Niassa Reserve: in detail
In the far north of Mozambique is the impressive Niassa Reserve. Bordering Tanzania, Niassa is the largest conservation area in Mozambique. Covering 42,000 square kilometers it is also one of the most extensive protected areas in Africa.
Like the rest of the country, Niassa Reserve was badly affected by civil war. During the 1970s and 80s, its game was extensively poached. In recent years, as game populations have slowly started to recover, it has started to be of great interest for wildlife safaris. However, don't go to Niassa if you want to tick off the big five – but do go to experience a vast untouched wilderness with no one else around.
Recent data indicates that Niassa Reserve now has an estimated 12,000 elephant, 9,000 sable and many thousands of buffalo – as well as healthy populations of Lichtenstein's hartebeest, eland and zebra. There are also smaller populations of kudu, bushbuck, impala, wildebeest, waterbuck, reedbuck and hippo. Lion, leopard and spotted hyena are also found here, as well as an estimated 200 African wild dogs.
These game populations shouldn't surprise anyone, as the Niassa Reserve is part of the same eco-system as Tanzania's vast Selous Game Reserve. There are no fences between the two areas, and conservationists have long known of animal migrations between the two. (There's even an embryonic plan to join the two as part of a Transfrontier Peace-park.)
Having said that Niassa has good game populations, the wildlife here remains very unused to seeing vehicles or people, and so can be quite skittish. This is not the place to get close to big game, but it is the place to experience some wildlife in a beautiful and remote location.
As of yet, none of the Expert Africa team have visited Niassa Reserve, though we hope to as soon as possible. We are excited about what this park can offer to our more intrepid travellers, who want to be amongst the first to visit such a vast and largely unexplored wilderness area.