Explore Gorongosa is a remote tented camp located within Gorongosa National Park.
Explore Gorongosa: Our full report
Stop press: This camp has recently closed, and will be re-opening in July 2013 as the upgraded Kubatana Camp owned and run by an experienced safari operation that we know well. We have great hopes that the good work started by Explore Gorongosa will continue and thrive under this new ownership. Ask us for the latest details....
Having heard great things about this relatively new safari operation, we managed to visit Explore Gorongosa in October 2011. We found a rustic safari experience with just six tents, set on its own 400km² private concession within Gorongosa National Park. The emphasis here is on good guiding, wilderness and wildlife, and though the area is not famed for its volume of animals, we were very pleasantly surprised.
'Explore Gorongosa' is the term used by the team to sum up the whole experience here. The main camp, which will be your base for the duration of your stay, is then referred to as 'Explorers Camp'. This is a semi-permanent, low-impact camp which is set up and broken down for every new season. It has no running water, and runs off solar power.
The main area at 'Explorers Camp' is a simple open-sided canvas tent, set next to a dry riverbed. Inside is a lounge area with comfortable sofas and a coffee table, and on cool evenings space can also be made for a dining table. There are a number of bird and wildlife reference books here, as well as games such as Scrabble to while away the afternoons between activities. The décor is simple and functional, yet perfectly comfortable for a rustic safari camp – anything more luxurious would just detract from is 'bush' feel.
Directors' chairs are set around the campfire, where guests gather for a pre-safari coffee or a drink before dinner. Nearer the riverbed, a shady spot is great for relaxing with a cushion, a cold drink and a pair of binoculars.
The spacious, 15m² safari tents at Explore Gorongosa open almost entirely at the front via two canvas doors to reveal a shaded veranda with reclining camp chairs and a hammock suspended from a nearby tree. Inside, as well as mosquito-netted windows, a mosquito net hangs from the comfortable bed, which is made up with high-quality linen. A small wooden shelf for clothing, a writing desk with a mirror, and reed floor mats complete the picture. While some might feel the need for a luggage rack or additional clothes' storage , for others, the simpler the better.
To the side of each tent is an open-air bathroom. Half-height wooden poles make up most of the wall, with full-height poles by the shower offering a little more shelter. That said, the tents are set far apart and carefully angled so that they are very private – and far from finding this openness to be a problem, it was great to be able to look out across the bush! The bucket shower in each bathroom is filled with hot or cold water whenever needed, and the rain showerhead makes it feel like a normal shower. Shampoo and conditioner are provided. Then there is a short-drop composting toilet with a proper seat, a bowl with water for washing your hands and face, and a small canvas bag with a mirror where you can place some toiletries.
Gorongosa also has a tree house which is entirely open at the front and raised up into the branches of a tree. Though this is a fun accommodation option – the tree house is right by the entrance road and so we don't really recommend it. We preferred the tents which are a lot more private.
More adventurous travellers who stay at Explore Gorongosa for four nights or more may also choose to spend a night or two at the fly-camp. This small and authentic camp is set up specifically for your stay, its simple dome tents are equipped with a single or twin camp beds. There is a central washbasin, and a short-drop toilet will be dug for you by the camp team, but if your fly-camp is for just one night they may not automatically set up a shower so you would need to request one if you want it. Typically, guests walk out to the fly-camp in the afternoon, to be greeted on arrival with a cold towel and a drink. Then, while you sit and chat over a sundowner drink, dinner is cooked over the campfire.
This is a great way to explore deeper into the park and you can even use the fly-camp as a base from which to climb Mount Gorongosa. If you want to reach the top you need two nights in the area, and to be quite fit, but if you just want to see the mountain and visit some waterfalls along the way, then you can do so with a one-night stop.
Explore Gorongosa will only take a maximum of six guests a night to a fly-camp and wherever possible they try to make it a private excursion. There is, however, the chance that you will be asked to share with other guests in camp. As logistics for these camping excursions can be complicated it is best that you organise it in advance. If you wait until you are at Explore Gornogosa they may not be able to arrange it.
Safari activities at Explore Gorongosa include day and night drives, mostly in the public section of Gorongosa National Park. The road network is reasonably extensive and takes you around numerous floodplains grazed by hundreds of plains game during the dry season. The private concession is reserved mostly for walking and with very few roads you can walk for hours and never hear a vehicle.
