Expert Reviews – Niassa NR
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Striking scenery in a vast isolated reserve
Arriving by small aircraft at Niassa Reserve was quite overwhelming. I hadn’t expected something quite as dramatic. Big granite domes rise up from the plains with the Lugenda river meandering through. We were staying at the only lodge in this vast reserve – a small tented camp on the bank of the river. We were also the only clients, which made the experience even more exclusive. There wasn’t a lot of wildlife, but we enjoyed ambles in the bush and we got excited when we came across a cheeky elephant or a stately sable antelope. The highlight was a canoeing trip on the river. Again, we didn’t see much wildlife, but we walked around on some sandbanks and it felt like we were the only people around in this huge, forested wild area.
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
As remote as it gets
The main Mozambican component in the 150,000km2 Selous-Niassa Transfrontier Conservation Area, the Niassa National Reserve protects a vast tract of flattish miombo-swathed dry plains interrupted to thrillingly dramatic effect by a liberal scattering of black granitic inselbergs that rise hundreds of metres above the canopy, and flowed through by the perennial Lugenda River. One of the most important refuges for the endangered African wild dog, Niassa also supports large number of elephant, lion, leopard, hippo, warthog, Crawshay’s zebra, buffalo, bushbuck, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, impala, sable antelope, greater kudu, waterbuck, Niassa wildebeest and reedbuck. Poaching is a problem, however, and the vast size of the reserve, together with the dense woodland, mean that game-viewing is slow. Birding, however, is excellent. Niassa is probably the best site in Mozambique to see birds of prey, and it also hosts a good variety of aquatic birds and miombo specials, including the racquet-tailed roller, pale-billed hornbill, miombo pied barbet, Stierling’s wren-warbler and Arnot’s chat. The upmarket tented camp that serviced the park has closed, meaning that this remote reserve is now only accessible to intrepid self-drivers, who are likely to have it to themselves.