Mozambique is not simply a travel destination, it is also a once in a life time experience. The incredible landscape offers the visitor countless breathtaking vistas where stunning plants and rare animals have made their homes. Luckily, many natural areas have been conserved within national parks and reserves. In fact, Mozambique’s environmental conservation areas presently cover more than 12% of the country’s entire surface and consist of six National Parks and six National Reserves.
The 2 700 kilometre coastline of Mozambique alone accounts for diverse ecosystems including pristine mangrove forests and coral reefs. It is amazing to think that the country still harbours five species of sea turtle, several species of dolphin, migrating whales and the rare dugong. The sad news, however, is that this superb marine environment is increasingly threatened by pollution, overfishing and ongoing development.
The good news is that something is being done about it. Inland, rolling hills and rugged mountains merge with open plains where species of all kinds still exist in the wild. Mozambique is brimming with healthy natural resources which have boosted her economy and 75% of the country’s people do small-scale farming despite the country remaining one of the poorest in the world.
Take a look at these magnificent parks in Mozambique and feel hope for the country’s natural resources and associated eco-tourism opportunities:
Bazaruto Archipelago National Park
This national park comprises five islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago, floating 20 kilometres off the coast of Inhambane Province. The 1,400 square kilometre area protects dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, rays, marlins and barracudas. There are also more than 240 species of birds, including the rare Crab Plover and Green Coucal. The 150 dugongs found here make up one of the last remaining and largest important populations in the world.
The islands’ lush tropical climate promotes a landscape of huge dunes, forests and savannahs, inland lakes and wetlands. They host several lizards and migrant water birds. Varied coral reefs are said to be the least disturbed in this part of the Indian Ocean. There are also about 3 500 people living in the archipelago who rely on the islands’ natural resources for survival – harvesting sand oysters, fish and other resources while they grow crops and raise their livestock.
Gorongosa National Park
One of the world’s best known conservation areas, Gorongosa National Park, lies on the south edge of the Great Rift Valley, 80 kilometres north-west of Beira in Sofala Province, Mozambique. Lion, leopard, civet, genet, serval, buffalo, elephant, bushbuck, hartebeest, impala, kudu, nyala, oribi, reedbuck, sable, waterbuck, warthog, zebra, vervet monkey, chacma baboon, hippo and crocodile may be seen in this mind-blowing space. The bird-life is prolific with over 200 species, including the rare Green-headed Oriole, having been identified.
Gorongosa is home to an astounding diversity of animals and plants—some of which are found nowhere else in the world. This rich biodiversity creates a complex world where animals, plants and people interact. From the smallest insects to the largest mammals, each plays an important role in the Gorongosa ecosystem.
Massive tectonic shifts millions of years ago have shaped the plateaus on both sides and the mountain to the west. Find the valley 21 kilometers west of Mount Gorongosa at 14 metres above sea level.
Limpopo National Park
The enormous Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park consists of numerous different landscapes providing homes to the ‘big five’ – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo – and a host of other wildlife including wild dog, hyena, kudu, oribi, hippo and zebra.
This 35,000 square kilometer peace park will link the Limpopo National Park with Kruger National Park in South Africa, Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, as well as the area between Kruger and Gonarezhou, the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa.
The Greater Limpopo Park is therefore one of the world’s largest conservancies, straddling parts of three African countries. The Mozambican side of the park covers about 40,000 square kilometers, inhabited by about 20,000 people when the park was created in 2002. Some of the former inhabitants have been relocated and the park has gained nearly 6,000 wild animals such as giraffes, zebras, impalas, gazelles, antelopes, warthogs from South Africa.
Quirimbas National Park
Situated in Cabo Delgado Province, this 7,500 square kilometer national park covers a large area of the mainland in addition to eleven islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago. The park protects 750,639 hectares (1,854,870 acres) of coastal forest, mangroves and coral reefs. The region was isolated for decades during the Mozambique civil war. Today, there are healthy land populations of elephants, lions, leopards, crocodiles and even wild dog in habitats that include mountains, forests, woodland and savannah. The amazing mangroves, beaches, coral reefs and sea grass beds are home to a rich variety of marine life including sea turtles, dugongs and many species of fish. To date there are 375 species of fish including threatened pipefish and seahorses.
