Gorongosa; ravaged by drought, yet always beautiful.

Gorongosa National Park holds a special place in my heart. In my experience there is no place like it. With a rich, war torn history, diverse landscapes that completely captivate one and the abundance of animals – Gorongosa has cast a spell on me-  a place I’m always longing to return to.

When you go to Gorongosa, don’t be expecting a Kruger National Park type experience. You’re not going to see the Big 5 here. You may see lion, buffalo, ellies and if you’re really lucky, cheetah too. Gorongosa is far more than just the big 5. Expect extraordinary beauty in the way of flora – pockets of fever tree forests, thickets of fruit-laden palms and grass that grows higher than your vehicle. And then of course, The Plains; home to thousands of waterbuck, warthog and baboon- and spectacular fiery sunsets, ( an idyllic spot for the late afternoon gin and tonic sun downer and a place that if a lion is stalking you, you can see it coming!)

I clearly remember one of our first trips to Gorongosa. I was delighted to find an abandoned building on the outskirts of the plains, a perfect picnic spot. I thought with my kids and all, it was a relatively safe place since lions generally avoid most human structures, namely buildings. It was after our picnic breakfast and pee in the bush, that I was told the actual name of this structure. It’s called the ‘Lion hut’ – historically favoured by the lions as a great viewing point to spot the game they plan to capture…and eat… We no longer picnic there.

Last year, I convinced my husband to buy a 10 man tent with 3 compartments. (One for us, one for the kids and a Mozzi-proof verandah which we never seem to use) Since then we have done about 4 trips to Gorongosa and have used our tent – mostly because camping is a lot cheaper and ‘cheaper’ counts when you have a growing family! But we have one minor problem when it comes to camping in Gorongosa. The animals and birds have no consideration for their slumbering visitors! My kids are used to the constant drone of the air conditioner.(White noise they call it) The park momentarily seems silent, then suddenly, as you’re nodding off, the Nightjar (bird) bursts into song, calling its mate to come ‘closer’. Or the lions start roaring after they’ve taken down a buffalo, and your kids ask, ‘mommy, what’s that noise?’

But once the kids are asleep, I’ll admit that I love the nights at Gorongosa! Those sounds are magic; the  the crickets, the crackle of the campfire, the banter of great friends, the rustle of the grass and especially the call of the Nightjar, a sound that forever reminds me of Africa.