My weekend in Gorongosa was one of my most memorable in Mozambique. Gorongosa National Park once had the densest population of large game in Mozambique before decades of civil war decimated the herds. The animals were poached during times of hunger and some of the animals are still incredibly distrustful of humans because of this. Since 2005, the park has been undergoing a major revitalization program where animals were reintroduced from other parts of Southern Africa. There is a great documentary about the rehabilitation project made by National Geographic called “Africa’s Lost Eden.”
I travelled to Gorongosa with some friends who are also fellow VSO volunteers: Henriette, Jaques, and Deborah. We left early on Saturday morning and after a five and a half hour drive over a pretty rough road, we arrived. As we drove into the reserve, we startled a large baboon that dropped the fruit he was eating and ran away.
I stayed in the campground which was located inside of the compound called the Chitengo Safari Camp. I wasn’t exactly ‘roughing it’ since the camps has a nice restaurant and a swimming pool. At the same time, I could feel the wilderness all around me since a family of monkeys and a family of warthogs had both taken up residence inside of the camp.
The next day, we woke up early for a walk through the park to the nearby community on the other side of the Pungue River called Vinho. The walk took about 3 hours in total as we walked though dense forests, marches, and machambas (small farmers fields). We had a beautiful view as we crossed the river on a small boat.
In the afternoon, we went on our Safari. We were told not to expect to see very many animals but almost as soon as we left the gate, a Pala Pala jumped across our path. The diversity of Gorongosa became apparent after only a few minutes as we left the dense jungle-like forest and entered a marshland area, full of colourful birds. We saw waterbuck, impalas, bushbucks and a variety of other large mammals over the next hour. At that point I felt like I was satisfied with my trip but the most exciting parts were still to come.
As we continued, we began to see signs of the presence of elephants including droppings and some yellow fever trees – a favourite snack for an elephant. A few minutes later we entered the savannah and we began to see elephants! The elephants in Gorongosa are especially cautious with humans since almost all of their population was slaughtered by humans and as you may have heard, an elephant never forgets. Even the elephants that were added to the herd from Kruger Part became cautious of humans when they began to live with the native elephants. There were probably about 30 elephants in total and it was a majestic sight.
As the sun began to set over the savannah, we were lucky enough to spot two young lions who were going hunting (one male and one female). As I witnessed a beautiful sunset, I felt content yet spoiled since I had seen more than most people see in Gorongosa. I would really recommend a trip to the part for anyone in Mozambique. It is relatively affordable and even if you do not see as much wild game as I did, the scenery will still take your breath away.