Gorongosa National Park - 15 Shades Of Green

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Gorongosa National Park - 15 Shades Of Green

On the breeze and on everyone’s lips are two words. Gregory Carr. We had no clue who he was. From the smallest blade of grass to the tallest trees seemed to whisper his name. Revered by everyone involved at the Gorongosa National Park, he certainly is. Therefore this blog is not possible without researching Gregory C. Carr.

“Gregory C. Carr (born 1959) is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. His leading philanthropic venture is the restoration of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park The GNP, was ravaged by the Mozambican Civil War, mismanagment and environmental destruction (climate change).  Carr pledged more than $100 million over 35 years to restore and protect the Park’s biodiversity and to assist communities living adjacent to the Park with health care, education and agriculture in a public-private partnership with the Government of Mozambique.

From 1996 to 1998, he was chair of Prodigy, an early global Internet service provider. He also co-founded Africa Online in 1996. In 1998 Carr resigned from his for-profit boards and dedicated himself to humanitarian activities. He was the founding donor to the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University in 1999. The Carr Center seeks to make human rights principles central to formulating good public policy in the United States and worldwide through research and teaching.

In 1999 he also founded the Gregory C. Carr Foundation, a non-profit organisation and has been involved in various projects, including the Gorongosa Restoration Project.” Wikipedia.

Many people have confirmed the massacre and relentless hunting and poaching of all animals and birds during the civil war by Mozambicans. Education and job creation is the only way to combat this ingrained practise conservationists believe. There is a heavy penalty and incarceration for anyone caught poaching.


The rainy season is not the best time to visit a game reserve if one’s sole purpose is to enjoy the animals. During the wet season, animals are widely dispersed because of abundant water supplies in the veld and there's new, lush grazing everywhere.

Gravel roads are often impassible or badly damaged, allowing only suitable 4X4 vehicles to traverse there. Being holed up or “housebound” in a wet tent is a nightmare and makes such an excursion less enjoyable. The lingering memory would be of mouldy sleeping bags, wet towels and dripping tents and would distract from the initial intention.

But exceptions must be made, and we pressed on with fingers crossed, hoping for the best. We were visiting the Park at the tail end of the Summer and hoped we’d miss the cyclones and subtropical storms. This might be our only opportunity to explore the Gorongoza National Park. We shrugged our shoulders and soldiered on. I was very excited.


Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique is perhaps Africa’s most extraordinary wildlife restoration story.

“By adopting a 21st Century conservation model of balancing the needs of wildlife and the indigenous people, they are protecting and saving this beautiful wilderness, returning it to its rightful place as one of Africa’s most incredible parks.

They are achieving their mission by working in four core areas:

Conservation: By protecting Gorongosa’s beautiful animals and landscapes, they ensure future generations can experience this special place.

Community: By providing educational programs, health care, and agricultural support to families–they improve the well-being of local communities.

Science: By studying how all the parts of Gorongosa’s complex web of life fit together, they can make informed conservation and management decisions.

Sustainable Tourism: By developing sustainable tourism, they create employment for local people and generate sustainable revenue for the Park. Every guest that visits Gorongosa plays a vital role in this extraordinary conservation effort.” Extract from https://gorongosa.org/ 


Confession, I am a tree hugger. Driving through a forest of indigenous trees hundreds of years old can be ascribed to a spiritual experience. The events a thousand-year-old tree has witnessed and survived are extraordinary. Here at the Gorongosa, the trees have survived floods, droughts, fires, wars, colonisation, slavery, deforestation, and so much more. If trees could talk, imagine the tales they could tell.

They’ve provided shade to the weary, medications to the sick and wounded, a hiding place to refugees, soldiers fought guerrilla warfare trapped in their boughs. 

There are believed to be 280 species of indigenous trees in and surrounding the Park. The plateaus contain miombo and montane forests and a spectacular rainforest at the base of limestone gorges. This combination of unique features once supported some of Africa’s densest wildlife populations, including charismatic carnivores, herbivores, and over 500 bird species.

Interestingly Gorongosa National Park is reforesting itself with shade-grown coffee and cashew nut trees and other agroforestry crops.

The Park’s plantings are beneficial to wildlife: in addition to birds that frequently visit the agroforests and are home to numerous species, including a species of bat.

Agroforestry is the intentional planting of crops like coffee and cashew among other woody perennials such as rainforest trees. Isolating carbon from the atmosphere, helps slow climate change.

Gorongosa’s savanna has patches of grassland and woodland. Grassland comprises large expanses of open grassy plains with no trees, and woodland is a closed canopy with little grass in the understory. The wet season is hot and humid, while the dry season is hot and dry during the day and cool at night.


Butch and the Honey Badger deserved a break from active duty. We would enjoy two game drives, one in the morning and the other at sunset during the course of our two night stay.

