From whale sharks to cheetahs, this country on the east coast of Africa is full of amazing wildlife.
With its long Indian Ocean coastline and beautiful beaches, it’s a shame that Mozambique is so little visited by tourists. One thing that is starting to draw visitors, however, is the country’s increased opportunities for wildlife tourism, helped along by the repopulation of wildlife reserves that had been decimated during the long civil war. So after you’ve explored the architecture and cafe culture of the capital, Maputo, and spent some time sunning yourself on the coast’s beautiful beaches, get out into the country to see some equally alluring creatures.
Elephants and Zebras
WHERE: Maputo Special Reserve
Maputo Special Reserve, around 60 miles south of the capital, was created in the 1960s to protect its large elephant population. By the end of Mozambique’s long civil war, however, the reserve had lost much of its wildlife, largely due to poaching. But happier days are on the horizon. In the last few years the Peace Parks Foundation has helped to translocate more than 4,000 animals, including zebra, impala, nyala, and wildebeest into the reserve from South Africa and Mozambique, and last year the adjacent White Pearl Resorts launched game drives into the resort, offering opportunities to spot elephants, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and much more.
WHERE: Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve
Adjacent to Maputo Special Reserve, Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve is home to a rich diversity of marine life including bottlenose and spinner dolphins and, from July through November, migrating humpback whales. To get a close-up view (strictly controlled to adhere to conservation guidelines) of the charming, silvery dolphins, you can embark upon a small-group ocean safari, which includes time for snorkeling in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
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WHERE: Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve
From November through February, alone and under the cover of darkness, endangered leatherback and loggerhead turtles crawl onto the beach, use their flippers to dig out a hole, and lay dozens of eggs in a process that can last up to two hours. The Ponta do Ouro marine reserve is the most important leatherback and loggerhead turtle nesting ground along the Mozambican coast and one of the three most important in the world. You can watch the painstaking process (from a respectful distance) on a turtle walk accompanied by dedicated turtle monitors at White Pearl.
WHERE: Gorongosa National Park
Maputo Special Reserve is not the only wildlife re-introduction success story worth celebrating. Big game is now thriving in Gorongosa National Park, in central Mozambique. The stresses wrought by the civil war saw Gorongosa’s large mammal population fall by up to 95 percent, but a 20-year-long rehabilitation program means that the park is once again home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including 50-70 lions, which can be spotted on a guided game drive arranged through the park.
Giraffes and Wildebeest
WHERE: Zinave National Park
Peace Parks Foundation-led rehabilitation efforts are also underway. Several giraffes have been brought into Maputo from Kruger National Park in South Africa, and over the next two years 6,000 more animals, including zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, elephant, and more giraffe will arrive in Zinave while tourist-friendly infrastructure is being developed.
WHERE: Limpopo National Park
Limpopo National Park is linked with South Africa’s Kruger and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. Like that much-celebrated national park over the South African border, Limpopo is home to lions, elephants, giraffes, and zebras, but, due to persistent poaching, in far smaller numbers—the area only changed status from hunting concession to national park in 2001. Wildlife numbers are increasing, however, and a 2015 survey found 35 cheetahs in the park.
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WHERE: Banhine National Park
Like Limpopo National Park, Banhine is part of the in-development Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which, when completed, will span 36,921 square miles, encompassing 10 different parks and reserves in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Fences between parks have come down, meaning that animals can once again freely cross national borders. Banhine currently supports healthy populations of ostriches and warthogs and the park’s infrastructure is being developed by the African Wildlife Foundation.
WHERE: Bazaruto National Park
Bazaruto National Park protects the five islands of the Bazaruto archipelago, home to last sustainable African population of the very rare and elusive dugong, a manatee-like aquatic mammal, as well as flamingos, crocodiles, turtles, and lots of birds. Area hotels, such as Anantara Bazaruto, offer snorkeling and diving trips so that you can best explore the park’s teeming marine life.
WHERE: Quirimbas National Park
Covering 11 islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast, including the historically significant Ibo Island, as well as a forested swathe of the mainland, Quirimbas National Park is home to rich marine life and diverse bird species. Between July and November, you can watch calving humpback and southern right whales as they travel through the area.
WHERE: Chimanimani National Reserve
In west Mozambique’s Chimanimani Mountains, straddling the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border, Chimanimani National Reserve is recognized as an important area of plant biodiversity and home to an abundance of rare plants. Wildlife also thrives here, especially antelope species including bushbuck, eland, sable, duiker, and the tiny (and very cute) klipspringer.
WHERE: Inhaca Island
More than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter hornbills and pink-backed pelicans, have been spotted on Inhaca Island, about 30 miles across the bay from Maputo and reached by public ferry or guided tour with Mabeco Tours. Most of the island is a marine reserve and also home to abundant marine life, best seen through a snorkel mask.
Whale Sharks and Manta Rays
WHERE: Tofo Beach
The pristine white sands of Tofo Beach, in southeastern Mozambique, invite lazy sun soaking, but you’d be remiss to skip getting out into the azure waters. Book a diving trip or (for non-divers) an ocean safari with Tofo Scuba to get a close-up view of resident whale sharks and manta rays.