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Elephant Special Reserve private tour takes you to the land of wonders, where the highest green dunes of the world can be found. You will get close to natural and wild sounds in a peaceful ecosystem with super good vibes.
Open your eyes well as animals can be anywhere, especially the herds of elephants that have make this area so unique.
We won’t miss the fresh water lagoons around, where birds, hippos and crocs are the stars.
And get also ready to swim, as we will take you to the sea if road conditions allow that – we never know!
The tour is in a Toyota Prado or a Safari open vehicle with enhances the experience.
At the sarting point of the Elephant Special Reserve tour, we will leave from Maputo and drive for 1hr to 1hr 30 mins to the entrance of the reserve.
A game drive and bird watching Safari will enable you to get a real touch of the Fresh air that the reserve has to offer. Freshwater lakes, marshlands, riverine woodlands, lagoons among many more just show how diverse the nature of the reserve is. This means there is a lot of variation in bird species from water birds and marshland species.
We shall see also some big game such as Hippos, Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras and much more.
Our Safari in the Maputo Special Reserve will take almost 7 to 8hrs because want our guests to enjoy and not tire up.
We will have some snacks and drinks for you during the trip. We don’t call it lunch because it’s not possible to have a proper lunch at the Reserve, but we will make sure you enjoy some nice food and drinks.
Maputo Special Reserve is home to about 334 bird species that have been spotted for so far. We are talking about Spotted Ground-Thrush, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, African Broadbill, Livingstone’s Turaco, Eastern Nicator, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Denham’s Bustard and Chestnut-banded Plover among more. If you are a bird watcher you probably know what we are talking about, if not book with us and leave the rest to us and we shall teach you this unique way of enjoying your time in nature.
We have designed a special tour for you and your loved ones, this tour goes any day of the week, we take you in of our comfortable Toyota Prado, choose your day and we will take care of everything. On this tour everything is included, all transportation, tolls, entrance fees to the reserve, Mussiro’s guide, binoculars, drinks, snacks and lunch at the beach at our campsite at Ponta Membene.
And please bring warm clothing, sun-scream, water bottle, camera and extra batteries, hat/cap and comfortable shoes, we have some binoculars on board but if you have your own special binoculars please feel free to bring them, towel and swimming clothes, also don’t forget to bring your passport with you, there is no boarder closing but it’s mandatory to be identifiable.
On this tour, we will pick you up at any point that you choose, starting the expedition 6:00 a.m. After a few minutes of driving, we will pass the famous Katembe bridge across Maputo Bay, which is the biggest suspended bridge in Africa. Here we will drive slowly in case you want to take some pictures because unfortunately we are not allowed to stop on the bridge.
It will take us an hour and half to get to the main entrance of the Reserve (Futi Gate). On arrival at the gate, our guide will do all the entrance fee payments and fill in the visitor’s entrance book at the gate, as we are going in the bush and we are not allowed to get out of the vehicle, we suggest you use the rest rooms at the main gate. There is some proper rest room at Xinguti campsite, but it will be some few hours of driving you to get to the camp. Soon after all the payments are done, our safari starts and the drive will take us through the woodlands forests, savanna woodlands and pass through the freshwater lagoons, where we can spot some crocodiles and schools of hippos; if we are lucky we can see some animals drinking and of course a lot water birds.
Maputo Elephant Reserve was created in 1932 and it was mainly for the protection of elephants in the area. This reserve forms part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area, which includes national parks in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. In 1969 Maputo Elephant Reserve changed its name to Maputo Special Reserve and the goal was to protect more than one species of animals and plants, in an area where hunting is not permitted. In 2006 Mozambique government and a non-government conservation organisation Peace Parks Foundation signed an agreement of helping with some conservation work and rewilding the reserve and in 2010 they began with wildlife translocation from other parks to Maputo Special Reserve. To date more than 4200 animals has been translocated: animals like zebras, nyalas, wildebeest, buffaloes, oribis, waterbucks, giraffes…, and cheetahs coming soon. The reserve is big enough for them all, 1040 km2.
The Reserve is home to more than 350 bird species, and some of the rare birds are found here, for example, Spotted Ground Thrush, Neergaard’s Sunbird, Pink Throated Twin-sport, African Broadbill, Eastern Nicator, Southern Banded Snack Eagle, Black Rumped Buttonquail, Rosy Throated Long-claw, Spoonbills, Denham’s Bustard, Chestnut Banded Plover among more, so it is a birder’s paradise: if you are a keen birder this is a place for you for sure!
