Maputo Special Reserve: Why you have to go there?

Maputo Special Reserve is described as the “Serengeti by the ocean”: who ever said this, is absolutely right. After you learn more in this post, you will feel like joining one of our tours to this amazing place, either day trip or overnights.

In this article, Mabeco Tours will give you an extensive explanation about one of the most beautiful areas in Mozambique and also the World. You will have the opportunity to understand a bit more about the area, by giving you some important Historical context, interesting data/Info and also an overview of what we do there and what are our (and many other entities) goals and hopes for this magnificent place.

Maputo Special Reserve – observing wildlife

Maputo Special Reserve (Elephant Reserve) is one of the many areas that form the Lubombo Transfrontier and Conservation Area (LTCA). From 2000 to 2014, several protocols were signed in order to create this massive and very important Conservation Project, that includes three Countries: South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.

The Maputo Special Reserve has 1040 Km2 of spectacular and beautiful landscapes to offer.




1932: The Maputo Reserve for Elephant Protection was firstly created, covering all area in the east of Maputo River and the north of South African boundary. The main objective was to protect elephant population existing in the area.

1960: The limits were changed reducing drastically the area. Then, the limits were extended from the coastline.

1969: Maputo Special Reserve replaced the name of the Elephant Reserve. The goal was to protect more than one species of animals or plants, in an area where it is not permitted to hunt.

1990: During this decade the Reserve was enlarged and reconnaissance of the high importance of biodiversity and actually is defined to contribute for protected areas in Mozambique, maintaining the exceptional biodiversity of the area which combines coastal and interior components.

2005: The World Bank secured a loan to the Mozambican Government in order to develop MSR. The infrastructure development was the aim for this investment.

2006: Peace Parks Foundation and the Government of Mozambique signed a co-finance agreement that included the extension of the Reserve and also the implementation of a community development strategy in and around the reserve.

2009: The eastern boundary of the reserve was proclaimed as the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, stretching from Ponta do Ouro in the south to the Maputo River Mouth in Maputo Bay in the north and including Inhaca and Portuguese islands

2010: the multi year translocation programme of wildlife begins. In total, 1 115 animals have been trans located, including kudu, warthog, impala, nyala, zebra, giraffe and blue wildebeest. This program is still going today.

2011: the Mozambican government proclaimed the Futi Corridor as an extension of Maputo Special Reserve, thereby expanding the reserve by 24 000 ha. Only the international border fence between Mozambique and South Africa now separates Maputo Special Reserve from Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa.

2014: inauguration of the Maputo Special Reserve headquarters, funded by World Bank.

Habitats and Species:

Maputo Special Reserve along with Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, has a long pristine and mostly untouched coastline. Small to very large lakes are abundant in the area. Mangrove forests, swamp forests, wetlands, grasslands and even huge stretches of Savannah will provide you with unforgettable and unique picturesque landscapes.

In the 70’s and earlier periods, you would be able to see Species like Cheetah and White Rhinos roaming the Maputo Special Reserve. Unfortunately during the Civil War in Mozambique (1977 to 1992) these and other species of animals were depleted from this area. With a lot of investment and effort, today the amount of animals that we encounter in the Reserve is improving a lot: 2012 census of Wildlife in Maputo Special Reserve.

The Species that are likely to see in the Reserve are:

  • Giraffes;
  • Elephants;
  • Reed-buck;
  • Water-buck;
  • Impala;
  • Hippo;
  • Crocodile;
  • Wildebeest;
  • Kudu;
  • Nyala;
  • Zebra;
  • Bush-buck;
  • Red Duiker;
  • Common Duiker;
  • Steenbok;
  • Bush-buck;
  • Warthog;
  • Bush-pig
  • Several hundreds species of birds;
  • Reptiles;
  • Amphibians;
  • Insects;
  • Marine Species such has Turtles (Loggerhead and leatherhead), Humpback whales (during Whale season: July to November), dolphins and a lot of Fish species.

Our Team has been going to the Reserve for more than 3 years. We have been noticing a substantial increase in the sightings and also more individuals of each species can be seen, offering the opportunity to see several types of behavior, at long and also close range.

