Gorongosa National Park: in detail
Gorongosa safari holidays: the full story
Gorongosa National Park was once a superb game viewing destination. Before the onset of the civil war in the 1970s, it was considered one of Africa's finest parks, with large populations of herbivores and predators. However, Gorongosa's game populations were hugely affected by the troubles Mozambique suffered, and it is only in recent years that a restoration project has been put in place to re-establish the park and its game viewing.
The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities.
Wildlife in Gorongosa National ParkWhen one of the Expert Africa team last visited, we felt that the game viewing here lacked diversity: the restoration process of Gorongosa's wildlife was still in its early days. Even then, it was an interesting park that is well off any beaten track, and so very promising for those looking for a great wilderness experience. Now, writing in 2018, it seems that the continued efforts of the Carr Foundation are paying off; many of the native game populations here have now effectively been re-established.
We had a detailed report from a reliable friend in October 2018 observing that Gorongosa National Park is now home to good populations of oribi, warthog, sable and particularly numerous waterbuck. Elephant are regularly encountered and generally fairly relaxed, especially the bulls.
Other large herbivores, including buffalo, wildebeest, kudu, and Lichtenstein's hartebeest have been successfully reintroduced to the park in recent years and are now well established. As an example of this, by mid-2018 the buffalo head-count is up to about 800.
In Gorongosa's rivers and lakes there are good populations of hippo and crocodile, whilst on the floodplains impala, monkeys and baboons can be found.
Predators continue to recover slowly, and are still not common, but there are now a number of lion prides and a few male coalitions within the park.
A pack of 14 African Painted Dogs was introduced in early 2018 and, so far, seem to be doing well. All being well, another pack is due to arrive in 2019. Low densities of leopard are found in nearby areas and there is a plan to re-establish a population in the national park if this this doesn't happen naturally. Spotted hyena are also on the list to be reintroduced to the park in the near future.
The particularly good news for visitors is that some of the key individual predators have been radio-collared, and this does make it easier to locate them.
Bird-watching at Gorongosa is also very good, with a wide range of waterbirds and a number of specials / endemics. More eye-catching specials include the narina trogon, the green malkoha (a bird formerly known as a 'coucal'), the spectacular purple-crested turaco and (in the rainforest on the nearby Mount Gorongosa) the only known population of the green-headed orioles. Smaller species of note here include the green-backed camaroptera, pale batis, purple-banded sunbird and the collared palm-thrush.
The ecosystems here are highly diverse. The plains are dotted with acacia savanna; there’s dry forests in sandy areas; many wetlands or pans seasonally filled by the rains; and there are plenty of thicket stands built on termite-built mounds. The plateaus contain both miombo and montane forests, as well as a spectacular rainforest at the bottom of a series of limestone gorges.
Where to stay in Gorongosa National ParkIn recent years there hasn't been a camp here that we have been confident to send visitors to. The simple Montebelo Gorongosa would be a possibility, but without personal experience of this, it's difficult for us to recommend it.
There have been a number of rumours and plans for new accommodations in the last five years. The highest profile of these was Kubatana Camp, which had been planned for 2014 – but was dropped shortly before it was built. A few years later, in 2017 there were advanced plans to open a smaller, tented camp, Muzimu Tented Camp, which looked very interesting, but then never happened.
Most recently, a swish new lodge has been proposed by The Royal Portfolio (who currently own some smart properties in South Africa, including Birkenhead House). Current plans for this suggest a mid-2019 opening, although it remains to be seen if this will materialise.
We're unsure if the original, old Chitengo Camp, which has been around since the 1960s and 70s, is still operating or not. In any event, it’s not a place that we can recommend to our travellers.