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Ready, Steady ….

Get ready for it! Construction of Muzimu Tented Camp is well underway; it took a while but it was worth the wait. Muzimu Tented Camp is going to be the first luxury camp in the Gorongosa National Park, a place where you can come and relax, away from the crowds and get back to nature, somewhere you are able to reconnect with nature, enjoy great food and good wines. The added bonus is that as you rejuvenate, you will be doing it in an environment that has itself been undergoing extensive rejuvenating. Could there actually be a better place anywhere else but here for you to do so?

The Start

Before construction can start on any lodge one needs to ensure that the chosen site is one that lends to the overall ambience of what would be on offer and, just as importantly, that the site will not be subjected to hazards in extreme weather or if the rivers suddenly rise. Muzimu Tented Camp has been sited on one of the highest points of the Mussicadzi River, where the entire camp has views over the river, it is a place where we have heard and seen Samango monkeys regularly when we have overnighted at the camp site, albeit in a rough camp site! A place where at night we watched the stars without any light pollution and listened to Pels fishing owls calling, or heard the roar of lion, sometimes close by and at other times off in the distance. Enough of that for now, this is all something you can enjoy once the camp is completed.

The pipeline, we laid the pipe as we trenched.

After extensive testing of water in the test boreholes we did on site we decided the best option would be to bring water from an aquifer we knew to be sweet and pure, none of the test wells we did produced water that was anywhere near as good and that meant the water treatment plant would be too large to make sense. Yes, the water we are drawing is good, but it will still go through a proper purification process to ensure it is of the best quality. The pipeline being laid is almost 7 kilometers long and the entire length has been dug by hand, and it has had to be dug down to a depth of almost a meter deep to try and remove the temptation from elephant to dig it up when they are looking for water, or just being plain mischievous! Most of the pipe has been laid and the pump-house has almost been completed, after the water has been purified it will be pumped to storage tanks at the camp.

The first delivery, a truckload of timber for the decking.

The bulk of the timber has been delivered and the construction crews are underway. The entire concept of the camp is to try and be as “eco-friendly” as possible, with that in mind we have opted away from permanent foundations, instead the main supports are properly bedded and the entire camp is being constructed above ground. This means that any changes that may be needed can be achieved without any impact on the environment.

The bulk of the labour force needed for the construction is being sourced from the local community surrounding the park, and the only people who are not from our area of operation are the specialists, but we have been able to find some people who have the required skill sets, like carpenters or plumbers. This is in keeping with the Gorongosa National Park ethos, to create job opportunities and upliftment for the people who live close to the Park, the added bonus to this is that it allows us to identify people who are natural leaders as well as those who we could offer permanent employment to once the camp is completed.

The “Back of House” construction, once this is completed the solar panels will be installed on the roof to optimize the movement of the sun as it travels east to west.

After “harvesting” the solar energy it will transferred to an energizer room, where the deep cycle, long life batteries are housed, from there it will be used to power the entire camp. There will also be backup generator in place, to ensure we have energy if there are extended periods of rain and to make sure the batteries are being properly charged.

We will keep everyone updated with the process of construction as well as show you what we have seen around camp during construction, and of course we will also continue to show you what is seen further afield. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the highlights over the past month with regards to sightings and new discoveries!

 

Something New

Traveling away from the camp on an extended drive we decided to try and find a waterfall we had been told of, somewhere that is really special, with crystal clear water and stunning views. A spot on the far side of the Urema River so, with the distance involved and the time required to get there we left early in the morning, it is a trip definitely worth doing and is one that can only be done as a daytrip. Picnic lunches and drinks for the adventurous, a perfect reward when you consider what we found and what can be seen.

The waterfall, fed by a small stream that flows over rocks.

 

The pool below the falls is surrounded on three sides by steep walls, below the first pool are 3 more pools, in varying depths but all have fish clearly visible through the clear water. It is also the only place, other than Mount Gorongosa, where you can see Mountain Wagtail and the only spot where we have seen African Finfoot, so all in all it is very special.

 

 

Highlights

Seemingly overnight the Southern Carmine Bee-eaters arrived, to build nests in their regular breeding site, a steep bank on the Urema River. It is thought they construct new nests every year and these are usually burrows excavated in riverbanks, they are normally around 60 centimeters deep and are excavated using bills initially and then their feet. They often form very large colonies and the constant calling of the birds announces their position, if you miss seeing all the burrows you will definitely not miss hearing them, or seeing them swirling in the air above their colony.

This colorful tree is just above the bank where the Bee-eaters have made their home.

They do not spend much time in any one place, other than for when they are at their breeding sites. Once the breeding is over with the adults and juveniles disperse widely, only to rejoin again when the next breeding season is upon them.

Whilst sitting watching the birds we could not but help notice we were also being observed, by a large crocodile!

Watching us, and then leaving the water in all her finery!

Staying close to water we continued on along the Urema River, it was a hot day and our hopes were high of seeing an elephant or two in the river having a drink, we didn’t see two but were fortunate to be able to sit and watch as a young bull played with some mud. He was on the opposite side of the Urema River from us and, with a very steep bank below us, we were able to leave the vehicle and sit out on the edge of the bank and watch him.

He was very relaxed, and after having a look at us and determining we were no threat to him whatsoever he carried on with his “mudbath” and shower as if we were not there. We spent more than forty minutes with him, until eventually he decided the show as over and it was time for him to move on, he walked off into the Phragamites, the long reed like grass that grows along many of the river banks, and literally disappeared from sight. Quite a feat when you consider the size of these animals!

 

A careful placement of mud behind the ear!

And, finally, a master of disguise. Many animals and insects have the ability to almost disappear from sight and do so with relative ease. We have all seen chameleons do this but they are not the only ones with this ability, even the humble frog can do so!

Two different views of the same frog! Notice how well it blends in with the colour of the dead branch.

We look forward to seeing you at Muzimu Tented Camp!

Lee Bennett
Muzimu Tented Camp and Gorongosa Collection
Gorongosa National Park
Mozambique