Published Jan 15, 2012

We arrived at the Selous right ahead of a storm, just as we had at Ruaha. We could feel it too: as our unpressurized Caravan made its landing turn, hot, humid, close air burst through the ventilation system, filling the cabin with languor and the promise of rain. Again, just as at Ruaha, the sun was shining and the sky clear as we landed, but there was a vast, dark cloud in the corner of the sky, and the wide horizons of Africa made it easy to see that rain was streaming out of it. At Ruaha, we started back to camp as if on a game drive, but then dark clouds emerged from two other corners of the sky, and then we sped back to camp to try to get there before the storms converged from three sides. 

At Selous, we had less of a worry if we would beat the weather, because our afternoon safari was planned to take place in a covered boat. We’d head down the broad, muddy Rufiji river, keeping our eyes peeled for birds, hippos, and, yes, crocodiles, returning at sundown to clean up in our tent.

And it was some return. The Selous Impala camp, where we stayed, offered the only fan we had in any of our safari stops. Courtney, who loves keeping cool and had been quite the trouper to put up, uncomplaining, with day after day of 100-degree-plus weather. She quite literally almost hugged the fan as soon as we walked into our tent.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Impala was a very, very different place than Kwihala — or any other place we’d been. Impala is owned by Italians, who, it’s fair to say, have their own set of priorities. For instance, in the middle of nowhere, with no source of power or anything other than diesel they truck in, they have this:

Dinner was served in a grand style, too, in a lovely setting as well:

There was even the house hippo, Andrea, who loved to hang around the place:

Andrea was quite the challenge: while having him around was exciting and scenic, the reality is that hippos are cranky, cranky animals and, if you were to unexpectedly stumble upon Andrea, the reality was that he would almost certainly trample you to death. Us urban types have few skills related to not stumbling upon hippos, so, rather than deal with a ton of dead tourists they have to hide, Impala employs a bunch of Maasai warriors who escort you from place to place. You just stand outside and yell “Jambo Masai!” and they come and get you, pointing out little animals (and, of course, Andrea if he’s around) along the way.

We had just one driving safari in Selous, but it was a humdinger: a tracker had found a lion pride, and our driver was on top of it:

Most of our time we spent on river safaris, going up and down the Rufiji. The river teemed with birds of all sorts, like this bee-eater:

And this kingfisher (hot tip: I love photographing kingfishers, no matter what part of the world we’re in):

And even this egret — the local egrets seem to like standing on the local water buffalo:

But of course what we came to see were the hippos, like this one who took a serious look at us:

And this one who wanted to tell us: these are my teeth!

And, of course, the sinister crocodiles:

The sunsets? They were a bonus!