Never have I heard the sounds of nature as deeply as when staying at Amara Luxury Tented Camps in Tanzania's Selous area. Not merely animals nor birds nor wind amidst the grasses, but Nature - a deep connection with energy that radiates from the earth itself. Nothing intrudes; you appreciate the environment for its inherent beauty.
I arrive by plane from Dar es Salaam - a typical tourist on my way to experience the "real Africa," while taking a break from volunteer work. I have the opportunity to stay at a "luxury tented camp" offering a three-day special price. At an air field in Simbazi, I am greeted with a welcome beverage by my patient, informative guide, Phillip, who assures me we are minutes from camp. We drive south, met with an amazing four-course lunch. My room in Villa 3 is everything that the brochure boasts about and more. It includes a beautiful bedroom, outdoor shower, plunge pool and a gorgeous view of the river in front. Entertainment is provided by a wide assortment of local wildlife. My closest neighbor
George, a large bull elephant, is a constant feature in my life over the next three days.
The first afternoon involves a three-hour game drive on the river. Isaiah, my guide, expertly maneuvers his way through the silt and sand of
the Ruaha River to show me the hippos, elephants, crocodiles and species of birds that make this their home. Then, back to the room to freshen up just in time for a five-course gourmet dinner by candle light. This is "roughing it!" I sleep like a baby amidst the gentle sound of yawning hippos wallowing in the river mud nearby.
Day two brings a beautiful sunrise and the promise of more animal sightings. After a quick coffee, fresh fruit and a
muffin, we start off in a four-wheeler, giving way to a walking safari into the bush. Within moments, we sight a pride of lions 20 feet away. I lock eyes with a lioness a
few yards across the grass. Back to the vehicle to watch in safety! We observe wildebeest, wart hogs, waterbucks, hyenas and impalas. Incredible!
Back at camp, breakfast is a huge feast by the river, and even George the elephant enjoys the morning ambience as he quietly munches bark nearby. We enjoyed fresh fruit, cereal, scotch eggs, biscuits, olives, coffee and juice.
Adapting to the speed and rhythm of the country, in the afternoon, I sit on the verandah of my room and gaze over the plunge-pool, truly understanding the meaning of the cliché, "the silence is deafening." Such a peaceful void of sound and movement. I read and soak up the scenery and soon fall into a comfortable slumber.
Next, another game drive. We head to the top of a local ridge with an unbelievable view. We see hippos, giraffes, elephants, warthogs and of course, the ever present
We spot vultures overhead, and walk into the bush to explore. Too late! The prey is gone, apparently devoured by lions. Sundowner drinks and snacks are served in the bush complete with checkered table cloth and crystal glasses - all brought and set up by guide, Phillip.
As the cool evening air permeates the vehicle, we pull back into camp in time for yet another wonderful dinner. Phillip sits with a gun, reminding us that crocs can saunter up from the river. At bedtime, he escorts us back to our rooms.
Our third and final day begins with a quick coffee and snack. Then off to the bush for a game drive. I watch a stand-off between a pride of lions and several thirsty impala gathered around a watering hole. This ends in a chase followed by a kill, another memorable sight. On our way back, we stop at a local burial site with pots and other artifacts that local anthropologists are in the process of cataloguing.
Lunch is at eleven followed by time to pack. The air traffic system is simple. When the guide hears the plane, he knows it's time to drive the guests to the airfield - a ride that takes approximately five minutes. As I climb into my plane and head back to the chaos and noise of Dar es Salaam, I reflect. Words cannot do justice to this incredible experience, but might instill in fellow travelers a yearning to experience the beauty and serenity that is "The Selous."
Beth Poad is a graduate of McMaster University and a retired English Teacher. She has written curriculum documents for public and private schools and travelled as a volunteer to Europe, China, Tanzania and South Africa. When not travelling, she reads, writes and plans her next travel experience.
If you go
Tourism Selous: www.tanzaniatourismonline.net/selous_game_reserve.html
Game Reserve: http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Africa/Tanzania/Selous_Game_Reserve
Places of worship: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Places_of_worship_in_Tanzania Amara Camp:
On the Great Ruaha River in The Selous Game Reserve. Nearest airstrip is Simbazi. Accommodation consists of 12 deluxe air-conditioned tented rooms, large bathrooms, outside showers, wooden decks with private plunge pool offering complete privacy and amazing view of river. Transportation: the only way to get around the reserve is with a good, strong, 4x4 vehicle especially after several days of rain. There is no other form of public transportation. Camp is powered by solar energy using a generator at night. The camp has a waste treatment plant. Fresh water is plentiful and is heated by solar water heaters. Game drives are taken in luxury 4x4 vehicles with open sides to facilitate game viewing. Vehicles seat 6 persons. River safaris are provided in luxurious river boats. Game Walks are provided by highly trained professional guides and trackers.
When & how to go:
The best time to visit parks in the south of Tanzania is during the dry season (June - November) because the roads are passable and you can drive around. The dry season also means that the game is more concentrated around the rivers that run through these vast parks, thus making it easier to spot wildlife. From December - March, there is an even greater chance of seeing young animals, but the weather is very hot and humid.
The train arrives in The Selous three times a week: on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. The train leaves from Tazara station in Dar es Salaam and costs only $10 and passes through the reserve giving free game viewing.
Daily flights from cities within Tanzania. Airlines: Zanair, Coastal Aviation, Precision Air. Prices arranged in conjunction with lodge.