Tags / National Park
Lake Malawi - turbulent times in quiet waters
David Livingstone named it lake of the starts in 1867 after seen the spectacle of the lights that hundreds of traditional fishing boats use during the night to fish in its waters. Mozambicans and Tanzanians call it Lake Niassa, but internationally it’s called Lake Malawi. It’s the 9th biggest lake in the world, the 3rd in Africa, after Lake Tanganyika and Lake Vitoria, and the most southern lake in the great African rift valley.
Even before the independence of Tanzania and Malawi, there was already a dispute on its name and its borders, but now the probable oil reserves that the 700 meters deep of its waters reserves for millions of years bring a new fear in this part of Southern Africa – the specter of war to keep the sovereignty of the water and what lays in its bottom.
With an average dimension of 560km length per 75km width, more than 1000 species of cichlids fish and more species of fishes than any other body of fresh water in the world, Lake Malawi hosts borders between three countries; Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Between the first two, the water is divided by the middle and there are no questions of who manage which side. But between Tanzania and Malawi a crescent fight in words is taking place between both governments. That’s the reason why a committee from South Africa Development Community headed by the former South African President Tabo Mbheki and the former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano are trying to solve amicably this dispute to keep the waters of Lake Malawi quiet as they always were.
The recent dispute, started two years ago when sounded that the lake could have big oil reserves and Malawi started allowing international firms to survey its bottom. Tanzania warned that half of the lake it´s from the country and recently, in July 2013, warned that if necessary its army is ready to guard and fight for the country territory. In the other side, Malawi, a poor country that never have seen war in its history, known as the Warm Heart of Africa and cited in various tourism guides as one of the peaceful and friendly countries in the world already said that don´t want war and it will take the case to the International Court of Justice to decide fairly who have reason.
Both countries guide themselves by the 1840 Heligoland Treaty signed by the victorious Great Britain over Tanganyika (the old name for Tanzania) from Germany. It was decided that all the water would be managed and part of Nyasaland which now is Malawi.
For the last 50 years, this fight has been cordial and peaceful once there was just water, fisherman in its canoes and wild life. But now, the oil industry and the perspectives of explore it, bringing income for one of the countries, makes this dispute increase the tone of the words changed between the two nations and worry the neighbor community.
Apart of this, fisherman all around the lake shores continues to live and survive in a simple way of life paddling their canoes and the cichlids fishes showing its colours above the waters of the lake.
KWS Rangers discuss their reasons for and experiences of working on the wildlife preserve in an interview.
Pungue River, the south border of Gorongosa National park
two pelicans in Urema lake at sunset time in Gorongosa
hundreads of antelopes live in Gorongosa grassland
allays quiet and curious, the antelopes
endless grasslands full of antelopes
quiet, apprehensive and curious antelope
flying fish eagle with lake Urema in the background
Hippos are one of the more active fauna in Gorongosa. After decades of civil war the park is growing again thanks to an American millionaire that is donating part of his wealth to the park.
One of the many varieties of Gorongosa antelopes run and jump in the wild and protected area
Vast plains with a number of antelopes can be easily seen in Gorongosa National Park. Sometimes the quietness of the place can be broken by the presence of a lion family hunting elephants while drinking water at the lake.
GORONGOSA IN THE XXI CENTURY
After decades of war and deprivation, Gregg Carr, an American philanthropist funded a 50 million USD project that intends to bring back the glorious days of Gorongosa National Park, which, in the late 70´s, was the biggest National Park in Africa.
Gregg Carr changed, from one of the first I.T. tycoons, that generated wealth from his invention - the voice mail - to a full time philanthropist, dedicating himself to humanitarian and sustainable development activities. One of this projects is a 30 years plan that will use 50 millions of USD from his personal wealth to restore and bring back to the wild life, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other species to a place that in the past was the Heaven of wild life in Africa.
Activities like planting more than 3 millions of trees, creating and subsiding a natural research center with a full time investigating team, establishing eco tourism and specially make the communities that live around the park to better levels of health, education and employment were already done. Bring back the times where 6000 elephants, 500 lions and others could be seen in Gorongosa is the next step to be done in this National Park over the next 30 years.
