Gorongosa National Park covers some 4000 sq kms. of the Mozambique coastal plain.
Located 3 hours north-west of Beira, Gorongosa is the third oldest National Park in Africa, having been gazetted in the late 1920’s. During its heyday in the late 60’s and 70’s, it was synonymous with exceptional wildlife viewing, particularly for lion and elephant – it was more popular than both the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
The southern boundary of the park is formed by the Pungue River, whilst to the west, Mount Gorongosa (just outside the park boundaries) gives rise to the waters of the Mussicadzi River, which dominates the central floodplains. In the north of the park is Lake Urema whilst to the east, sandstone ridges dominate, evidence perhaps that this was once the end of the Great Rift Valley. Stands of yellow acacia, baobabs and palms break up the floodplains.
The civil war which ravaged Mozambique from the mid-70’s to the mid-90’s saw the end of tourism to the National Park as both factions fought for control of the strategic location. When the war ended, the lack of any infrastructure allowed a wholesale slaughter of most of the remaining wildlife species, and within 4 years or so, Gorongosa was dying. Local displaced inhabitants were forced to eke out an existence, many moving to within the park boundaries to fish and poach what remained.
In 2004, the American philanthropist Greg Carr approached the Government with a proposition – to take over and manage the National Park, creating employment for the surrounding people and re-protecting the beautiful wilderness. A 20 year agreement was signed, and his foundation built clinics and schools, set up factories and started to rehabilitate the park. Buffalo, hippo, zebra and wildebeest have already been reintroduced, and the other animal populations are beginning to recover. Elephant, lion, reedbuck, bushbuck, oribi, sable, bush pig, warthog, impala, kudu, nyala, baboon, vervet monkey, porcupine, civet, genet and crocodile can be seen in fair numbers. Wild dogs have also been re-introduced to the park.
The bird list suggests some 375 species occur although in reality this is likely to be an over-estimate. The flat, low, terrain (the park is barely 130 ft above sea level) floods seasonally and the park is closed from mid-December to the end of April.