Maputo Special Reserve: dazzle of Zebras

Three years ago you could see a few individuals of reed-buck, giraffe and impalas for example. Today, there are hundreds of them. We got used to the movements of each animal and with this we increase the probability of having good sightings. We will continue to go there and gather our own information, but we are certain that the next census will show a great increase in the wildlife numbers.

Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve: a great ad on to the Maputo Special Reserve:

The marine reserve stretches 3 miles into the Indian Ocean and comprises the Area from Ponta do Ouro up to Inhaca Island (including Santa Maria, Ponta Torres and the Portuguese Island). See map.



The on-going work is impressive and several monitoring programs for turtles are underway, which include the active involvement of the communities.

The fusion between the Marine Reserve and Maputo Special Reserve is what gives this area the status of a unique place in the World: it will be very difficult to find such place like this.

The coast from Ponta do Ouro to Santa Maria is vast and very beautiful. It is mainly formed by giant white sand dunes that vary in size and shape. These are covered by dense, lush green indigenous vegetation. You will see some thatched houses, than can be either private homes or lodges/hotels (they are mostly concentrated in the South in Ponta do Ouro and in The North in Santa Maria). Along the beaches there are several natural bays that form the perfect conditions for reproduction of fishes. Some coral areas are identified and a lot of rock formations provide you with unlimited snorkelling experiences. Once you reach Santa Maria, a natural Channel with 500 meters, separates mainland from Inhaca Island. Ponta Torres, located in the Southern area of Inhaca Island, is a magnificent and well know paradise beach, only used by few. Mangrove forests and a very special tide variation will give you different landscape experiences as well has excellent birding opportunities.

Inhaca Island – Ponta Torres

In Inhaca Island you will also find the Marine Biology Station, sponsored by (UEM- Eduardo Mondlane University) where you can see an expo for hundreds of indigenous species of the Island and where a lot of researchers are based for studies.

All these places are rich, beautiful and unique. It is an excellent way to merge the two most interesting components of Mozambique: beach & bush.



A bright future ahead:

Mabeco Tours considers that is essential to create infrastructure and mechanisms for the enhancement of the Conservation in all of this Mozambican Area. With the construction of a new bridge between Maputo and Catembe and also the pavement of the road to Kosi Bay border (Mozambique – South Africa), there will be more traffic of people and merchandise. This cannot be faced as a threat, but it will bring more pressure to the region, especially to Maputo Special Reserve. We believe that more Tourists and more Hospitality Units, such has lodges and Hotels will make the Reserve more appealing and also more visited. However, a change of mentalities and habits needs to occur so we can see a solid and progressive development of the activities in the Reserve.

We have done some clean-up actions with our partners (Cooperativa Ntumbuluku), along the Reserve sand roads and Ponta Milibangalala campsite, located just in the beach. This event was very positive because we could erase the visible impact in the form of rubbish, giving us an idea of the extension of the problem. In Milibangalala campsite we have collected around 50 bags of 50 kg of mostly oceanic rubbish, which is a very concerning signal of the impact of the negative actions taken daily in all parts of the World.

maputo special reserve – cleanup group

maputo special reserve – rubbish collected

Despite of some concerns we see things in a very positive way: work with local communities is being done, which will reduce the Human-animal conflict; new Eco orientated structures and services are being created and some are already working (e.g. Anvil Bay); Animal numbers is growing: today we can see groups of more than 30 Giraffes in the Reserve, which is something we couldn’t observe three years ago; Maputo Special Reserve didn’t saw an Elephant kill for many years, being one of the only Reserves in Africa to have this positive trend; Conservation and Environmental awareness is growing by the day: there is a lot of work to be done but we are seeing more people getting involved, especially the little ones.

In conclusion, we believe that there is a bright future to Maputo Special Reserve. We find this place, very conveniently located: with the conclusion of road and bridge, we should take 45 minutes to reach the Main Gates of the Reserve.

If you want to do the first Safari of your life, we recommend you to come here. It is a great place to see how animals act in their most genuine and natural behavior.

If you already did many Safaris and visited the most famous Reserves in the World, we recommend you to come here. The level of experience is so personalized, intimate and exclusive; you will most likely place Maputo Special Reserve on the top places you have ever visited.