At a Glance
Dates: May 20th - May 30th, 2024
Extension: Three night pre-extension available to the Bazaruto Archipelago on request.
Prices: £7,895 pp sharing (£450 single supplement), excluding flights.
In a sentence: An opportunity to combine the exceptional wildlife of the gorgeous Gorongosa National Park with the drama of the stunning Coutada 11.
Natural beauty is rarely top of the list when weighing up potential safari destinations. Big game? Yes. Luxury accommodation? Yes. But, spectacular scenery? This can often fall by the wayside, particularly in the well-touristed areas of Southern Africa.
Gorongosa is a spectacular counterexample. This national park situated in central Mozambique offers a stunning variety of landscapes, from vast floodplains dotted with thousands of waterbuck to arid open savanna and dense riverine forest. A visit to Gorongosa can feel like an expedition to the Selous, the Mara and the Okavango all in one day!
If that were not enough, Gorongosa has recently been the subject of a stirring conservation effort. Decimated by a brutal civil war, the park's wildlife had been reduced to a terrible state, with many species extirpated. Now, however, commendable engagement with the local community and world-leading translocation programmes are begging to restore the park to a semblance of its former self. The main game-viewing area is home to a healthy population of Lion and Bush Elephant, both of which survived years of guerrilla warfare in the area. Introductions of Savanna Buffalo, the Crawshay's Zebra, Common Wildebeest and more have bolstered the prey population, which now supports a booming population of African Wild Dogs, now numbering over 100. Our trip is timed to maximise the chances of encountering puppies outside of their dens. Leopard and Serval are also occasionally seen and visitors are also likely to encounter Cape Porcupine, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Sable Antelope, Bushbuck and more. Perhaps the most impressive sight in all of Gorongosa are the floodplains of the mighty Lake Urema. These plains are filled with thousands of Common Waterbuck, in densities unmatched across the continent - it is this sight at sunset that visitors simply cannot forget.
Coutada 11 offers a strikingly different conservation success story, focussed on partnering trophy hunting with ecotourism. This work has reaped tremendous reward, with booming populations of predators including lion, leopard and cheetah, as well as grazers such as buffalo, suni, red duiker and much more. This itinerary is unique in offering clients the chance to juxtapose two differing models and approaches to conservation, and to draw their own conclusions about how these approaches may be applied to other vitally important wilderness areas across Africa.
On arrival into Beira, you will be met by a Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to the Sena Hotel. Beira is still recovering from the devastating Cyclone Idai of 2019, and hotel options are limited. Our hotel for tonight is basic, but comfortable and quiet - perfect for a night's rest before an early start tomorrow. Here, you will meet the rest of the group at dinner for a pre-tour briefing before retiring for the evening.
This morning we transfer back to Beira Airport for the flight deep into the remote Zambeze Delta. Our destination is Coutada (a Portuguese term for hunting area) 11, home to one of the most exciting wilderness and conservation-focussed experiences in Africa today. On landing, we will be met by the wonderful team at the Coutada, and shuttled to our comfortable and well-appointed camp. Here, lunch will be served and we will be introduced to the story of the Coutada. This extensive hunting area has long preserved some of the few remaining sustainable wildlife populations in Mozambique, and has even recently supplied species including buffalo to national parks across the country. Management here recognise the potential for ecotourism and big game hunting to co-exist and, as such, have made significant strides to open the Coutada up to wildlife photographers and nature enthusiasts. This itinerary is specifically designed to allow clients to understand the model adopted here, and to compare it to what will be seen in a phototourism only ecosystem in Gorongosa later in this tour.
Our afternoon drive will focus on exploring the Coutada as much as possible by vehicle. With lucky, we may encounter buffalo, lion, leopard, sable, eland, hartebeest, oribi, bushpig, suni, blue duiker, red duiker, nyala and much more. Extensive conservation efforts here have seen populations of all these species skyrocket in recent years, with particularly impressive uplifts in zebra and buffalo populations. Leopard and lion are monitored extensively, greatly increasing our chances of a sighting, and we do hope to get lucky today. After a full and enjoyable game drive, we return to camp for some rest and to discuss our hopes for the days ahead.
Days Three to Five
During the next three days, we will explore the block on morning, afternoon and evening game drives. Leveraging the extensive experience of our hosts, we may choose to dedicate specific drives to certain species. On at least one day, we suggest trawling dense woodland for unusual ungulates including nyala, red duiker and blue duiker. On another, the vast open plains filled with waterbuck, buffalo and zebra must be seen to be believed. Lion and leopard, as well as recently re-introduced cheetah, are real highlights here, and we will spend significant time seeking out these special cats in the stunning surrounds of this incredible wilderness area.
