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Gorongosa's Forests

"What is unique about the greater Gorongosa region is that it contains five of the nine large biological regions in Africa. There is a rainforest on the 1,863m Mount Gorongosa that is listed by biologists to be in the highest category of conservation urgency, and in the park itself there is open woodland and grassland savanna." - Travel and Tourism News

Gorongosa’s diversity becomes instantly apparent as you pass through the mosaic of forests that make up the landscape like a patchwork quilt. The most spectacular is the lush, green rainforest of Mount Gorongosa, found as you hike high up the slopes of the mountain. Just as stunning are the tall, evergreen forests that grown along the rivers that plunge through the deep, limestone gorges in the eastern part of the Park.

 

As you drive through the Park on a game drive, the most common forest you’ll encounter is miombo woodland. Although technically miombo is a type of savanna, it often grows into dense, closed-canopy forests. Its name comes from the Swahili name of its most common tree, a small-leaved Brachystegia. The miombo woodlands thrive even in poor soils and are an important habitat for many of Gorongosa’s animals.

 

If you find yourself driving through Gorongosa’s forests and are suddenly surrounded by a yellow hue, stop to take in the view. You have found one of the dense stands of fever trees. These beautiful trees have yellow, powdery bark that covers their trunks. The name of this tree is derived from an old belief that this plant causes malaria. Now, of course, it is known that malaria is a disease spread by certain species of mosquitoes, and that the trees are entirely innocent. In fact, its powdered roots and stem bark are used as an anti-malarial medication. Leaves of fever trees are also a favorite snack of elephants who sometimes uproot the trees to get to the freshest shoots.

"The forest of fever trees - their lime-yellow bark glowing spectrally - is certainly surreal enough to provoke delusions, though Dr Livingstone, who gave them this name, was wrong to think them the cause of his sickness." - Sydney Morning Herald

As you approach the floodplain around Lake Urema, you find yourself in one of the palm forests scattered along the edges of the plains. These palm forests are another important habitat for many of Gorongosa’s antelopes and other large animals.

 

Look carefully into the vast, nearly treeless floodplain and you may see two types of forests. Riverine forest is a humid, shady forest found along rivers and is home to many different birds, reptiles, and insects. One of the largest patches of riverine forest is along the Pungue River near Chitengo, and it is an excellent place for bird watching. The second forest type is found in the dry areas of the floodplain.  This dry forest is only found in places where it rains less than 1000 mm each year, and most of the dry forest trees lose their leaves during the dry season.

 

On the opposite side of the floodplain, in the northern and western part of Gorongosa’s valley floor, you’ll find Mopane forest. The leaves of the mopane, shaped like an antelope’s footprint, are an important food for elephants and other browsers.