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Describing the Experience: 2-Night Mount Gorongosa Experience

The following is an example of the kind of trip you can take with us to Mount Gorongosa to sample some of this amazing national landmark's natural wonders...


A Mount Gorongosa experience with Explore Gorongosa is one of those travel moments that will stick with you for many many years to come. The mountain is one of Mozambique’s most spectacular natural heritage sites and willcapture the imagination of anyone inspired by Mrs M Nature at her very best. The experience is largely flexible although the following basic guideline gives you a sample of the type of experience you can expect on a two-night, three-day Gorongosa Mountain adventure with Explore Gorongosa:

1: The journey begins at our camp where your guide will load guests, cooler-boxes, picnic baskets, blankets, hammocks, teddy bears, thermos flasks, and choc-chip biscuits into the awaiting transfer vehicle which will transport us up to the base of Mount Gorongosa, about 3 hours drive in all including an hour and a half through the Park and a stop in nearby Villa Gorongosa for a bit of exploring around the bustling Mozambique village market scene. After stocking up with all the necessary supplies for the important cultural ceremony required for all visitors to this sacred mountain, we continue up to Nyancucu base camp. The final part of the drive passes numerous pineapple farms and fantastic rural foothill scenery. At Nyancucu we are able either to join in the rather lengthy but very interesting local blessing ceremony if we so wish or we can choose to leave the required supplies with the community liaison officer to have it done in our absence so we can get the most of our time on the mountain. We are also allocated a local community guide and a few porters – all residents of one of the three mountain communities and part of a greater project facilitated by Gorongosa National Park and Explore Gorongosa to better manage ecotourism activities on the mountain as well as providing opportunities for re-forestation projects and conservation education to local inhabitants of Serra da Gorongosa. 

The mountain experience begins with a basic briefing on the importance of the mountain to the surrounding region as well as an introduction to both the bad and good being done on the slopes of the mountain by local communities and various other organisations. The trail ascends from Nyancucu quite gently initially past small homesteads and their mashambas(fields) where we will be able to stop ad chat to some of the locals for a different perspective on the mountain debate. The initial walk ends at an old ruined farmhouse from colonial times and this is where a picnic lunch and a brief siesta are taken with accompanying vistas over much of central Mozambique across to Zimbabwe on the not so distant horizon. After a good break, the walk continues along the undulating grassland plateau of the mid-slopes, passing more mashambas, many of which are in the process of being negotiated to move further down the mountain to protect this very fragile habitat. Fragile often means amazing biodiversity, and this area is no different. Eastern Saw-wings swoop in from above whilst Moustached Warblers flitter about in the grass below. Giant cane rats live on these slopes as do the elusive leopards of Mount Gorongosa. The experience of walking through this beautiful mountain scenery interspersed with human settlements is both heart-wrenching and hugely inspiring at the same time. People are constant threat to nature, and yet nature has a way of just overflowing its bounty so much that you are left wondering if it is nature or us people who are at risk in the greater scheme of things. We talk a lot about saving the planet, but surely the planet will be around long after it has managed to shake us annoying bipeds off her beautifully lush back? As if proving this point, the walk passes an area where a recent mud-slide has washed away a small homestead from its position on the slopes too close to a stream – a sign of surely more to come if conservation agriculture is not enforced in these mashambas soon. 

Nature takes the lead as you leave behind the mid-slopes and the damaging effects of poorly managed mashambas and enter the rainforest for what can only be described as the first big “wow” moment of the hike. The final climb into the forest is quite steep so by the time you are able to stop and get your breath you realise you are surrounded by an all-enclosing canopy of giant red mahoganies, panga-pangas, and other supreme specimens of indigenous African hardwoods. The understory is a study in abundance as mosses, ferns, creepers, palms, and other undergrowth compete for a space on the forest-floor festival of green. It is here that the first sounds of special forest birds such as the Forest Robin, Chirinda Apalis, Livingstone’s Turaco and of course the hugely exciting Green-Headed Oriole, a stunning yellow and green canopy-dweller found here and only here on Mount Gorongosa in the sub-continent! A short walk through the rain-forest brings you to the forest campsite – today’s destination. The porters have gone ahead and set up camp already and some of our Explore Gorongosa team are already getting water on the boil for tea and a shower. Dinner is taken on stools around a campfire in the forest clearing – a simple but delicious energy-renewing feast. Sleep comes quickly after the activity today and our dreamtime safaris will no doubt include the liquid call of the Oriole and the giant trees of Mount Gorongosa.

2: Day two kicks off with some tea or coffee and a treat before we head off for some morning birding in the forest around camp. Specials likely to be seen (or at least heard) today are the Bronze-naped Pigeon, Swynnerton’s Robin, Emerald Cuckoo (in summer), Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Grey Cuckooshrike and perhaps another memorable sighting of the Oriole. After a breakfast in camp, we head off again up the steeper section of the forest climb towards the summit and the contrasting altiplano highland habitat. Like a blend between Scottish heath and Cape fynbos, the summit area (over 1700m a.s.l.) is truly spectacular and also a treat for birders and photographers alike. Blue Swallows fly overhead pristine mountain pools and Giant Strelitzia plants. The view over the granite whaleback of the massif of Gorongosa across to the forests and floodplains of the National Park far below is nothing short of breath-taking. We have lunch at one of the pools on top before being able to explore more of the altiplano or simply to drop down into a lush bed of marsh grass and contemplating a life set apart from the rest of the world not that distant below. A rustic yet inviting camp is set up near the base of Gogogo peak – the highest point on the mountain at 1863m a.s.l. and dinner is enjoyed around a fire before the group drifts into an altitude-induced slumber. 

3: This morning should provide one of the most splendid sunrises you are likely to encounter in your life – an inversion of cloud below us lit up in many shades of orange and pink as the sun peaks its head over the blanket of cloud still shrouding the Park down in the valley. If the weather is playing the game, this is another “wow” moment not to mention a fantastic photo opportunity and one that should hold us all spell-bound for a good hour after rising. After a brief breakfast snack and some tea, we start our descent through the rainforest again towards our lunch spot – the much anticipated Murombodzi Waterfall. In the forest we look out for fire squirrels and those birding specials not yet accounted for. After a couple of hours of careful descent through the forest, we pop out again at the base of the canopy and follow the Murombodzi stream for a while before branching off and heading through the mashamba-lined grasslands of these mid-slopes. After a short drop into a beautiful valley with views across to Zimbabwe again, we pass an intriguing outdoor church consisting of some wooden log “pews” and an old stump doubling as a cross, before we enter into a gorge forest where the sound of rushing water raises the spirits of the group. The sound becomes a thunderous roar as we arrive at the base of our final “wow” experience of the walk - a 100m waterfall, or more correctly a series of cascading drops with a few paradise-like pools at the base in which we will be able to cool down after the steep climb and hot descent. Lunch is taken on a warm sunny rock here (in drying underwear!) at the waterfall before we head past the reforestation project’s nursery on route back to nearby Nyancucu and our awaiting vehicle which will take us back to Gorongosa National Park and a well-deserved hot-shower, drink, dinner and rest at Explore Gorongosa’s luxurious tented camp.

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