HISTORY OF GORONGOSA
From the beginning of the 20th century to our days Gorongosa region was most of the times seen as a sanctuary of wild life unique in Africa. Meanwhile it reached the 21th century practically depleted of its wild life due to the brutal civil war between Renamo and Frelimo, political party's in the country during cold war time. But the hope and the will of the people, the philanthropy of a millionaire and the magic of Africa is giving Gorongosa rivers, lakes, tress, grass and specially wild animals a new spirit and life is returning to the glorious days.
In 1920 Gorongosa was declared by the colonial Portuguese administrations a game reserve for its directors, governors and all the superior staff and elite at the time. From the 30´s of the past century until the 70´s, Portuguese administration turned Gorongosa into a interesting touristic place receiving around 6000 tourist a year. It can be said that before Kruger National Park in the neighbor South Africa, Gorongosa have transformed safaris and wild life observation, in Africa, a democratic to do thing for the middles classes living in this region. Wild life was abundant and its easy to find old photos where 70´s fashion cars like Mini Cooper and others were stopped near lions or elephants with the same 70´s fashion style persons inside enjoying the animals. It was the time of around 6000 elephants and 500 lions among other species.
But after 15 years of struggling for its independence from Portugal and after few years of relatively peace and high social convulsion and revolution, Mozambique started a civil war between the Soviet supported Frelimo as the ruling party and the Western counterpart, Renamo. It was 13 years of destruction, guerrilla and real war that spread all over the country. Gorongosa, centered in the middle of Mozambique and located exactly near the biggest opposition base (Renamo), have seen a disaster, day by day, happens. Most of its animals were killed for illegal hunting or feeding both sides soldiers or even due to the lack of prey, they starved and diminished in number. Ivory trade played also an important role in the death of wild life, being used as gold in exchange for weapons to support and feed the war machinery.
1994 have seen a peace deal signed but both parts, headed by Italian NGO, Vaticano and the international community. Renamo and Frelimo agreed to shake hands and share the country with the democratic institutions and real politics ruling. Free elections came and started a project of democracy in the country. The war was finally over. In 1994, with the help of African Bank and European Union, Mozambican authorities started again, slowly and with the resources that one of the poorest country's in the world could have at the time, protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gorongosa heaven.
10 years of peace in the country and Gregg Carr, together with Mozambican authorities, plans to develop and mainly give back to the wild life the park, the necessary support, quietness, freedom and naturalism to grow and return to the past splendor.
Gorongosa have now one main touristic camp in Chitengo area with all the standard commodities and a new luxury tented style opening in July 2013. Even if the number of animals nowadays is not the same as in the 70´s of last century; lions, elephants, innumerous antelopes, hippos, crocodiles and several others species together with more than 350 different species of birds can be seen in this part of Mozambique. Easily reachable from the capital Maputo by plane or even from Johannesburg in South Africa it can be visited from May until December when is dry seasons.
GORONGOSA IN NUMBERS and DATES
1969 - 2.200 elephants / 3.000 zebras / 200 lions / around 6.000 tourists per year
1974 - 6.000 elephants / unknown / 500 lions / around 12.000 tourists per year
1975 - Mozambique Independence
1992 - End of Mozambican Civil War
1994 - 100 elephants / 6 zebras / 6 lions / tourism was insignificant
After decades of civil war Gorongosa National Park is growing again thanks to an American millionaire that is donating part of his wealth to preserve the diversity of flora and fauna living on the reserve. Around and inside Gorongosa live around 250,000 persons that continue struggling to survive from a hard daily life after decades of civil war that came after independence from Portugal
flat plains meet small lakes in rivers and Lake Urema inside the park
different species live from lake Urema waters
while some minutes lost in the paths of Gorongosa we found this birds that seemed at any movement, position and quietness, real humans chatting calmly in the street
Pungue river borders south Gorongosa National Park and is the workplace of fishing communities that share the banks with animals and nature.
Around and inside Gorongosa live around 250,000 persons that continue struggling to survive from a hard daily life after decades of civil war that came after independence from Portugal
View of Mt. Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park.
Two giraffes in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
Masai warrior walking with his dog.
A Masai warrior at home in Amboseli National Park.
A Masai warrior at home in Amboseli National Park.
Deserted road with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. Amboseli National Park, Kenya