicles which, combined with boat and walking safaris, offer an exciting and rich game viewing itinerary unique to Nyerere National Park. The best time to visit is from June to October. During the long rains, between March and May, some parts of the park are temporarily closed for game drives due to poor accessibility.

How to get to Nyerere National Park

The National Park is just a few kilometers away from Dar es Salaam making it an easy place to get to but only if you are coming from Dar es Salaam. If you are getting to the park from Arusha, then it becomes a very long journey especially if you are driving. There are three transportation means that you use to get to Nyerere and these are road, railway, and air transportation.

nyerere national park Tanzania

  • Air transport

Taking a flight to Nyerere is the most expensive way but also the best since it gets you to the park easily. The flights to Nyerere can be got from Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha.

  • Rail transport

Rail transport is the cheapest way to get to Nyerere and probably one that has lovely scenery for you to see before you get to the park. You get to pass through a lot of rural villages and Mountains before you get off at the Matabwe stop. From here you will be able to drive to Nyerere National Park since it is a short distance.

  • Road transport

This is the most commonly used mode of transport to get to Nyerere. A drive to the park will take you between 4 to 8 hours and during this time you can make stopovers at the different places as per your itinerary. It might take a while before you get there but it will be worth your time.

Things to do while in Nyerere National Park

Nyerere is a very big park that has a lot of animals and birds plus vegetation that is worth being seen and these will determine the things that you can do while in the park. Some of the things that you should look forward to do while here include the following:

Game drives in Nyerere National Park

the game drives within Nyerere are best done during the dry season experienced from June to October because this is the time when most of the animals can be seen at the different waterholes trying to beat off the heat and in search of food. Some of the animals that you should look out for when you get to Nyerere include the famous wild dogs, buffalos, hippos, lions, giraffes, baboons, zebras, rhinos, elands, impalas, elephants, and baboons to mention but a few.  Since the park gets few visitors, the animals tend to hide from tourists but with patience, you get to see all of them in their natural habitat. The best time for one to enjoy a game drive in Nyerere is during the morning hours before 11:00 am and afternoon hours around 3:00 pm because this is the time when animals are not shielding themselves from the heat.

Birding in Nyerere National Park

Nyerere is one of the best birding destinations in Tanzania and the best time for one to go for birding is between November and April during the wet season when the migratory birds fly into the country. The bird species specials that you should look out for include the yellow-bellied bulbul, mangrove kingfisher, black cuckoo-shrike, palm-nu vulture, red-throated twin spot, red-winged warbler, African skimmer, spotted flanked barbet, and the grey hooded kingfisher among others.

Walking safaris

A walking safari through Nyerere might not get you to all the corners of the Reserve but it will get you to some of the best places. A walking safari in Nyerere comes with an armed ranger who is there to make sure that you are not attacked by any wild animals. The walk will however be organized on a more tame side which doesn’t have predator animals and some of the animals that you get to see while on your walk include zebras and elephants. Make sure that you follow all the guidelines given to you by the guide during your walk.

Cultural tours

cultural tour to the Mwaseni is one of the things that you can engage in while on a safari to Selous. With the help of a tour guide, you get to spend the whole day with the locals engaging in their day-to-day activities.

Photo safari

this is one of the best activities that you should engage in while in Selous. This can be done throughout the year as you get to take photos of the animals and the birds that live within the Park and the surrounding scenery.

Boat safari

a boat safari is one of the best ways in which you can explore the Game Reserve. You will take a boat ride along the River Rufiji where you will get to see aqua animals like hippos and crocodiles plus a large flock of birds. You must not miss out on the experience of a boat ride in Selous.

hippos in nyerere national park

When to visit Nyerere National Park

Nyerere National Park experiences two seasons and these are the dry and wet season. The seasons highly determine the activities that you can engage in and in return, the activities determine the best time for you to visit the Selous. The dry season (June to October) is the best time for a walking safari and game drives whereas the wet season (November to April) is the best time for all those that would love to go birding.

Before you pack your bags for a trip to Selous, make sure that you do extensive research on the tour company that you are going to use so that you are not conned and ask ahead about what you should bring and what to avoid before traveling to the southern part of Tanzania.

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