Safari in the Selous

A pride of female lions sits in the shade to beat the late afternoon heat after gorging themselves on a wilda beast kill. Shot with a 5D Mark II, 24-105mm, and an off camera 580EX with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5’s (Photo by Donald Miralle)

My first trip to Africa started with a trip to the Selous Game Reserve, the oldest and largest protected area in Africa named after Englishman big game hunter and conservationist Sir Frederick Selous. Located in Southern Tanzania it covers an area of approximately 54,600 square kilometers, over double the size of the famous Serengeti and larger than Switzerland. It was a made a World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its rich and untouched biodiversity, and after some thought I opted for a three day safari there rather than the Serengeti because of the high density of wildlife and low density of tourists. It is also very accessable through Coastal Aviation out of Dar Es Salaam, the main city hub you fly into Tanzania. I booked with Enchanting Africa Safaris Tours last minute (literally as I was flying into the country) and thanks to Hildy Rubin and crew for seeing my reservations and accomodations through. I stayed at the fantastic Maze Lake Camp run by Richard and Sarah who do a great job managing the camp, and booked me a wonderful array of private land and water safaris (the Selous is the only place in Africa where you can go on a river/lake safari tour). From waking up in the morning to the sound of the local elephant “Rafiki” eating brush outside my tent, seeing a pride of lions killing wilda beasts, to dedicated Masai Warriors guarding the campsite at night, cape buffaloes and hippos challenging our boat on the Rufiji River, and having a lunch on safari under a 2,000 year old Baobab trees, I have more unbelievable memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some of those moments captured in photos, hope you enjoy and as always feedback is welcome! You can see the photos larger on my website here. More photos from Africa to coming soon…

The vast Selous covers over 54,600 square kilometers, an area larger than many countries (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A hippo sits in the edge of Manze lake grazing while birds fly around picking off insects. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A male African Elephant “Rhafiki” wakes me up outside my tent in the morning. Despite their size elephants are extremely stealth and quite in the bush and you don’t know one is near until he is over you and you can hear his breath. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Giraffes feed along the shores of Lake Manze at sunrise (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A crocodile hides in the mangroves at sunset at Lake Rufiji in the Selous. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Two impalas in a bachelor group lock horns. (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A single tusked elephant grazes along the Maze river at sunset as birds pick out insects behind his tracks (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Dead trees line the shores of Lake Manze making a surrealist Dali-like landscape (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A solitary male lion looks on from the Selous reserve (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A female lion stalks prey in the grass at the Selous reserve (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A lion clamps down on the neck of a wilda beast. She was a member of a female pride consisting of a mother and two daughters (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Lions feed on the carcas of a wilda beast. They gorged themsleves on it through the evening before leaving little for scavangers (Photo by Donald Miralle).

The one-eyed matriarch of the pride looks on. She lost an eye hunting and probably will succumb sooner than later (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Wild dogs have been hunted down in most of Africa but have done well in the Selous, and have the highest hunting kill percentage of any carnivore in Africa. (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A spotted hyena flees the scene with a full belly and a bloody muzzle (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A Fisher Eagle with a recently killed meal perched in a dead tree on Rufiji River (Photo by Donald Miralle). These large raptors which resemble a bald eagle feed on fish, reptiles and even other birds (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A Pied Kingfisher looks on from a low lying branch over the river waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by (Photo by Donald Miralle).

White-Fronted Bee-Eaters sit outside of their nests burrowed in the banks of the river. The Selous is a bird’s lovers paradise with over 440 species of bird present (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A yellow-billed stork looks for food along the Rufiji River banks (Photo by Donald Miralle)

A 2,000 year old Baobab Tree at sunset. The Selous is the largest protected dry forest ecosystem in Africa (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A brown-hooded kingfisher looks on (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Zebras look on from a distance. One kick from a Zebras hind legs can kill a full-grown lion (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A hippo comes ups for a peek and some air as my boat approaches (Photo by Donald Miralle)

Two elephants lock horns (Photo by Donald Miralle)

An aerial view of dead trees in Lake Siwandu (Photo by Donald Miralle).

One of the most dangerous animals in the bush, a Cape Buffalo stares down my camera at dusk (Photo by Donald Miralle).

The Selous bush has scattered bones like this wilda beast throughout as visitors are not allowed to touch animal’s remains (Photo by Donald Miralle).

One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen on the shores on Lake Manze (Photo by Donald Miralle).

