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Go, go, go, Gorongosa

Continuing our theme of ethical safaris, we’d like to pay tribute to a very special outfit in Mozambique, Explore Gorongosa.

Rob and Jos Janisch are co-owners of Explore Gorongosa and run the day to day operations. Rob is originally from South Africa and Jos from Zimbabwe, but they now have their home in Gorongosa National Park pioneering private tourism.

Gorongosa Rob and Jos Janisch

Rob and Jos Janisch

When did you first come to Gorongosa?

JJ: We stumbled upon Gorongosa in September 2008. We were busy at that time working on a project in Niassa Reserve in the north of Mozambique. On a trip back home (Zimbabwe) we thought we would pop into Gorongosa for the night to break the journey and see what was going on in the park. That night (before we had even seen the park, having arrived in the dark) we met the key people in the restoration project, saw some footage of the park and were blown away. And captivated. We just had to be involved. 2 weeks later we returned with our consultant guide, Spike Williamson and did a recce trip. 2 weeks after that we had signed an agreement to be the first private tourism operator in the park!

What was your greatest challenge at that time?

JJ: We knew that Mozambique was totally unknown in terms of a safari destination, and although Gorongosa was not and is still not a Big 5 ‘tick off’ destination – it was tough to get the message across that there is actually game in Mozambique and a safari will be 100% rewarding and worthwhile.

What’s been your most memorable experience in the bush?

JJ: About 3 months into our first season, I woke up to a beautiful misty morning (typical of July in Gorongosa). As I was splashing my face with some lovely, smoky, hot water – I looked up and in front of me just visible under the mist were 40 elephants silently walking past. The elephants in Gorongosa are in general nervous, with such long memories, the 20 year civil war that raged in and around the park, is still very much fresh in their minds. And this was the first time we had seen elephants from camp – it was a really special experience.

What drew you to Mozambique and what keeps you there?

JJ: Mozambique’s landscape is so utterly diverse. And the people are gentle and totally interesting (a mix of Arabic, European Portuguese and proper Africa) – and all they want is peace and a flourishing country. They are so keen to learn and progress – it is very refreshing. We really think Mozambique is a land of hope – which sometimes in this time in our planet’s history – we feel this is a rare pleasure.

What do you love most about Gorongosa and why?

JJ: Its diversity. 54 different eco zones. In any drive you go through at least 4 or 5 – always provides amazing sightings (big and small) and is never dull. And the story of hope – the Gorongosa Restoration Project.

What’s been your greatest challenge in terms of running a seasonal, eco camp?

JJ: The greatest challenge, but also the greatest reward has been taking 15 people from the surrounding villages, who never had had a job before in their lives, let alone in hospitality and seeing 3 years down the line them serving a table of 12 people in true ‘bush silver service’ style speaking English and being 100% proud of their job and their new skills. It is amazing to see.

And the greatest achievement?

JJ: Really being able to open up Mozambique as a safari destination. Combining Gorongosa with one of the beautiful island lodges really makes for a spectacular bush and beach holiday.

What do you love most about your job?

JJ: It is never boring! No day is the same!