The World Wide Fund for Nature supports a project that attempts to ensure that local communities, park authorities and tour operators share management responsibilities and share benefits from the park. They all work together to ensure protection, conservation and restoration of the land and marine environment, as well as conservation of marine species and their habitat. They also try to promote eco-friendly ways of making a living among the traditional inhabitants of the park. The project includes a fishery management program.
Banhine National Park
Situated in Gaza Province, this 7,000 square kilometer park is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area which links Mozambique with parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Comprising open savannah with mopane and miombo forests, it is home to lion, leopard, impala, kudu, nyala, oribi, reedbuck, sable, grey duiker, hippo, ostrich and crocodile.
The park contains vast inland wetlands which feed the dry lands around it and there are also more than 1 000 pans ranging in size from a few square meters to huge. These pans may be very salty or contain “sweet” and drinkable water. Conservators have found 18 species of fish in the park. The Banhine National Park used to be home to buffalo, sable, tsetsebe, hartebeest, zebra, and wildebeest but many of these animals were destroyed during the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, the park is still home to endangered wattled cranes and many migratory birds. Tourists can today find healthy populations of ostrich, kudu, impala, reedbuck, duiker, steenbok, porcupine, warthog and oribi.
Zinave National Park
Yet another park which forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, this 4,000 square kilometre park is situated along the Save River in the far north-west of Inhambane Province. Lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena can be viewed along with bushbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, reedbuck, steenbuck, both grey and red duiker, hippo and crocodile.
According to a 2010 report, Zinave Naional Park has been neglected until recently and most of its large wildlife has been destroyed by illegal hunting. It is sad to note that some species are locally extinct or close to extinct – black rhino, buffalo, cheetah, reedbuck, eland, elephant, giraffe, Lichtenstein Hartebeeste, roan antelope, sable antelope, spotted hyena, wildebeest and zebra.
The park has very diverse tree species and at least 41 species of grasses. The Save River channel is under water when the river is in flood, but at other times larger areas of sandbanks are exposed. Shifting cultivation by people living in the area are degrading the riverine forest on the banks of the river.
Niassa Game Reserve
Located in Niassa Province, in the far north of the country, Niassa Reserve is the largest reserve in Mozambique and home to the largest population of both elephant and wild dog. Lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, grey and red duiker, eland, hartebeest, impala, kudu, sable, waterbuck, wildebeest and zebra may also be seen.
This stunning and remote area has more than 350 African wild dogs, 12,000 sable antelopes, and 16,000 elephants!
There are no fences between the Mozambique Niassa Game Reserve and Tanzania’s famous Selous Game Reserve therefore the two wilderness areas share the same ecosystem bordering on the Lugenda River in northern Mozambique.
Wildlife population is slowly starting to recover from the impacts of poaching during the devastating civil war during the 1970’s and 80’s and visitors can expect a vast untouched wilderness with a strong game population. The lack of fences promotes animal migration and preservation.
Visitors will learn that Niassa Game Reserve is twice the size of the Kruger National Park or as big as Denmark! Apart from the animals, go and see the stunning island mountains – or inselbergs – the highest of which is the Mecula Mountain reaching 1 441 metres above sea level.
The park is very isolated which means that few tourists get to see its rich beauty – it is also remarkable that the reserve has the largest protected Miombo forest ecosystems in the world! Animals can be skittish through lack of interaction with people and a lack of development hurts the success of the reserve where few accommodation establishments exist.
Chimanimani National Reserve
Situated in Manica Province, Mozambique, this 640 square kilometer protected area is home to buffalo, bushbuck, grey and red duiker, eland, oribi, reedbuck, sable, waterbuck, warthog and a wide variety of birds and reptiles many of which are endemic to the area.
