Stretching across 634 square kilometres of mountainous terrain and straddling the border of Zimbabwe sits the inimitable Chimanimani National Reserve. Together with Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani National Park, this protected reserve forms part of the Chimanimani Transfrontier National Park.
The reserve’s claim to fame is that it protects Mozambique’s highest peak, Monte Binga, an imposing silhouette standing proudly on the horizon. The terrain of the reserve is chiefly a band of undulating mountains with quartzite ridges, Afro-alpine grasslands and ancient evergreen forests. Expect scenes of wild orchards, tall yellowwood trees and areas carpeted in a rainbow of colourful flowers.
There is a network of rivers and streams coursing through the reserve and lowland tropical vegetation in the deepest valleys of Chimanimani. The region is best known for its hiking and climbing routes that range from easy to challenging. Climbing Mount Binga is a feather in any hiker’s cap. Scattered throughout this majestic mountain reserve visitors will find ancient rock art and diverse wildlife thriving on the prairies.
To get to the reserve, visitors will need a 4WD vehicle. The closest airports are Beira, Chimoio and Tete, each served by the main international airport in Maputo.
Chimanimani National Reserve is known more for its landscapes and spectacular mountain scenes, than for its wildlife. However, the craggy ledges support several species of eagle and a variety of rock-loving reptiles.
Deep within the mountains, there are plenty of mountain-adapted antelope species which include eland, sable, klipspringer, duiker, reedbucks and bushbuck. The mountains are leopard territory, but these cats remain elusive and are rarely spotted. In total there are 42 mammal species in the region.
There are over 186 species of bird in the area, with the most notable species being the rare blue swallow. Paradise flycatchers, larks and swifts are just a few of the species to spot while visiting the reserve.
There are extreme temperatures in the mountain ranges, especially in the higher reaches. This band of mountains experiences huge fluctuations in temperatures, so visitors choosing to hike the region need to be prepared for all seasons.
It’s best to avoid the rainy summer season—trails can become waterlogged, making it unpleasant to hike. This rainy summer is from November to March. From May to October is the dry winter season when it’s not uncommon to experience frost-covered grounds. April and September are the in-between seasons and the perfect time to visit the national reserve.
Chimanimani National Reserve offers a unique safari experience that focuses more on experiencing the wilderness than just spotting game. There are plenty of nature trails and hikes across the various peaks within the reserve. Visitors can arrange expertly guided hiking tours up the mountains, where they will learn about the flora and fauna of the area.
The most challenging hiking route is to Mt Binga, the tallest peak in the area. Hikers would need to overnight en route to the summit and bring all of their gear. There’s plenty of antelope to spot en route.
Birders are afforded plenty of opportunities to spot their dream birds, as well as a few lifers. A few birds to spot while walking the many trails including the green coucal, the eastern nicator and the black-and-white flycatcher. Birding safaris are popular in this reserve.
There are artefacts and rock paintings to see, and opportunities to visit cultural villages in the area.
There is no accommodation in the mountain regions, but the outlying villages do offer a range of accommodation options for a variety of budgets. There are options to camp in the area, but visitors would need to bring their camping gear.