IN JANUARY 2012, THIS IMAGE WAS SELECTED AS THE TRAVEL WORD’S PHOTO OF THE YEAR 2011.
This photograph flawlessly captures two cheetahs standing ready and vigilant in the rays of another remarkable day in Tanzania. Distinctively the fastest moving land mammal, these incredible cats are capable of achieving speeds in excess of 70 mph (110 kph) in pursuit of prey.
Apparently, despite their innate abilities, cheetahs have a conservation status of ‘vulnerable’. Unlike other safari animal species, this is not widely believed to be due to human meddling, but, rather, genetic problems. Cheetah cubs tend to be puny, and small breeding groups often lead to birth defects and weaknesses.
One of the optimum cheetah-spotting locations in the country is Selous Game Reserve, the largest ‘unscathed’ game reserve in Tanzania and a UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Site. The reserve is approximately 55,000 square kilometres in size and nestled in the heart of southern Tanzania. It is about six hours by car from the city of Dar es Salaam and 45 minutes by charter flight. The best time to visit the reserve is the dry season (June to November), as there is a better opportunity of spotting animals during this period. The weather conditions from December to March are hot and humid.
The reserve is not crowded and is a habitat for some of the greatest concentrations of wildlife on the continent, including 70,000 elephants, cape buffaloes, black rhinos, giraffes, African hunting dogs, several big cats and over half a million antelopes including sable, kudu, eland, hartebeest and Nyassa wildebeest. Over 440 known species of birds and 2000 plant species inhabit its diverse and striking landscape.
Selous is also accentuated by the largest river in Tanzania – the Rufiji. The river is renowned for boat safaris and is home to crocodiles and hippos. Chiefly an adventurous activity, a walking safari is typically done at the break of dawn and in the company of an armed ranger. This is without a doubt one of most rewarding experiences in Tanzania.
A wide array of accommodation is available in Selous, ranging from budget to top-end lodges and camps. Budget lodges such as Ndoto Kidogo Lodge provide all the basic necessities at an affordable rate, while premier locations such as Selous Impala Camp offer lavish safari experiences for those looking to experience luxury.