Gorongosa National Park
This morning we must reluctantly say goodbye to the stunning Coutada 11, taking a scenic and enjoyable journey by helicopter across Central Mozambique to our next destination - Gorongosa. Arriving by early afternoon in this park, famed for its remarkable resurrection after the Civil War to a continent-leading safari destination, we will head directly for our delightful fly camp.
Our accommodation consists of spacious safari tents, equipped with electricity and outdoor open-air en-suites. The camp is superbly located, overlooking a small pan that regularly draws in wildlife including lion, elephant, kudu, bushbuck and even wild dog.
This afternoon we will set out on our first game drive, in an open-sided game-viewer exclusively for the use of our group. Depending on the interests of our group, we may choose to immediately begin our search for African Wild Dogs or "mabecos" as they are locally known. Otherwise, we might head to the famous "Lion House", an abandoned building once frequented by prides of lion in the park's heyday - it is in this area that we are most likely to locate the park's Lion and Bush Elephant. After enjoying sundowners, we will meander back to camp through the darkness, spotlighting for Gorongosa' noctural residents. Common Genet, African Civet, Cape Porcupine and African Savanna Hare are likely, and we may even strike lucky with Serval, Leopard or Aardvark.
Days Seven to Ten
Gorongosa National Park
With exclusive use of a privately-guided park vehicle, the next four days are full of opportunity and flexibility for the group. Game drives are the most effective way of tracking down the park's famous Lions, Bush Elephant and Wild Dog, and we recommend morning and evening game drives on most days. However, we are also able to offer walking safaris for a more intimate view of the park, as well as boat safaris on the impressive Lake Urema, if water conditions allow this. Lake Urema holds Gorongosa's only population of Hippo and is certainly worth at least one visit. During the course of these five days we should expect to locate Lion, Bush Elephant, African Wild Dog, Savanna Buffalo, Selous' Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Sable Antelope, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Bushpig, Common Warthog, Common Waterbuck, Impala, Southern Reedbuck, Nyala, Bushbuck and much more.
For those interested, we may also be able to arrange visits to the local community. Gorongosa run several initiatives with local communities, including several focussed on empowering young women and an excellent coffee project which produces some of the finest coffee you will ever taste.
Sadly we must say goodbye to Gorongosa today. We will depart early, with those heading home being transferred directly to Beira Airport. We are able to arrange extra nights' accommodation in Beira on request.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in May 2024, aiming to take advantage of the beginning of the dry season, when parks are at their most beautiful and photography often at its most rewarding.
The cost of this trip is £7,895 per person excluding international flights. This includes all accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Water, but not soft drinks or alcohol, is included. We regret that we must levy a £450 single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £2,400 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Beira or Vilanculos at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Mozambique. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Mozambique will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Mozambique entry visa for UK citizens is £60 - this increases to £90 for a multiple-entry visa. Mozambique tourist visas are available from the Mozambique High Commission in London. To acquire a tourist visa for Mozambique you will require a valid passport, two passport photos, a completed application form, a photocopy of the photo page of your passport, proof of your residential status, a bank statement, a copy of your hotel reservations, and a copy of your itinerary.
Please also note that visas on arrival are sometimes available in Mozambique. We strongly recommend you get your visa before travel to avoid complications in Beira.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Mozambique in May is hot and humid with maximum temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 19 degrees Celsius. It usually rains heavily at least twice on this tour.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
We understand that for some potential visitors, the security situation in the Mozambique is a concern. Pictus Safaris take the safety of clients extremely seriously and we are in constant communication with our ground operators to monitor the security situation in all of our destinations.
The security situation in Mozambique is generally very stable and incidents are extremely rare. There is an Islamist insurgency in the far north-east of the country, but this should not worry you as it is a huge distance from both Gorongosa and Vilanculos. Banditry is sometimes reported on the road between Beira and Gorongosa, but we will travel this road in daylight hours and expect to be able to travese this area safely.
All Pictus Safaris clients must have travel insurance to travel with us. As travel to parts of Mozambique is advised against by national travel advisory bodies, some travel insurance policies will not be valid here. We recommend High Risk Voyager insurance as it covers medical evacuation from remote areas.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.