Introducing Royal Gorongosa | The Royal Portfolio

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26 November2018

by Greg Cooke

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is the setting for Africa's greatest restoration project and home to The Royal Portfolio's latest project.

Royal Gorongosa in Mozambique will be the latest addition to The Royal Portfolio and The Royal Portfolio’s first lodge outside of South Africa.

The new lodge will offer an opportunity to be a part of a pioneering conservation project and Africa’s greatest restoration story. Situated in the heart of Mozambique, Gorongosa National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful region that was once known as the ‘Eden of Africa’. The area has a rich ecological diversity lying at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Royal Gorongosa will offer a unique and deeply edifying wilderness experience.

Gorongosa National Park is included in National Geographic Travel’s list of the best places to visit in 2019.

A Troubled Past

Originally established in 1920, by the end of the 1950s Gorongosa was receiving more than 6,000 tourists annually. Gorongosa was a thriving, rich biosphere of fauna and flora, a symphony of harmonious existence.

In the early 1980s, the music ceased. A civil war, between the People’s Republic of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and a rebel force in opposition of the Marxist-Leninist government (RENAMO) broke out and initiated the start of a devastating decade for Gorongosa National Park. In the midst of the civil war, both sides resorted to slaughtering hundreds of elephants for their ivory to fund military arms and other supplies.

By the time the war ceased in 1994, the park’s once abundant wildlife had been diminished by 95 per cent. From 1995 – 2003, preliminary efforts were put in place to rebuild Gorongosa National Park’s infrastructure and restore its wildlife. Noble efforts were made, and a great deal of infrastructure was regained, however the park would wait until 2004 for the next step of the restoration project to commence.

Restoring Eden

In 2004 the Mozambican government partnered with the US-based Carr Foundation (Gorongosa Restoration Project) and agreed to work together to restore the rapture of Gorongosa. The Carr Foundation, a non-profit organisation, was founded by Greg Carr, a successful businessman and philanthropist from the United States.

To date, the Carr Foundation has invested over $40 million into Gorongosa and the two parts of the restoration project, reintroducing wildlife and wilderness areas, and promoting eco-tourism through uplifting the local communities bordering the park.

All Creatures Great and Small

Gorongosa has a unique collection of varied ecosystems and beguiling biomes across its 4,000 square kilometres. From expansive grasslands and savannahs, to lush rainforests, seasonal pans, and limestone cliffs, the park is truly a meeting point of exquisite ecologies. A landscape so diverse and abundant in flora and fauna that it resembles Jurassic World.

The park is home to a unique array of animals and plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Reintroduction of animals is a constant mission, and the park’s fauna continues to grow rapidly as the restoration project gains momentum. From the micro worlds of interesting and rare insects to the mass migration and breeding habits of birds in the park’s wetlands, Gorongosa maintains a kaleidoscope of fascinating fauna.

Getting to Gorongosa

Getting to Royal Gorongosa is easy with flights from either Nelspruit (2hrs) or Johannesburg (1hr20mins) to Beira. From Beira it’s just a short 30min flight in a light aircraft to the Chitengo landing strip inside Gorongosa National Park.

A Luxury Tented Camp

Royal Gorongosa will be an exclusive tented camp situated in the eastern part of Gorongosa National Park and have just eight immaculately styled luxury tents (including one two-bedroom family tent). Each tent will be 86 square metres excluding a vast deck with a private plunge pool and a gazebo. Each will be uniquely decorated by Liz Biden with luxurious fabrics and missanda wood echoing the halcyon days of the 1970s when Gorongosa was a premier destination for celebrities such as John Wayne, Joan Crawford and Gregory Peck.

Exploring Gorongosa

At Royal Gorongosa, the range of activities and fascinating insights into the natural world are seemingly endless. Some of the seasonal experiences will include:

RIVER ACTIVITIES

Guests will be able to spend the day canoeing on the Pungwe River before stopping on the banks for a delicious picnic and an afternoon fishing as they ease into the rhythm of the great African wilderness.

LAKE UREMA

All water flows to Lake Urema – the beating heart at the centre of Gorongosa and a mecca for living things. Lake Urema receives water from several rivers originating on Mount Gorongosa and is considered to be the southernmost tip of the Great Rift Valley.

MOUNT GORONGOSA

Looking west on a clear day from the plains surrounding Lake Urema, one’s gaze will be met with the silhouette of the magnificent Mount Gorongosa. Its highest peak, Gogogo, reaches an elevation of 1,863m. The slopes of Mount Gorongosa are generally gentle and easy to climb.

Visitors can spend the day exploring this tropical paradise, tracking rare and exotic birds including the Green-headed Oriole (Oriolus chlorocephalus) found only on Mount Gorongosa, which tops the “most wanted” list of any serious birder.

Guests may also have time to pay a visit to the coffee plantations thriving on the slopes of Mount Gorongosa where farmers are being encouraged to grow beans in the shade of hardwood trees, both to improve economic situation and to restore the forest.

THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

At the heart of this project is philanthropy – restoring this wildlife sanctuary to the benefit of the people of Mozambique. Although Mozambique’s economy is growing at an extraordinary rate, it’s still a very poor country. Guests will be able to spend the day visiting and engaging with the numerous community projects including schools, hospitals and the agricultural institutions teaching the locals sustainable farming practices.

GAME DRIVES

Guests will be able to head out for the day on game drive with a highly qualified and experienced guiding team. They’ll be able to see all manner of wildlife great and small and explore the fascinating ecosystems of Gorongosa. A stop at the iconic Lion House for sundowners will be a historical highlight before returning to the camp for dinner under the African Stars.

WALKING SAFARIS

Gorongosa offers some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. From the palm forests to the wetlands. Guests will be able to explore the fever tree forests and waterfalls cascading over the Limestone Cliffs before enjoying a picnic among the chiseled pools of Archway Gorge.

SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY

In 2008, National Geographic featured the restoration project in their film “Africa’s Lost Eden”. World renowned scientist and biologist, and good friend of Greg Carr, Professor E.O. Wilson, has played an integral part in the project and has dedicated much time to the restoration of Gorongosa.

By creating the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory in Gorongosa, the Carr Foundation has accommodated and continues to invite scientists from all over the world to spend time researching the unique ecosystems Gorongosa presents.

This not only provides an in-depth understanding of the park and how best to restore it, but delivers valuable insights to ecologists across the world. The results of the work will not only inform future conservation decisions in Gorongosa but will also make a huge contribution to the knowledge and understanding of species biodiversity and how all the parts of an ecosystem fit together.

We are tremendously excited to be part of this remarkably ambitious project and we look forward to welcoming our first guests into what is sure to be one of Africa’s most unique wilderness experiences. Royal Gorongosa is set to open in the latter part of 2019 and we will share further information in due course including rates and reservations.

Images thanks to:

  • Gorongosa National Park
  • Bob Poole
  • Clive Dreyer
  • Jean Paul Vermeulen
  • James Bryne
  • Jeff Reed
  • Jeff Trollip
  • Michael dos Santos
  • Paul Kerrison
  • Piotr Naskrecki

You can view some of the latest Gorongosa videos here.

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