Last updated: 10:02 AM ET, Wed October 28 2015

From Ammo Dump to Nature Preserve: Mozambique Gets Creative

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | October 28, 2015

From Ammo Dump to Nature Preserve: Mozambique Gets Creative

PHOTO: Pangane Beach, Mozambique. (Courtesy of Thinkstock)

Mozambique has earned a lot of buzz in the travel world lately. Formerly off-limits because of a bloody decades-long civil war, this Southeast African country is now one of its continent’s hot travel destinations. Mozambique has a little bit of everything: safari parks, a fun-loving lusophone vibe, world-class diving, white sand beaches, and a growing number of boutique hotels and luxury resorts.

This former Portuguese colony has become known as one of Africa’s most creative places. The country has artists who actually turn old AK-47s and other war paraphernalia into sculptures.

Mozambique has also gotten very creative with how it is bringing its wildlife back from the brink of extinction.

A national park back from the brink

Gorongosa National Park was once one of the most nature-rich destinations in the region. During the civil war, however, its animal inhabitants were relentlessly poached. Even after a peace deal was reached in the 1990s, commercial hunters continued to put the wildlife in the crosshairs. By the time philanthropist Greg Carr started funding a major conservation effort in the early 2000s, about 90 percent of the animals in Gorongosa had been killed.

After a major effort to repopulate and control poaching, the park is back almost to its pre-civil-war status as one of Africa’s great safari destinations (on par with the nature preserves of Mozambique’s northern neighbors, Tanzania and Kenya).

Gorongosa is certainly the headlining attraction for nature lovers heading to Mozambique, but other safari parks are being built. One of the most unique is a former ammo dump that is being converted into a nature preserve.

From dangerous ammo dump to nature park

The dump, in Malhazine, a district on the edge of Maputo, is not far from the main international airport. A 2007 explosion, caused by rusting missiles and unprotected explosives, killed 100 Malhazine residents and sent shrapnel several miles into Downtown Maputo. Mozambican teams have been working with the UN to demine the area and to remove the remaining ammunition. The plan is to turn the dump into a nature park once it is deemed safe.

When teams can confirm that all the explosives and mines have been removed, construction will start on the 1,500-acre preserve. The goal is to offer something that can give tourists (and locals) a taste of Mozambique’s nature and wildlife without requiring them to travel to far-flung Gorongosa.

The plan is to have a zoo, botanical garden, observation tower and water park in addition to the nature preserve, which will be populated with antelope and other native species. Planners will also give some recognition to the area’s less-peaceful past with a small military-themed museum.

An accessible wilderness attraction

Botswana has already created a similar suburban park, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which is near the capital city of Gaborone. The idea of these parks is to introduce people to the safari scene without requiring them to book expensive tours into the bush. Also, this style of attraction can give local people a chance to have the same kind of up-close-with-nature experience that tourists come to their country to enjoy.

Another goal of the Malhazine project is to try to create a balance between nature and development. Mozambique is growing economically at a breakneck pace. New buildings are popping up in Maputo and new resorts are being built all along the coast. These places are signs of a long overdue economic surge, but Mozambique also wants to preserve its natural identity. Having such a centrally-located nature attraction seems like a great start. 

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