Gilé National Reserve is an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination that holds great appeal for the keen adventurer. The 2,800-square-kilometre reserve isn’t set up for tourism, making it an exciting destination for self-drivers eager to explore one of Mozambique’s most preserved regions.
Gilé’s terrain is predominantly swathes of densely wooded forest interrupted by a mosaic of rivers. Typical riparian vegetation lines the banks of the rivers and unusual dambos punctuate the grassy floodplains. The tranquil forests of tall trees provide beautiful canopies over the vast wilderness below that is, arguably, one of Mozambique’s most ruggedly beautiful regions.
The Miombo woodlands and forests provide a varied habitat for a wealth of birds, which include anything from woodland kingfishers, forest-dwelling passerines to typical waterbirds. The reserve is the perfect destination for self-sufficient birders eager to explore unchartered birding destinations.
Gilé is slowly being restored to its former glory and is quickly making its way onto the main tourist map. But for now, it remains a picturesque ocean of green landscapes, explored only by the true adventurous spirit. Access to the reserve can be challenging and requires the use of a 4WD. The closest airport is in Maputo, and the nearest town is Nampula.
There are a recorded 95 mammal species within the reserve, but the landscape is so vast that there could be more. Relatively little is known about the species within the reserve because it’s an unexplored and vast region. It is believed that African wild dogs, lions, leopards and hyena still roam this reserve, but visitors rarely see these species.
Elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, sable and waterbuck are the most commonly spotted species. It takes careful observation to spot elephants, but antelope are well-supported. Avid adventurous Twitchers will be pleased to know that there are at least 114 species of bird in the reserve. The best period for birding is during the rainy season, which is from November to March.
The best time for a safari experience is during the dry winter months when wildlife congregates around available water sources. The reserve is thick with vegetation outside of these months, so exploring during winter is best for game viewing. Winter is from June to October.
For budding birders, the best time of year to visit is during the summer months from November to May. However, the rainfall is heavy during this time, and some of the roads might deteriorate.
The varied landscape of Gile is ideal for walking safaris and game drives. Visitors can hire the expertise of a local guide, or simply explore the awe-inspiring terrain in their own time. The reserve is only open from 7:30 to 16:30 unless camping overnight at the main campsite.
The granite kopjes in the area are worthy of hiking. Summiting the kopjes provide an opportunity to view the landscape from a birds-eye point of view and spot game from a unique vantage point. The reserve is ideal for birding. Because it’s one of the last remaining preserved areas, there’s plenty of scopes to find and photograph rarely seen birds.
There are also ongoing conservation projects underway in the reserve, with the most recent one being elephant collaring to track the routes of these grey giants. Visitors can look into getting involved in the conservation projects within the reserve.
There is no formal accommodation inside the reserve, but there is a designated camping area. The reserve is for the explorer, so all equipment and camping gear needs to be brought in by visitors. A few villages and towns surround the reserve and offer a wealth of accommodation options.