My Masai Warriors friends Emmanuel and Paolo stand outside my camp at sunrise. I was amazed how in touch the Masai were with nature and their surroundings (Photo by Donald Miralle).

The view from my tent on the shores of Lake Manze (Photo by Donald Miralle).

A view from the inside of my tent, which I shared with a gecko and skink roommates that were great for helping with the bugs (Photo by Donald Miralle).

On the front of my safari boat with my long glass and off-camera flash (Photo by Donald Miralle).

Best safari crew in the North Selous – (L-R) Emmanuel the Masai Warrior, Adam the guide, myself and Emmanuel the driver (Photo by Donald Miralle).


  1. Will Vragovic says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! Enjoy your trip, stay safe, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from Africa.

  2. Wow – what pics, really exciting! I will share with the Inskeep elders when I return home from Savannah – Dori

  3. Some really nice shots, I especially like the cape buffallo, it’s all about darkness and gives a really strange impression of power and danger.
    Glad to see you have all your stuff after the flights, always a risk

    • We turned a corner in our safari boat and the cape buffalo was about 15 feet away from us. We were as surprised to see him at such close quarters as he was and if we were in a car rather than a boat in the water I have no doubt he would have charged us…Glad my kit and souvenirs for the family made it back too, had a sketchy experience at the ticketing counter at the airport and pretty much figured everything was lost. Two of the doctors I was traveling with lost a $500 projector and a bag of drugs and medical supplies that are for sure on the black market now…

  4. Bill Coleman says:

    I’m hoping to see shots of the medical mission as well. Or a link to where they’ll be posted. And another vote for the buffalo. I hope I don’t have nightmares.

  5. You’re a genius. Beautiful pictures. Enjoy your rest of the Africa trip.

  6. these are gorgeous. i was just thinking that if i were behind the lens and i saw that buffalo staring back at me like that… i’d probably have to change my diaper, much less keep a steady hand for the pic.

    • Thanks Dawn…yeah that cape buffalo scared the crap out of me when we turned a corner on the river and it didn’t help that it was near dark, but we had nowhere to go but to stay in the boat and take pictures…if we were on land it would have been a different story for sure…

  7. Your amazing photos and blogs were forwarded to me by Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, a mutual friend. We traveled with a medical team to Iringa, Tanzania in 2009 following a shipment of medical supplies we had sent and were privileged to enjoy the Ruhaha Natl’ Park. What great memories your photos invoked. Thank you for your excellent work.


    • Thanks Janice – Tanzania is an amazing place with a magical moment (and photo opp!) hiding around every corner you turn. I am glad my photos refreshed your memories of your trip last year…

  8. Not to pile on, but that Cape Buffalo photo is one of the best wildlife photos I’ve ever seen. The lighting and the exposure choice makes you really feel the intensity. Sounds like there was a lot of serendipity to it, but as they say “luck favors the prepared”.

    Speaking of being prepared, I’m curious about your gear choices when packing up for Africa. I’ve heard that some small planes have weight restrictions, etc. So what made the cut? Anything you didn’t bring you wish you had or conversely anything you brought you wish you hadn’t?

  9. wow! cool photos…
    just curious – what sort of flash did you use for night shots of an elephant and lions?


    • Janna – I used a Canon 580EX fired with a pair of flexTT5 and mounted to a lightstand for the elephant and a superclamp on the land rover for the lions. Both shots weren’t at night actually; the elephant named “Rhafiki” by the camp actually woke me up in my tent at about 6am, and the lions were shot late afternoon with a bit of cloud cover. Both shots I turned up the flash to full power manual to balance the ambient and spot light the subject. I found that the 580EX with pocket wizards is a great travel system to light on the fly for portraits of wildlife, and you can add a softbox, umbrella, or light diffuser very easily to it.

  10. Hi Don,

    I’ve been enjoying your photos a lot. It was a lot of fun to share a few days with you at Lake Manze camp and watch you work. I’ve been blogging about Tanzania as well (see There is one photo of you rescuing us from the mud hole!


    • Huw,

      Great to hear from you! Just checked out your blog and like the shot of the truck stuck in the mud, but truthfully the guides did most of the rescuing (I just contributed a good knot!). Your photos look great and sounds like the rest of your trip went well. I still have a print of the Masai Warriors with your name on it, please forward your mailing address when you get a chance. Hope you’re well and please give my regards to Trish, Rick and Deb for me. Happy Holidays!


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