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MIKE MCNAMARA : Gorongosa Mozambique

audio The Uneasy Overlap Between Tourism and Conservation [audio]

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meet Mike McNamara

Anyone who has seen the award-winning documentary ‘Africa’s Lost Eden’ will know about the tragic history of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and how the Carr Foundation is working to re-establish it.

Mike McNamara - Gorongosa, Mozambique [2008 © greatguides.org]

Anyone who has seen the award-winning documentary ‘Africa’s Lost Eden’ will know about the tragic history of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and how the Carr Foundation is working to re-establish it. In 2005 the Foundation persuaded Mike McNamara to leave his highly successful tourism, adventure and corporate business based at Victoria Falls, to help restore Gorongosa. He moved with his wife and infant child into the war shattered, derelict Chitengo camp in a remote part of Mozambique, and began the work to make Gorongosa once more a magnificent, viable and abundant wildlife reserve.

Mike McNamara - Zambezi River, Zimbabwe [2012 © greatguides.org] - Mike McNamara - Gorongosa Mozambique - Roddy Bray's Great Guides

For many years Mike was a very well known figure at Victoria Falls. He was one of the pioneers of the exciting tourism destination it has become. He helped to develop the rafting trips through the rapids and has some hair raising stories of their first ‘research’ expeditions on the river! He went on to promote guided walking and vehicle safaris throughout the region, and ran Southern Cross Aviation. Then he started his own company managing large events, especially corporate incentive programmes, on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian side of the Falls.

Mike helped pioneer river rafting on the Zambezi

Having achieved so much, it is not at first apparent why he would take his young family off to a destroyed national park in central Mozambique. But Mike was caught by the vision of restoring Gorongosa. The Mozambique civil war (’77 – ’94) not only took a terrible toll on human life, but wildlife too. Gorongosa was a battleground in the war and the animals became food for the armies. 14,000 buffalo were reduced to six. 3,000 Zebra to just five. 



Mike McNamara - Gorongosa, Mozambique [2006 © greatguides.org] - Mike McNamara - Gorongosa Mozambique - Roddy Bray's Great Guides
The ruined camp at Gorongosa where Mike lived 
Predators were of course also affected: lions were reduced from 500 to six. Poaching went unchecked, and only tuskless elephants survived. Lacking grazers, the park became overgrown and prone to destructive fires. The montane forests, home to indigenous and migrant birds, were hacked down for wood.

Mike McNamara - Gorongosa, Mozambique [2006 © greatguides.org] - Mike McNamara - Gorongosa Mozambique - Roddy Bray's Great Guides

Re-introducing wildlife into Gorongosa was a massive undertaking


The Carr Foundation reached a twenty year agreement with the government to manage the 5,000km² Park. Mike joined this effort and embraced the vision. Elephants, hippos and other animals have been transported in from South Africa (a massive undertaking). Roads, bridges and the air strip have been re-constructed. Ambitious education and job-creation programmes intended to provide an alternative to poaching have been brought to the surrounding villages. Training of rangers and anti-poaching teams has been implemented. Through these measures, the ecology and security of the Park are being re-created.

Mike McNamara - Gorongosa, Mozambique [2005 © greatguides.org] - Mike McNamara - Gorongosa Mozambique - Roddy Bray's Great Guides

Mike was involved in all these aspects, but over time he concentrated more on establishing tourism in Gorongosa; the only way to make the park viable financially over the long term. He is working with top safari operators, and imposing strict controls to ensure that lodges and bushcamps established in the park make the least possible environmental impact.

 It is a big vision, but Mike’s work in Victoria Falls gives him confidence that successful eco-tourism ventures can make possible sustainable conservation. His hope is that all that has been achieved at Gorongosa will be a model to restore other wilderness areas in Africa, and beyond.

Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique

In his first audio, 'The Uneasy Overlap Between Tourism and Conservation', Mike explores the tensions and synergies between tourism and conservation.


Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 08 Dec 2010
Location: Southern Africa | Mozambique
Themes: natural world, travel | conservation, parks and trails, safari guide