Gorongosa National Park is at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley in the heart of central Mozambique. The over 4,000 square kilometer park includes the valley floor and parts of surrounding plateaus. Rivers originating on nearby 1863-meter Mount Gorongosa water the plain.
Seasonal flooding and waterlogging of the valley, which is composed of a mosaic of different soil types, creates a variety of distinct ecosystems. Grasslands are dotted with patches of acacia trees, savannah, dry forest on sands and seasonally rain-filled pans and termite hill thickets. The plateaus contain miombo and montane forests and a spectacular rain forest at the base of a series of limestone gorges.
This combination of unique features at one time supported some of the densest wildlife populations in all of Africa, including charismatic carnivores, herbivores and over 500 bird species. But large mammal numbers were reduced by as much as 95% and ecosystems stressed during Mozambique's long civil conflict at the end of the 20th century.