Discovering Mozambique's reborn Gorongosa National Park

Southern crowned-crane and steenbok in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.
Southern crowned-crane and steenbok in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Vladislav T. Jirousek

Situated at the southernmost end of the African Rift Valley in central Mozambique, Gorongosa National Park is ecologically unique as it forms part of one of the greatest restoration projects in southern Africa.

Although once a thriving national park, the civil war that engulfed Mozambique in the 1970s left Gorongosa in complete tatters with the animal population reduced by more than 90%. However, what sets the park apart is not its demise but its miraculous rebirth.

An extensive restoration program, which was led by the Carr Foundation together with the Mozambique government, managed to rebuild Gorongosa's infrastructure and restore the depleted animal population. Today the park is home to more than 78,000 large mammals and has become a hot spot of biodiversity.

Travelers can embark on guided game drives in the park and witness a remarkable diversity of antelopes, numerous primates and great birdlife as well as lions, large elephant herds, buffaloes, hippopotamuses and some really enormous crocodiles.

A bird lover's paradise, the array of birds that you can see on a Mozambique safari in Gorongosa is simply breathtaking. The best time of the year to see birds is November, when travelers can see over 150 different species in a single day. If you're a serious birder, you know that Gorongosa is home to a bird that is found nowhere else in the world: the green-headed oriole.

Travelers can experience the tropical rainforest on Mount Gorongosa or the lush emerald floodplains, filled with thousands of game. An interpretive game drive will take them into the beating heart of Gorongosa, or a walking safaris can open parts of the park where no one has set foot for the last 20 years.

On the cultural side, travelers can also join one of the local guides on a walk to the welcoming village of Vinho to taste life in rural Africa. They'll meet local women who will invite them into their daily lives to share in their stories and songs. They can visit the growing village market to try seasonal produce and view handmade crafts.

According to Mozambique tour operator Natalie Tenzer-Silva from Dana Tours, the park is expected to become an attractive destination for the luxury traveler thanks to the much-anticipated opening of the luxury Muzimu Tented Camp on the banks of the Muzikadzi River in July 2018.

An intimate experience, the camp will only have six guest tents, each with its own private access and viewing deck. The camp will offer a full, first-class traditional safari experience, including walking, driving and boating excursions. Guests of Muzimu will also visit the Gorongosa Restoration Project during their stay.

During a safari at Gorongosa National Park and Muzimu Tented Camp, visitors will be part of the restoration story and are able to experience the research, groundbreaking scientific work and visit all the humanitarian projects in the communities surrounding the park.

Need to know

Languages: Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language in Mozambique. Although most Mozambicans speak more than one language.

Currency/Banks/Forex: The local currency is the Mozambican Meticais, although most places in Mozambique will accept U.S. dollars.

Weather/Seasonality/Best Time: Gorongosa National Park closes from mid-December until April 13 each year. Each month brings a different experience in Gorongosa  read more about seasons here, and which are best for you.

Visas/Passport requirement: Visas are required by all nationals and are usually issued for one month. It is advisable to prepurchase your visa.

Health: No immunization is required for visitors entering Mozambique. Mozambique is a malaria-risk area, and taking prophylaxis is most advisable.

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