Formerly called Selous Game Reserve, Nyerere National Park in southern Tanzania is Africa’s oldest and largest national park.
This protected region was originally established in 1922 and was named for Frederick Courteney Selous. Selous was a British explorer, hunter, and conservationist who perished near the Rufiji River while fighting German colonial forces in the First World War. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its wildlife diversity and undisturbed environment, the reserve bore the name of Selous for 97 years, until is was renamed in 2019 after Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere.
Today, the national park encompasses an area of over 11,500 square miles, not counting additional buffer zones, which is over twice the size of the more famous Serengeti National Park. Because of its size and its more remote location, Nyerere is much quieter and exclusive, with fewer tourists per square mile than the parks in the northern parts of the country. To this day it remains remarkably wild and untouched.
Nyerere’s size makes it difficult to estimate the true extent of the wildlife within its borders. But its rivers and lakes sustain phenomenal wildlife concentrations, including Africa’s largest populations of elephant and wild dog. Along the Rufiji River and beyond, an astonishing number of animal and bird species can be found including waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck, crocodile, hippo, and black and white colobus monkeys. Sandbanks are crowded with huge crocodiles, exposed mud banks are shaded under red clouds of carmine bee-eaters, and swampy islands are visited by wandering elephants.