Geography of Mozambique
Mozambique is located in the east of the South African continent on the Indian Ocean and is surrounded in the north by Tanzania, in the northwest by Malawi and Zambia, and in the west by Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the far south, besides South Africa, the Kingdom of Lesotho borders Mozambique.
The 801,590 km² large land area is divided into a lowland along the 2800 km long coast and a plateau that rises to the west and from the Zambezi estuary to the northwest in stages up to approx. 1000 m high, the high field or the Chimoio plateau. The highest elevation is at 2436 m above sea level. NN the Monte Binga in the province of Manica, on the border with Zimbabwe.
The highlands drains east into the Indian Ocean via numerous rivers, some of which have their source in neighboring countries to the west. The most important river is the Zambezi, which is dammed up in the western province of Tete between Luangwa and Tete by the Cahora Bassa dam to form one of the world’s largest reservoirs.
Other large rivers are the Limpopo, which flows through the south of the country, the rivers Rovuma and Tanzania, as well as the Save and Lario.
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Flora and fauna in Mozambique
More than half of the land area of Mozambique is taken up by meadows and pastures of the dry savannah, whose grasses wither during the dry season and can grow to 2 m high stalks in the rainy season. 18% of the country is covered with scrub and dry forests, which shed their leaves in the low-precipitation season to green again during the rainy season. Typical tree species are umbrella acacias and baobabs. The river regions are lined with gallery forests. Mangrove forests can be found on the coast.
The central north of the country and the Chimoio plateau is also passed with denser forests.
Mozambique is home to a broad cross-section of Africa’s wildlife. In particular, the palm forests of the Gorongosa National Park provide a habitat for gazelles, antelopes, lions, warthogs, water buffalo, elephants, baboons, giraffes and zebras. Other ungulates and leopards can be found across the country. The river regions are home to crocodiles and hippos as well as various types of snakes such as pythons, cobras and vipers. Large birds such as cranes, storks, pelicans, herons, ibises, flamingos and vultures are just as much a part of the landscape in Mozambique as buzzards and crows.
National parks and nature conservation in Mozambique
Gorongosa National Park
The nature park named after the nearby mountain range was established in 1960 on an area of 3,770 km² as Mozambique’s first national park by the Portuguese, who were still ruling at the time. The park, which is mainly located in the subsidence area of the Great African Rift Valley, in the alluvial land of the Rio Púnguè and its tributaries, is characterized by savannahs and marshland from which individual island mountains rise. In the center of the national park is Lake Urema, which is fed by the Rio Urema and other tributaries.
The vegetation is characterized by forest savannahs, which on the dry mountain slopes and plateaus have miombo character with typical carob and mopane trees and are characterized by baobab, liver sausage and elephant trees as well as umbrella acacias in the moister valleys and swamps.
Until the civil war that broke out in 1976, the Gorongosa National Park was one of the most biodiverse national parks in southern Africa. As a result of the war, the park’s large animal population, especially elephants, zebras, wildebeest, buffalo and lions, was severely decimated by uncontrolled poaching. It was not until 1995 that work began on rebuilding the park, restoring the largely destroyed infrastructure and reintroducing the original wild animal species threatened with extinction. The national park has been open to tourism again since 2008.
Limpopo National Park
Together with the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and some smaller protected areas, the Limpopo National Park was established along the river of the same name in 2001 as part of the transnational Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Mozambique.
The appearance of the 10,000 km² national park is characterized by bushland on partly sandy soils, the Sandvelts, with a large variety of carob, nuke, or winged plants. Along the tributaries of the Limpopo there are partly extensive mopane and acacia forests. Since parts of the national park are also used as settlement areas, treeless areas that are used as arable land can also be found again and again.
The large animal world in the area of today’s Limpopo National Park was almost exterminated both in the liberation and in the civil war that followed. By relocating the 10 most important animal species from the Kruger National Park, a small population of giraffes, elephants, zebras, wildebeest and warthogs has been rebuilt to this day.
Niassa Natinal Reserve
The Niassa National Reserve covers an area of 42,000 km² in the area of the border river to Tanzania, the Rovuma, and is thus the largest nature reserve in Mozambique. It is part of the 740,000 square kilometer Selous Niassa ecosystem and connected to the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania by a so-called “wildlife corridor”.
The park is relatively densely overgrown with forest. The reserve is now home to buffalo, zebras, kudu, impalas, antelopes, lions, leopards, African wild dogs and hyenas. Crocodiles lurk in the waters for prey. Approx. 450 species of birds are registered in the Niassa National Reserve.
Bazaruto National Park
The Bazaruto National Park, founded in 1970, comprises the ecosystem of the sandy island of Bazaruto, which is located about 10 km off the coast of Beira in the area of the Sava estuary in the Indian Ocean. In addition to the extensive sand dunes, the waters around the archipelago are particularly rich in rare animal species such as the endangered fork tailed sea cow or the white Chinese dolphin.
Other nature parks include the Machangulo Private Nature Reserve, which is located near the capital, Maputo and the Maputo Reserve.