@optig I’ve followed the story of Gorongosa’s restoration for sometime but not so much recently and I hadn’t kept up to date with tourism developments in the park. I knew that the Explore Gorongosa camp had closed and was I think vaguely aware that Chitengo Lodge had been taken over by Girasol but that was really the limit of my knowledge. Back in 2013 the civil war that everybody thought was long over, looked like it had resumed when the opposition Renamo decided to return to their old base on Mt Gorongosa and a certain amount of fighting erupted. At the time the UK’s FCO advised against all travel to the area, that’s no longer the case now despite the fact that their website suggest that occasional fighting is still going on. This situation has undoubtedly deterred people from wanting to get in involved in tourism in Gorongosa and is what led Explore Gorongosa to shut up shop. Expert Africa on their website says the following about Gorongosa
Due to localised political skirmishes that erupted in the region in late 2013, the only good operation in the area decided to close. As a result we cannot currently offer any trips to this area. Call and ask us for the latest details.
The only good operation in the area that they are referring to was Explore Gorongosa, they have a photo on their website of somewhere called Kubatana Camp which they say is due to open in 2014 that rather suggests that they haven’t updated the information on their website. Searching the web for info on Kubatana didn't really get me anywhere, so I thought I should have a look at the Africa Travel Resource website and they say that Kubatana was due to open in 2013/14 but this has been delayed indefinitely, I can only assume that this was also because of the unrest. ATR doesn't really say anything about Chitengo other than
this is the main parks authority facility within the reserve and a rather simple offering.
Clearly Chitengo is the only option at present and obviously Expert Africa doesn’t think that Chitengo is good enough to send their clients there. I hope that the in the near future maybe things will change as far as tourism is concerned in Gorongosa but at the moment my guess is that the fighting in the area really messed up tourist operations in the park other than at Chitengo. I had hoped that this new conflict was over since it hasn't been reported in the news over here at all, but as far as I can see from a quick web search there is still fighting going on and the conflict is far from resolved. I hope that enough people remember the horrors of the previous civil war that they won't allow the current situation excalate too far.
Despite the conflict the security situation in the park is clearly pretty good at least as far as elephants are concerned the following travel article from 2015 states that they only lost two elephants to poaching during the previous year.
On safari in Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park: 'The most diverse park in the world'
Other animals are still being lost to meat poachers but not enough to stop their numbers from continuing to grow. Gorongosa does in fact have the highest waterbuck population of any park in Africa so it is the perfect place to source common waterbuck for Zinave. While these antelopes and some other species are now extremely common in Gorongosa numbers of some of the restocked species are still relatively low and these animals were until recently confined to the fenced sanctuary that was off limits to tourists. On a safari to Gorongosa you could certainly expect to see plenty of animals, but not a huge variety of species and not the number of species that you would see in parks and reserves in neighbouring countries. However I understand that the new animals that were released into the sanctuary and existing animals that ended up being fenced in have bred so well that the sanctuary has been dismantled giving them the freedom of the entire park. The population of zebras however is still very small when the restoration project started only a tiny handful of plains zebras survived in the park these animals were found to be of the Crawshay’s subspecies Equus quagga crawshayi. Rather than take the easy options and bring in Burchell’s zebras E. q .burchelli from South Africa let the Crawshay’s zebras disappear the decision was taken to preserve them and try to source zebras of this subspecies for reintroduction but this has proved difficult. In 2013 some were brought in from a Mozambican hunting area. It’s seems that the plan having removed the fences from the original sanctuary is to build a new smaller one which will be used specifically to breed zebras to try and get the numbers up. And then in future roan antelopes and tsessebes both entirely extinct in the park may be reintroduced into the new sanctuary. For reasons that I think are still not fully understood the lion population is still very small this is a surprising given the significant increase in ungulate numbers .
It will be a while before populations of all of the animal species match or exceed pre-civil war levels although some like obviously the waterbuck and even sable already have done so, but it should at least now be possible to see most of the common large mammals you would see on safari in say Zimbabwe. With the exception of giraffes which are naturally absent from this region of Africa. As long as violence doesn’t flare up again, I think that as the game viewing improves because of the increased variety of animals that it’s possible to see, visitor numbers will increase leading to further tourist developments. Certainly Expert Africa on their website say
It is still early days and game viewing in Gorongosa currently lacks diversity
that might not necessarily be entirely true since the fences have been taken down removing the sanctuary and if they are not sending clients there and there's still unrest/fighting in the area I wonder when anyone from EA last visited the park and therefore how up to date there information is. The impression they give is that Gorongosa is a great place to go for a wilderness experience but it’s still a few years away from being the great game viewing destination that it once was it and will one day become again. The trouble is that to really enjoy a great wilderness experience in my view you want to be staying in simple but high quality camps not a slightly substandard lodge. I suspect a lot of people looking at EA’s website reading what they say about Gorongosa, unless they are desperate to go there will think perhaps I should look at Zim or Botswana or Tanzania instead especially if they're aware that there is fighting going on in country.
Expert Africa Gorongosa
I’m still pretty optimistic about the future of Gorongosa but I think that new tourist operations in the park will only come about once peace is fully restored, nobody is going to want to set up a new tourist camp if at any moment they have to shut down because of violence as Explore Gorongosa had to and this must be why Kubatanda has never opened, a very sad situation. All of the trouble as far as I know has been in central Mozambique in Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia I hope it won't affect Zinave which is over the border from Manica mainly in Inhambane. I'm not entirely sure but I don't think there's a lot of support for Renamo outside of the four central provinces. If the violence does escalate I doubt it will spread to the rest of the country and this time Renamo doesn't have any outside support, I think all the neighbours support the Frelimo government and don't want to see another full scale civil war. However that's just my impression I don't really know enought about the situation since it's not being reported internationally.
Edited by inyathi, 02 January 2017 - 01:03 AM.