The Rufiji River flows through one of Africa's greatest wilderness areas, Selous Game Reserve, where it ensures the survival of some of the greatest concentrations of animals in Africa.
© Sundowners at Rufiji River Camp
The parks and reserves of Southern Tanzania have long been looked upon as the 'little brother' of the legendary northern wildlife areas and tourist attractions of the country such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro, but today this is all changing as more and more people realize the incredible diversity and wildness of the south. And central to all this is Selous Game Reserve and the Rufiji River that provides the lifeline for the park.
Battleships and World War on the Rufiji
The Rufiji River is not only an attraction for the millions of animals in Selous Game Reserve but has also played a huge role in the fortunes of humanity through the centuries. The navigable Rufiji Delta is home to the largest mangrove forests in the world, and it was these forests that allowed the German super battleship, the 'Konigsberg'
, to stay under cover whilst wreaking havoc on British ships in the Indian Ocean during the First World War. It was only the intervention, and bush skills, of a legendary hunter, JP Pretorius that finally brought the reign of destruction to an end.
Pretorius, whose knowledge of the Rufiji Delta was second to none, spent weeks looking for the ship and when he finally located it he called in the British forces in to destroy it.
Lifeline of the Selous
The Selous Game Reserve, named after the legendary African Adventurer Courtney Selous, is the world's largest game reserve and one of the wildest big game areas on the continent. In fact Selous is buried in the park, having been shot by a sniper during the war and his grave is still visible.
The wildlife of Selous is prolific and the park has recovered from the mass poaching of the 1980's where tens of thousands of animals were killed. Today it is one of the most sought after safari experiences - and the Rufiji River lies at its heart.
Visitors to Selous experience the river on game drives and on boat excursions, with meals often served on the sandy banks of the river. All the big game species of Tanzania can be seen in Selous and in fact the area is known for its numerous sub-species that only occur in the reserve. Species like the Nyassa or White Bearded Wildebeest are found in the reserve.
Equally Famous Tributaries
©River Safari at Rufiji River Camp
The major tributary of the Rufiji is the Great Ruaha River which is the lifeline for another of Southern Tanzania's great parks, Ruaha. Although still the focal feature of Ruaha the river has suffered from exploitation in the form of cultivation, which has resulted in an annual drying in the past twenty years. This has also affected the flow of the Rufiji, but despite this the two rivers are still lifelines for their respective parks.