Gorongosa is perhaps one of the greatest wildlife success stories in Africa. Established in 1920 as a private hunting reserve, Gorongosa National Park has survived turbulent times. Having fallen into disrepair and witnessed falling animal numbers, the park is now a thriving oasis that offers a home to thousands of animals. If you’re planning a personalised Mozambique holiday, don’t miss the opportunity to discover the wonders of Gorongosa on your travels.
A brief history of Gorongosa National Park
Gorongosa National Park has stood the test of time, but there have been some major bumps in the road along the way. First opened as a hunting reserve in 1920, Gorongosa has survived civil wars, political unrest, and dwindling animal stocks. Initially, the park expanded quickly to accommodate new species and welcome tourists. However, flooding forced facilities to close in 1940, and it wasn’t until 1951 that a new camp named Chitengo was opened.
In 1960, the park was declared a national park and protected by the government, and the boundaries were expanded to create a park spanning more than 5,000 square kilometres. Over the course of the next few years, the park was in its heyday, attracting the rich and famous and capturing the imagination of photographers and wildlife enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. Sadly, the good times wouldn’t last, and in 1966 the park was scaled back to free up farming land for locals before war broke out in 1972.
Fighting broke out in the park and conflict raged until 1992. This had an incredibly detrimental impact on animal numbers, with some populations of larger species reduced by up to 90 percent. In 1994, efforts began to rebuild the park, and a 5-year plan was established to return the area to its former glory. Officials in Mozambique collaborated with those from the European Union to formulate a strategy.
The rebirth of Gorongosa National Park
In 2004, Greg Carr visited Gorongosa National Park, and spotted the potential to restore its brilliance and beauty. Mr Carr went on to establish the Gorongosa Restoration Project, a charity based in the USA. The charity worked with the government to draw up plans, and in 2007, a new animal sanctuary was opened at the park. Over the last decade, the project volunteers have been working with local communities to establish plans for the future and improve education and health.
The park now boasts a school and a mobile health service and the locals are heavily involved in the restoration plans. Since 2006, there have been frequent deliveries and transfers, boosting animal numbers, and new accommodation facilities have opened. Annual surveys have confirmed the presence of thriving populations and increased biodiversity and the park has been featured on TV series such as the BBC’s Africa, and in magazines like National Geographic.
Gorongosa’s rebirth is not just about rebuilding and restoring the park. Conservation is also key, and the park is at the forefront of conservation efforts in Africa. The Gorongosa Lion Project is just one initiative, which is making a massive difference to numbers and diversity in the park.
If you’re visiting Mozambique, a trip to Gorongosa comes highly recommended. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, this gem is shining bright.