Once considered one of the greatest wildlife areas in Africa, The Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, is finally making a comeback after 15 long years of war. During the 1960s and 70s the park was a wildlife oasis and drew huge crowds of tourists and even some major celebrities of the day, including John Wayne and Gregory Peck. The park became famous for its big game and its diverse birdlife, along with incredible scenery and camps. A survey of the park's wildlife in 1969 uncovered thousands of animals with a reported 2,200 elephants, 14,000 buffalo, 3,000 zebra and 200 lion living peacefully in the park.
However, this was not to last. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 Samora Machel was appointed president of Mozambique. For two years Gorongoza was left untouched with the numbers of animals in the park continuing to grow. Civil unrest during 1977 led to the break out of war between the Mozambican Government and the Mozambique National Resistance, the conflict raged until 1992. The war had a terrible impact on the game in the park, decimating not only their habitat but also the lives of the animals themselves.
Numbers in the park spiralled into decline with an estimated 90% of Gorongosa's big game lost to the fighting, with poaching in the years following the war further decreasing numbers. In 1994 another wildlife survey was carried out which shockingly revealed the true impact on the region's fauna, with only a smattering of zebra and antelope remaining along with 300 reedbuck, 100 waterbuck and a severely diminished 100 elephants that at one time had seen a number of 6000.
However, in spite of the wildlife loss Gorongosa is starting to recover. As seen in David Attenborough's Africa, conservation efforts are well underway. From the early 2000s onwards the park has slowly been regaining strength with renewal of infrastructure and a series of wildlife relocations, beginning in August 2006. Accommodation in the area is also on the rise. The ecotourism operator Asilia is opening the beautiful Kubatana Camp on 1st July 2013, booking to be the first to stay in the new camp is already open. Comprised of 6 tents and only catering for an intimate number of 14, the camp sits in the shade of fever trees near the banks of the Muscadizi River. The tents offer a comfortable space to relax with en-suites and the convenience of a central dining area and fireplace. The camp possesses a low impact approach to the wilderness in which its situated, blending quietly with the surrounding area and free of fences.
In spite of its history there is still plenty to see and do in the park. From Kubatana Camp guests can enjoy a wide range of activities. Game Drives are a must for any safari enthusiast along with night drives and birding on the river, keep an eye out for hippos and crocodiles though. Gorongosa is alive with birdlife, with over 400 species recorded including the rare moustached grass warbler, the green headed oriole, and pels fishing owl, however, for true birding enthusiasts a holiday to the park would not be complete without a visit to beautiful Mount Gorongosa, where many species of bird can be found.
The chance to visit the famous Lion House is also on offer. Built on the floodplain near the Mussicadzi River during the 1940s, the Lion House was originally a tourist camp that had to be abandoned due to flooding. Gorongosas lions adopted the building and made it their home, hence why the structure became known as the Lion House. Guests can still visit it today and may be lucky enough to see one of the parks new lions perched atop the building. There is also the chance to venture out into the bush on a walking safari, immerse yourself in the ancient wilds of the park on guided excursions and examine the recovering land for yourself. Despite its marred past, Gorongosa is staging an incredible return. While it is unknown whether the park will reclaim all of its former glory at present it appears most likely it will.
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