Samuel, our guide, was simply lovely. He was knowledgeable about the fauna and flora, birds, and animals. From him, we learned about the Park’s history and, while driving, he could relate interesting anecdotes and bush lore. We hit it off immediately and thoroughly enjoyed our extended game drive in his company.

Fortunately, we were his only clients and could take advantage of this unique opportunity to pepper him with questions.

Sometimes the roads were wet and muddy with low-lying shrubs and trees. How relieved we were not to have tried anything like this in the truck, but if memory serves no self-drives are permitted in the Park anyway, and just as well.


Our sunset game drive delivered the goods right at the end when we stopped on a grassy plain in time to watch the last rays of the day before the light went into hiding. Samuel, constantly aware of his guest’s safety, parked the vehicle and did a safety check before we could alight. He lit up four eyes while swinging his powerful flashlight in an arch.

There before our very eyes, a mating pair of lions! We were the only spectators and an adrenalin moment for us —such a rare occurrence to witness cats without an audience. We were thrilled, and Samuel bowled over and speechless! We enjoyed our sundowners in the cosy comfort of the game-viewing vehicle!

The following day at six, Samuel was ready, with warm throws for our knees, to show us the shenanigans on the plains at dawn. Although the large herds were not to be seen, we did see plenty of waterbuck, buffalo, wildebeest, a pocket of kudu and some bachelor herds of impala and large nurseries of impala lambs, plenty warthogs and the lion.

Samuel explained that the Gorongosa National Park is a preserved area in the Great Rift Valley of central Mozambique. Its forests and savannahs are home to lions, hippos and elephants. Lake Urema and its surrounding wetlands and rivers attract scores of water birds. The multitiered Murombodzi Falls spills over jagged rocks on the slopes of Mount Gorongosa. Limestone gorges and bat-filled caves define Cheringoma Plateau. Unfortunately, we could not visit the wetlands to see the elephant herds due to the wet, muddy clay roads.

Although a day trip to the Gorongosa mountain to see the rare green-headed Oriole was not possible for us it is a must-do.  Confined to Southern Africa’s montane forest on Mr Gorongoza. This rare bird is identified by its moss-green head, yellow collar and green back. It is a common resident within this restricted area, keeping to the upper canopy of tall forest trees. We had to decline Samuel’s offer.

Shuffling through my photographs highlighted the abundance of green, big trees, high grass and overgrown shrubbery making game spotting virtually impossible unless they're in a clearing or on the road like the huge water monitor.  Large birds were highlighted by apple green grasses but small birds could only be identified by their calls.

Muddy holes were well attended by the buffalo who wallowed to their hearts content. The one old bull certainly took first prize for his efforts. Imagine how that must itch.

Butch diligently sends Liam 3, his grandson, interesting videos of the little things he might find interesting. The marching battalions of large ants marching from one side of the road to the other was sure to be a hit. Instead of waiting in the vehicle Samuel allowed us to videograph them up close. They were all carrying heavy cargoes. Liam was impressed too.


The campsite, laid  out under a canopy of large, shady trees, was a beautiful spot to set up our campsite. Once again we were the only campers. The ablutions were excellent, well-appointed, clean and spacious.

Warthogs were plentiful and digging is their game. In the soft muddy earth they were everywhere enjoying themselves and had free reign in the campsite and surrounds too.

Still on a high from the adrenal high of seeing the pair of lions, we decided to spoil ourselves with a meal in the restaurant. Our go-to grilled peri-peri chicken, and well-prepared seasonal vegetables was the perfect end to a glorious day.


Rumour had it that the Gorongoza coffee produced in collaboration with local farmers is delicious, and 100% of the profits from every bag of coffee sold go to the Gorongosa Project in Mozambique. It works with local stakeholders on initiatives supporting their communities, environment, and economy.

We wouldn’t leave without a bag of coffee beans. I can confirm we loved the coffee brewed from Gorongoza beans.

I have a penchant for a T-Shirt, and the bright Gorongoza TShirt sold in the shop landed on the counter as I was ready to swipe my payment card. In Africa, where bright, festive colours are popular, my orange T-shirt is perfect, teamed with a exquisely bright capulana.

Our visit to the Gorongosa National Park and experiencing it first-hand stirred the same emotions I had felt when I saw the Taj Mahal. It became real.


Butch’s leg was not improving, and an executive decision was made that we needed to get him to a doctor and hospital soonest. I agreed he should return to South Africa, and I’d wait for him in Beira. Fortunately, things turned out well, and his treatment in Beira did the trick.

Contrary to and ignoring all negative intel, I couldn’t suppress my excitement to visit Beira and explore it; this was a childhood dream come true.


Samuel told us not one member of staff lost their job during the Covid pandemic. Although there were restrictions and tourism stopped in it's tracks, and to date, has not returned to full capasity the compliment of staff has not changed. That is remarkable. While we were there we did see a number of international NGOs and post-graduate students who do short stints as volunteers in various departments in the Park we were not aware of other tourists.