Extending over 5,250km2 at the southern end of the Rift Valley, Gorongosa National Park was Mozambique’s flagship conservation area in the last years of the Portuguese colonial era, when it was widely regarded as one of the finest safari destinations anywhere in Africa, rivalling the Serengeti for its prodigious concentration of wildlife.
Gorongosa has been through some lean times since then, particularly during the post-independence civil war, but it is now well on the road to recovery and, following the welcome intervention of the Carr Foundation in 2004, there is some cause for optimism that it might yet reclaim its place as one of the region’s finest wildlife destinations.
If most safari-goers might need a little persuasion to give Gorongosa a try, birdwatchers should have no such qualms: the park’s tangled bush and mesmerising waterways are literally teeming with avian activity.
Realistically, Gorongosa has some way to go in attaining this goal. For aficionados of the Big Five, there is a sporting chance of encountering lion and elephant, which are both increasing in number and reasonably habituated to vehicles, but buffalos are scarce, leopards are predictably furtive and rhinos are – no less predictably – extinct.
Still, even as things stand, Gorongosa is unquestionably the best non-marine wildlife-viewing destination in Mozambique, with the floodplains around Chitengo in particular supporting large and rapidly increasing herds of waterbuck, reedbuck, impala and other antelope.
And if most safari-goers might need a little persuasion to give Gorongosa a try, birdwatchers should have no such qualms: the park’s tangled bush and mesmerising waterways are literally teeming with avian activity, and there is the added bonus of potential day visits to nearby Mount Gorongosa and its eagerly sought endemic race of green-headed oriole.
For independent travellers, especially self-sufficient campers with their own wheels, Gorongosa also has in its favour its relative affordability and accessibility, with the main camp situated perhaps an hour’s drive north of the pivotal junction of the EN1 and EN6. Bigger-spending Africa addicts may have to hold off for the time being, as the park’s only exclusive tented camp closed its doors in 2012 and plans for another luxury operator to step in have stalled since 2013.