The morning activity usually begins at around 6.30am after coffee and biscuits around the campfire. Afternoon activities start at about 4.00pm after a refreshing drink of juice, tea or coffee and a piece of cake. It is also possible to spend a full day exploring the further reaches of the park – such as the lake or Mount Gorongosa itself.
Although we had expected the game here to be quite scarce, we saw lion on a number of occasions and plenty of plains game. The birdlife is also extremely diverse, with around 412 species identified locally. There was a slight lack in diversity of animals and it certainly doesn't quite compete with some of southern Africa's better know wildlife areas – but with various wildlife reintroduction programmes in hand, this is bound to change over the years.
Our ViewWe thought Explore Gorongosa was perfect for old Africa hands who are looking for something different. It's a vast wilderness area with few people, and currently no other camps within the park. While we noticed a small influx of locals on day excursions at weekends, and this added slightly to the traffic, it didn't significantly impact on the wilderness aspect.
Ideal length of stay: Spend at least 4 nights on safari with Explore Gorongosa to ensure that you get to experience all that the park has to offer.
Directions: There are flights to the nearest large town, Beira, from Maputo or Johannesburg, then you can take a charter flight into Gorongosa, taking 25 minutes. You can also drive in from Beira, which is cheaper but takes about three hours. A straightforward option is to combine Gorongosa with the Bazaruto Archipelago via twice-weekly flights – so adding some beach time to your itinerary.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Gorongosa was absolutely fine and though it doesn't compete with some of the other camps we have visited, it is still better than many. The problem here seemed to be a slight lack of very fresh produce such as salads and vegetables.
Your day usually starts with early morning tea or coffee with a quick snack such as a rusk or biscuit. Then a proper brunch is served a at about 10.30am or 11.00am, after your morning activity. Brunch was quite a spread with fruit, cereals such as muesli or bran flakes with yoghurt, and a cooked breakfast as well. Eggs of your choice would be served with bacon and sausage.
At teatime a cake was always on offer before the afternoon activity – we tried both lemon cake and some particularly tasty star-shaped cinnamon rolls.
Dinner is three courses, with a starter along the lines of soup. One night we were served a delicious Mozambican fillet steak with potatoes and vegetables, and chicken Kiev on the other. One of our favourite main dishes was at the fly-camp: a potjie; this is a South Africa stew with beef and potatoes in a rich tomato sauce cooked over the open fire. Chocolate brownies, a selection of Mozambican cheeses and a vanilla tart rounded off our meals.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included, except for champagne and premium imported wines and spirits
Birdwatching: 412 species of bird have been recorded by Explore Gorongosa – including some of the rarer species such as Pels fishing owl, the narina trogon (resident in camp) and the green-headed oriole, which is endemic to Gorongosa. We also saw numerous birds right in camp.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Mozambique
Attitude towards children: The camp happily accepts children over the age of ten for vehicle-based activities, but children must be over 14 in order to go on walking safaris and fly-camps.
Property’s age restrictions: Children below the age of ten years will not be allowed to stay at Explore Gorongosa without prior arrangement and consent from the camp.
Equipment: Explore Gorongosa has no special equipment for children, though they do have a few board games such as Scrabble
Generally recommended for children: We would not recommend this area for young children or families who are new to the bush. This is a wild and remote area which is better suited to families with older and more mature children who have travelled to Africa before.
Notes: Parents should note that children are their responsibility at all times; game does wander through the unfenced camp. It is worth noting that the head guide, Jeff, is very good with older children.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: Explore Gorongosa has satellite communication, so in an emergency email and Skype are available, and they have a satellite phone. However, under normal circumstances you should consider yourself out of touch whilst in Gorongosa National Park. This is a really remote location and communications are generally limited to very weak cellphone reception – enjoy the wilderness instead.
TV & radio: No – this is the bush!
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The guides at Explore Gorongosa have advanced training in first aid and first-aid kits are taken on all walks and drives. They also have full emergency evacuation procedures should that be necessary.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests at Explore Gorongosa are escorted from the main areas to tents at night by armed scouts.
Fire safety: Explore Gorongosa have a full fire break around the camp and have fire extinguishers in every room and vehicle. There is also a fire team based in the park to assist in case of a serious bushfire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included at Explore Gorongosa. Laundry is usually handwashed and line dried in the park, but can be taken to Chitengo for a machine wash. There are female staff in camp who will wash ladies' delicates as well.
Money: There are no currency exchange facilities here at Explore Gorongosa.
Accepted payment on location: Explore Gorongosa does not currently have credit card facilities so all extras must be paid in cash, either in British pounds, euros, rand, US dollars or meticais.