The Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique, is the largest reserve in Mozambique, with a surface of 42,000 km². It contains by far, the greatest concentration of wildlife in the country. The reserve covers parts of the Cabo Delgado Province and nearly one third of Niassa province. The reserve is bordered by Rovuma River in the north (Tanzania border) and incorporates the magical Lugenda River (flowing some 200kms through the reserve). The Luatize River lies in the southwest and the Lussanhando River in the west.
Photograph courtesy of Colleen Begg
Divided into zones for management purposes the total area is twice the size of Kruger National Park in South Africa and comparable in size to Wales, Denmark or Massachusetts. Recent developments link the park to Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania through a wildlife corridor forming arguably Africa's biggest transfrontier park.
The reserve itself is one of the largest protected miombo forest ecosystems in the world, and it has an incredible biodiversity. Half of its area is covered in low productivity woodland known as Brachystegia/miombo woodland, which occurs in poor soils. Amazingly, 95% of the biomass in these areas is herbaceous vegetation. The rest of the area is covered in 40% open savannah, 5% wetlands, 3% isolated forest communities in the mountains and the balance is forest along the rivers that run through the reserve. There are 21 different vegetation types, and an estimated 191 species of trees and shrubs.
In terms of wildlife, the reserve has plenty of mammals, and these are truly wild. The most impressive thing about the wildlife is the population of Wild Dog, an extremely endangered African predator – this exceeds 200, making it one of the best reserves for the mammals in Africa although it is not always very easy to find them!
Other animals that are specialised to this area are the three endemic species, the Niassa wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni), Boehms zebra (Equus burchelli boehmi) and Johnstons impala (Aepyceros melampus johnstoni). Better known animals, however, include sable antelope (9000), several thousand Cape buffalo, impala, wildebeest, zebra, elephant (12,000) and leopard. For bird enthusiasts, it has over 400 species of birds which include the rare Angola pitta (Pitta angolensis), Pel’s fishing owl (Scotopelia peli) and abundant raptors.
Photograph courtesy of Colleen Begg
This last frontier of wilderness is under significant threat, as a result of the overexploitation of the natural resources. Commercial poaching of elephant and other wildlife for international trade, as well as illegal subsistence hunting, over-fishing and the use of poisons, indiscriminate setting of fires, inappropriate agriculture, unplanned and uncontrolled settlements, if not urgently addressed will contribute significantly to the reduction of the natural heritage and destruction of one of the largest miombo forest ecosystem in the world.
The best way to help protect the area, is to open it up to tourism and allow the income from the tourism industry to filter through and change the destruction of the natural resources.
A trip to the Niassa should be combined with visiting the Mozambique beaches in this area for normal beach activities but als its marine life.
Quirimba Archipelago is the nesting site for four species of rare turtle and it's possible to see dugongs off the coast - if you're travelling in the country you might want to read up on the fantastic beach destination. Otherwise, Pemba town provides access to some great beaches and diving locations - a major attraction of Mozambique.
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Our Recommended Tours
Niassa Reserve, Mozambique - 4 days/3 nights
These canoe expeditions are available on set departure dates only and for a minimum of four guests per trip.
A short canoe/walk/drive safari along the magical Lugenda River exploring the little known Niassa Reserve, a massive wilderness in northern Mozambique. This area has particularly good wild dog populations, a highly endangered African mammal. Even the flight into the reserve is exciting with magnificent giant inselbergs, large granite outcrops which are a feature of the region. This is Africa in her raw, beautiful and inspired state where you can walk, paddle and explore the wilderness with complete abandon. Combining this trip with a week on the beach afterwards makes for an ideal bush and beach safari with a difference!
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