The rehabilitation of this National Park in central Mozambique represents one of the great, ongoing conservation stories in the world today.

In the 1950s and ‘60s Gorongosa was considered to be the best game park in Africa. Celebrities flocked there, rather than to Kruger Park, for game viewing.  An animal census made in 1972 lists among other species 14,000 Cape buffalo, 3000 hippo, 500 lion, 700 sable, 5500 blue wildebeest, 1000 kudu, 500 eland and so on. An animal census in 1994 found no trace of any of these animals.  Other species – elephant, zebra and waterbuck – which previously had significant populations - were found in tiny numbers.

Much of the fighting during fifteen years of civil war took place in central Mozambique, and the park functioned as a giant larder for both armies. In addition 2000 elephants were slaughtered and the ivory sold to finance the fighting.

A new beginning

In 2002 the Park came to the attention of an American philanthropist, Greg Carr. Having made a fortune pioneering voice-mail technology, Carr wanted to put something back, and pledged forty million dollars of his personal fortune to rehabilitate Gorongosa Nation Park. 

Today, the Carr Foundation is working with the Mozambique government to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa and develop an ecotourism industry to find employment for some of the 250,000 people who live around the National Park.

In January, 2008, the Carr Foundation signed a 20-year contract with the Government to co-manage this 4000 square kilometre Park. 

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Gorongosa National Park is home to an intriguing diversity of animals, birds and plants - some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

The Foundation has been restocking the Park over the last few years, and already Park has an impressive species list with more and more species being reintroduced on a monthly basis. It is home to significant populations of oribi, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and sable, with herds of up to 120 head of sable.

Predators are recovering slowly, with a number of lion prides and a few male coalitions within the Park. Elephant herds and bulls are regularly encountered. Recently some large elephant bulls have been relocated from the Kruger National Park to provide some wisdom and guidance to their young askaris! Large herbivores are being reintroduced through the sanctuary which has good herds of buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest.

Leopard do occur and African Wild dogs were introduced in 2018 - 2019. In the rivers and lake, there are healthy populations of hippo and crocodile, whilst zebra, impala, monkeys and baboons are to be found on the floodplains. Nyala and bushbuck can be seen frequently in the forests, whilst bush pigs are sometimes also encountered. Nocturnal species include serval, civet, genet, both bushbaby/Galago species and Cape porcupine.

Birding

Birding at Gorongosa is superb. with excellent, with the international birding fraternity visiting the area for its flagship 'special', the Green-headed oriole. Other highlights include Collared Palm thrush, Green malkoha (Green coucal), Narina Trogon and Spotted Creeper. Lake Urema provides a home to a huge number of waterbirds and one can literally sit for hours watching African fish eagles swoop down, spoonbills foraging, jacana’s tip- toeing across lilies, herons and storks plucking fish from the water, and much more…

Ecosystems

The rain and the seasonal inundation of the valley, combined with many different soil types, creates a unique mosaic of distinct ecosystems. The plains are dotted with acacia savanna, dry forests in sandy areas, wetlands or pans seasonally filled by the rains, and thickets on termite-built mounds. The plateaus contain Miombo and montane forests, as well as a spectacular rainforest at the bottom of a series of limestone gorges.

Visiting Gorongosa

As much of the park - at least the floodplain sector - is underwater during the rainy season (November to March), it cannot be visited during that time. Tracks have been built only in the southern section of the park, going out from the camp (Montebelo Gorongosa Camp) towards the lake, so effectively cover just 15% of the park. Currently (June 2023) the sole accommodation of a reasonable standard is Montebelo Gorongosa, a mid-range 47-room camp with en-suite bungalows, a welcome swimming pool and good local guides who take guests on wildlife viewing drives and walks. It should be emphasised that as its wildlife populations continue to recover, Gorongosa is a location more suited for those who are keen on enjoying splendid scenery in a remote wilderness location far away from crowds.

 

Shelley Phillips

Travel Specialist

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