Mozambique’s Chimanimani mountains, which share a border with Zimbabwe’s national park of the same name, is designated by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area thanks to its awesome blending of three important biomes. Find the Blue Swallow and Swynnerton’s Robin here, both extremely rare birds.
You can find excellent hikes within the Chimanimani National Park and you will have the park to yourself as most people don’t come this way when visiting Mozambique. It is best to hire a local guide, as the paths can get a little confusing, and sometimes finding the keys to the guesthouses can be difficult.
Gile National Reserve
This 2,860 square kilometer mountainous reserve, in the north of Zambezi Province, is famous for its incredible biodiversity. It was set up in 1932 as a hunting reserve. Today, you can find 95 species of mammal – including elephant, lion, leopard, wild dog, spotted hyena, kudu, nyala and waterbuck – and 114 species of bird. It is best to go there during winter for animals but in summer for the birds.
There are only camping facilities within the park, getting you closer than ever to nature. Enjoy the miombo forest, dambos, reforested savannah, riverine vegetation and rivers. Many people are interested in the granitic Kopjes habitats found inside and around the reserve.
In 2013, the reserve received 50 buffaloes from the northern province of Niassa. The reserve has the potential for breeding various animals, including elephants. However, one of the major challenges is the threat of poaching.
Maputo Special Reserve
The Maputo Special Reserve, formerly known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve, links with parks in Swaziland and South Africa and is situated south of Maputo. It now forms part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area and is a major elephant stronghold, home to 350 African elephants. Stretching 77 400 hectares the reserve also hosts duiker, kudu, reedbuck, waterbuck and crocodile. There is a wide variety of birds while the marine fauna includes dolphin, turtle and whales.
The reserve is especially important as it lies in the Maputaland Centre of Endemism, creating links between its marine, coastal and inland sections. It conserves the outstanding biodiversity of this coastal zone and also includes lakes, wetlands, swamp forests, grasslands and mangroves.
The reserve is now seen as an important component in the protected areas system of Mozambique, as it conserves the exceptional biodiversity of a coastal zone that lies in the Maputaland Centre of Endemism and enables linkages between marine, coastal and inland components.
Marromeu National Reserve
This unique national park, also known as Marromeu Buffalo Reserve, is situated along the delta of the Zambezi River, in Sofala Province and aims to restore the 30 000 buffalo that once lived here, back to their endemic habitat. The Marromeu Special Reserve is surrounded by a hunting concession and hosts elephant, hartebeest, sable, eland, zebra, hippo, waterbuck, reedbuck and predators including lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena.
This is an amazing sanctuary to 120 breeding pairs of endangered Wattled Cranes and there are also huge nesting colonies of pelicans, storks, glossy ibis, Grey-Crowned Cranes, Saddlebill Storks, Goliath Herons and African Skimmers!
In addition, Marromeu protects marine animals including the Humpback and Minke whales, Bottlenosed, Roughtoothed and Humpback dolphins. But the reserve is best known for its Cape Buffalo, historically the largest population in Africa.
Pomene National Reserve
Set on the dunes and sandy forests of the Inhambane Province coast, this small 126 square kilometer reserve is home to grey duiker, impala, steenbuck, wildebeest, wild boar, chacma baboon and grey monkeys. There is also a wide and varied range of bird species.
The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area, created in 2000, is shared by three countries – Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. It includes the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park on the Indian Ocean coast, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.
There are large numbers of nesting turtles on these beaches; the migration of whales, dolphins and whale-sharks off-shore; and huge numbers of waterfowl including large breeding colonies of pelicans, storks, herons and terns.
The conservation of at least 1,350 elephants will be supported by the newly funded project as the Lubombo also encompasses the Ndumo-Tembe-Futi TFCA, which links the Maputo Special Reserve in Mozambique with the Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa.
Get to the park in a 4×4 vehicle, from Maputo or Beira City. Enjoy the varying land and sea habitats – dunes, savannahs, mangroves, marshes and forests.
Contact our destination specialist for further information