Animals that we are likely to see in the Reserve are a lot of different antelopes, as you pass the acacia in the savannas especially on the first part of the drive, look carefully for giraffes, they like to pop their heads out of the acacia trees, where they will be feeding on the top soft leaves from the trees. If you are lucky you can see them modelling across in front of the vehicle -the way they walk it’s called modelling walk, because they have a unique walk where the legs from one side move together with the front and the back leg, giving it a modelling style… did you know that only giraffes and camels walks like this? In fact that’s why in the Latin languages giraffes are called giraffa Camelopardalis, meaning they walk like a camel and they have spots like a leopard.
As you pass through the wooded thicket red duikers, nyalas and bush-bucks like to hang out in these forests, it is mainly to take cover from predators and they are not very good at running, jumping or fighting back the predators, so they take cover from the thick bushes.
Red duiker is the smallest antelope that is found in the Reserve, often they are seen crossing in front of the vehicle, or just jumping in the bush, they weigh an average mass of 12–14 kg. Both sexes have short, straight horns, although in females they may be smaller in size. The red duiker is a rich reddish-brown in colour, although the underparts are typically paler. Red duiker feed on leaves, flowers and fruits that have fallen from trees as well as low-growing shrubs, they usually roam during the daylight. They usually move singly, in pairs or small family groups, and it’s rare to see a group of more than three individuals. The sound of the duiker is rather distinctive, loud and penetrating, sounding somewhere between a snort and a whistle. When a red duiker has been spotted by a predator it will freeze and then bound away with the characteristic duiker diving motion into the safe of the thick bush. The common predators of the red duikers include leopards, python and eagles.
Another antelope that we can possibly find in the thickets are the bushbucks. As their name tells, they always in the thick bushes for cover from predators. The bushbuck is a close relative of the kudu and nyala family, they are four under one family, the Tragelaphus family, as its been scientifically named. They have a very short life expectance of around 12 years. Their population is considered to be in a good state, with over one million bushbucks inhabiting most of the African continent, this is due to their ability to forage, live and survive between the rain forests. The male bushbucks are called rams and the females’ ewes, and they have different physical characteristics: the males have hors which are absent in the females, the rams have a fur colour that is a dark greyish colour, it is further decorated by white spots on the flanks and white socks; males they weigh an average of 80 kg where-as the females weigh 60 kg. The ewes are also lighter in colour with a reddish-brown colour that is decorated with more visible white spots on the ears, neck, tail and legs. Both sexes are known to get darker as they age. The diet of bushbucks is one of the simplest out there, the main food sources include leaves, herbs, twigs and flowers of different plants. This herbivore creature is a browser but is found to rarely consume grass which many may think is the common food source amongst browsers. The gestation period is 6 to 7 months meaning that the ewe is able to reproduce twice a year. Birth peak season is generally during the rainy season, they give birth to single foal at a time.
Driving through the forests you can see the stripped antelopes called nyala or Inyala. The males are usually confused with kudus because of their grey colours and stripes. Females are brownish in colour and also have stripes; only males carry horns. The females are smaller than the males and males have up 14 vertical stripes. The life expectancy of nyala is around 19 years. Nyalas are known to be nocturnal. They are herbivore and browsers, their diet consists of a basic variation of leaves, fruit, flowers, and bark from trees, twigs and fine grass. The single calves are born after a gestation period of 220 days (approximately 7 months). The social organisation indicates that nyala are animals that mostly function in herds –they are usually found in groups up to 30 Nyalas; they have been found grouping themselves in the all herds of females and calves or all males or a mixture of both.
The herds of all females and calves are made of strongly related females that are usually led by a dominant female nyala. Males may form bachelor groups however they usually remain solitary, females tend to stay in the same herds throughout their lives.
As we drive around we will come through the open savanna where we will see a lot of different antelopes or plain games as some like to call them because they like to stay in the plains where it’s open and easy to see predators when they approach.
We will reach the Xinguti Lagoon, where we usually stop here for a break, so your guide will set a table for you with the soft drinks, water and snacks. This is the first part of your safari, so here you are allowed to jump out of the safari vehicle and stretch your legs and enjoy the nature and take as many photos as you can, but swimming is not recommended here unless you desire to be eaten. 😀
And there is a family of hippos who usually join us during this break. Enjoy them but don’t get very close as they can be extremely fast running, and you probably know that hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Here we will have some breakfast, grab a cup of coffee of tea, whilst enjoying the beauty of mother nature. The guide will set up everything, fruits, chips, water, drinks, juice, etc.
