Flora and fauna
The area around Selinda and Zibalianja camps is the wide mouth of the Magwegqana Spillway – which is largely composed of open floodplains dotted with small palm islands. The spillway floods only very rarely, but when it's done so in the past it has cleared, or killed off, many small trees and bushes on the plains, leaving only flat marshes and grasslands behind.
Because it hasn't flooded fully for a long time, these areas are now dry and are gradually being colonised by 'pioneer species' of invading bushes – species which can quickly take a hold and will thrive in areas which have been disturbed like this.
Chief amongst these is the wild sage (Pechuel-loeschea leubnitziae
), which covers large areas of the spillway with its aromatic grey-green foliage. (In Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango
, Veronica Roodt comments that 'All over Africa wild sage is used [to treat] a variety of venereal diseases.')
Another pioneer is the candle-pod acacia (Acacia hebeclada
) which form lovely, round bushes. If you've come here after Savuti Marsh, you may have seen them on the south side of the marsh there.
Dotted amidst this are small, slightly raised 'islands' of trees. These have been here for decades, and can survive the periodic flooding.
The trees found on these are typical in many ways of those in the riparian forests, though with the addition of lots of the real fan palms (Hyphaene petersianna
). Some are tall trees, many are only bush-sized, but all help to make Selinda's environment a particularly attractive one. Amongst the other tree species here, African mangosteens (Gardenia livingstonei
) seem particularly common and lush – their branches all apparently flung outwards, as if a green bomb had exploded inside.
Like the Linyanti and Kwando, there's a population of resident game, which is swelled from about June onwards by the arrival of large numbers of game which move into the reserve for its proximity to the permanent waters of Zibadianja Lagoon and the Kwando–Linyanti river system.
Permanent game includes impala, red lechwe (on the east side near the lagoon), kudu, tsessebe, giraffe, reedbuck, steenbok, warthog, baboon and vervet monkeys. Lion and spotted hyena are common, whilst leopard are seen more rarely, usually around the larger tree islands. The very open country is certainly good for cheetah, and though I've never seen them myself, I do get regular reports of them here.
Selinda certainly is one of the best reserves for wild dog; the pack known locally as the 'Selinda pack' denned here in 2001 and 2002. Although wild dog do range over the whole of northern Botswana, if you want any chance of seeing them then you'll need a place where your guide can drive off-road, to stick with them as they hunt, and where there's lots of dry, open grassland with not too many trees, so that the driving is relatively free of obstacles.
This narrows your choice down to a few of the private reserves, but would certainly include Selinda, Mombo, Vumbura and the southern side of Kwando. I don't wish to imply here that you won't see dogs elsewhere; you will. However, if I were going out specifically to look for dogs, then I'd start in these areas.
On my last visit I followed them hunting on one occasion for over an hour. Following them at speed across the open ground, they would frequently run through the small palm islands to try and flush out any game hiding there. At the same time we'd drive around the islands, and wait for them to come out on the other side again.
Herds of wildebeest and zebra arrive around May, staying here until just around November–December. Elephants and buffalo follow a similar pattern with individuals around all year, and larger breeding herds arriving around June-July and staying until December. Eland, sable and roan occur here, but none are common.
Side-striped jackal, bat-eared fox and various mongooses are resident, as are the more nocturnal serval, caracal, African wildcat and aardwolf. Night drives will usually locate scrub hares, spring hares, lesser bushbabies, genets (small-spotted and large-spotted), civets, sometimes honey badgers or porcupines, and rarely aardvark.
Virtually all of the birds typical of riparian woodlands in the neighbouring Linyanti and Kwando reserves also occur in the tree islands of Selinda.
In addition to this, the reserve is noted for good sightings of collared palm thrush, plus species of open grasslands like ostriches, secretary birds, kori bustards, red-crested korhaans, various sandgrouse and both common and (from November to March) harlequin quails. The family of coursers is well-represented here – with the uncommon bronze-winged and three-banded varieties occurring as well as the more widespread Temminck's and double-banded coursers.
During the summer months flocks of Abdim's and white storks can be seen, whilst raptor concentrations are always good.