Expert Reviews – Niassa SR
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
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Striking Scenery in a Vast Isolated Reserve
I’ll never forget arriving by small aircraft in Niassa National Reserve. The dramatic landscape took my breath away. Massive granite domes rise up hundreds of meters above the canopy with the sluggish Luganda River meandering through. This scene seemed to extend to infinity in every direction.
There wasn’t a lot of wildlife around, but that didn’t stop us enjoying our morning and afternoon outings in the bush, usually with a lovely coffee stop or sundowners thrown in. We got excited when we came across a cheeky elephant charging our vehicle. Even more thrilling was sneaking up on foot to a herd of sable. These stately antelopes thrive in the pristine miombo woodland, which makes up more than half of the reserve.
My highlight was a canoeing trip on the river. Again, we didn’t see much wildlife, but we stopped to look for spoor on the sandbanks, and the feeling that we were the only people around in this vast, wild area will stay with me forever.
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
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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.