After the break, we continue with your safari, driving through some of the marshlands where you can sometimes see elephants enjoying themselves and feeding on the green and softer grasses and reeds. Elephants are the biggest land mammals and they drink an average of 160 litres of water per day, so they use the advantage of the marshland because they find water and the reeds or grass are always soft and easy to up-root.
In the marsh, there is a high chance of spotting the warthogs, who also prefer these marshes because of the green short grasses. The name ‘warthog’ comes from its large wart-like horns found on its face. Warthogs like to live in abandoned burrows that were dug out by other animals, such as aardvarks or porcupines, and they use the burrows for a number of reasons, such as for sleeping, raising raise their young, and they use it as a safe place to escape from predators; in order to ensure their safety when protecting themselves from pursuing predators they will get into the burrows backwards, tail first so that they can use their tusks to defend themselves against unwanted guests. When they are threatened, warthogs can run very fast, they can run at a speed of up to 50 km per hour. Warthogs have a wide and flat face with a pro-longed snout, the eyes are positioned high on their heads so that they can see predators even when grazing, usually, warthogs kneel down with their front legs when grazing, they kneel down because their necks are too short, so for them to reach the ground they have to kneel. They have got poor eyesight but they have an excellent sense of smell and they can easily sniff out food and detect predators, the tusks are mainly used for self-defence and when males are fighting.
Often when warthogs run they put their tail straight up like an antenna, they do that as a communication between the babies and the female, especially in the tall grass, it’s a follow-me sign. Usually, they eat grass, and using their snout or sometimes tusks to dig up bulbs and roots, other common food items include fruits, insects and mushrooms. Female warthogs will have on average four piglets after a 6 months gestation period, and they are very protective of the piglets, by doing so the females will leave the family to give birth in a separate burrow, then after few days she will leave the burrow and start exploring and meeting the rest of the family.
After few hours of driving around will drive pass few lagoons, and the landscape here it’s amazing – if you want to stop to take some pictures please don’t hesitate, just ask the guide to it. As we approach the sea, we start noticing by sand dunes, and we will come to our beautiful place where we will stop for lunch and relaxing. We arrive at Ponta Membene, where you find some restrooms where you can change and put your swimming gear. We are sure you will be all eager to take a cool swim and cool up your bodies after some few hours of driving and seating in the car. Our guide will show you the path to the beach, with chairs and a cooler box with some water and drinks. We have plenty of time here, so you can take swim in this pristine-waters of the Indian Ocean, take a walk along the beach or read a book. You choose the time you want to have your lunch, so chat to your guide.
The guide will leave you at the beach whilst he goes back to the camp to start preparing some lunch whilst you relax and enjoy the view and the breeze coming from the beach.
On the beach normally we spent one to two hours before going to the camp, we want you to have enough time to enjoy without hurrying, after enjoying the beach, you will need to come to the campsite for lunch.
We shall leave Ponta Membene at around 2 p.m, or at the time you agreed with our guide. Then we will drive back using the route to the same gate (Futi gate) that we used in the morning; maybe this time you will see different species of animals or as it starts getting cooler the animals get more active, so you have the chance of viewing them much closer, and more reluctant.
You will see also the waterbucks roaming in these marshes. Waterbuck is a big antelope with a white circle like a toilet seat notable from their bottom. They are called Waterbucks because they are mainly seen and live in the marshes with water, and they are the only antelope that can stay for a long time in the water. They have a shaggy hair and a brown-grey coat that emits an oily secretion from its sweat glands, which acts as a water repellent. It also has large, rounded ears and white patches above the eyes. A waterbuck herd can consist of up to 30 individuals. They mainly graze but they also browse. Waterbuck has a reputation for smelly and unpalatable meat, they say lions and crocodiles they avoid the waterbuck meat because of the smell.
We will be at Futi Gate at around 5 p.m and will stop at the to stretch our legs and use the bathrooms before we drive for the last part of the journey, another 1 hour 30 minutes to Maputo. We expect to be in Maputo around 6.30 p.m and we will drop you at any point that you choose, at the end of our Elephant Special Reserve Tour.
Our Maputo Special Reserve Tour Guide is Simba, he is originally from Zimbabwe but he has lived and worked in almost all southern African countries. For more than 8 years he was guiding in Gorongosa before he moved to Zimbabwe where he guided in Hangwe Nature Reserve.