The Maputo Special Reserve, in the Maputo Bay Area of Mozambique, encompasses 1,500 square kilometres of pristine coastal and inland territory. This diverse reserve is characterised by stark contrasting scenes of azure blue waters, swampy wetlands and dry grasslands. Maputo Special Reserve is one of the few places where visitors can view both whale sharks and elephants in one safari destination.
One of the major highlights of visiting the area is seeing loggerhead and leatherback turtles nesting on the beach on the protected coast. Ocean safaris introduce nature-lovers to the abundant dolphins, whale sharks and mammals in the area, while further inland, game drives deliver epic sightings of elephants and antelope. Visitors chasing an easily accessible land and ocean safari are encouraged to visit the Maputo Special Reserve.
The reserve is conveniently located a mere 100 kilometres from the capital city of Maputo, making it an easily accessible beach and bush zone. Visitors would need a 4WD to make the journey from the capital, as it’s mainly soft sand roads. The closest airport is the Maputo International Airport.
The reserve is most well-known for its prolific elephant and turtle populations—with over 350 elephants, and both loggerhead and leatherback turtles. There are small populations of zebra, steenbok and other antelope. Hippos and crocodiles are also well-supported in the reserve. Additionally, there are dense populations of manta rays, dolphins, humpback whales and whale sharks. The ocean is alive with activity from large mammals.
Because of the habitat diversity, there is abundant birdlife in the area. The coast is a sanctuary for water birds such as ibis, storks, herons, cormorants and pelicans. The drier and more woodland enjoy regular sightings of rosy-throated longclaw, Rudd’s Apalis, Woodward's’ batis, and the green coucal.
The best time to visit is entirely dependent on what visitors would like to see. For a general safari experience, the best time to visit is from May to October, during the dry season when the bush thins out, and it’s easier to spot wildlife. July to November is when the humpback whales arrive in the bay, and it is also the perfect time to spot dolphins and whale sharks. For safari-goers interested in observing nesting turtles, October to January is the best time to visit.
The Maputo Special Reserve holds great appeal for visitors wanting to experience both marine safaris and land-based safaris. These safaris can be done by experienced 4WD self-drivers or on a scheduled day trip, guided by a local.
Visitors can expect to spot plains game, wading birds, hippos, and dense populations of elephants. The topography is fascinating—as it is completely wild and contrasting.
The coast is a significant nesting area for turtles. During the high season, visitors can arrange an overnight safari close to a lagoon to see the turtles' nesting. Ocean safaris and snorkelling trips are the best way to explore the warm Indian Ocean and its aquarium beneath the surface.
There is only one lodge located in the Maputo Special Reserve, and it caters to a premium market. The lodge is situated on a dune and offers all the typical amenities associated with a 5-star lodge. There are a few rudimentary campsites in the area, only fit for the adventurous spirit. Because the reserve is so remote and off-the-beaten-track, it lacks tourism infrastructure, making it a sought-after reserve to visit.