One of the things that strikes you when you fly down the coast of Mozambique is the sheer amount of wild space.
You gaze down on miles and miles of coastal forests, grassland, marshes and stunning white beaches with scores of tiny offshore islands. Occasionally you will spot a small settlement, but towns – let alone a city – are few and far between.
Mozambique (included in Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ series) has a coastline of over 1,400 miles with some of the best coral reefs and most diverse marine life in Africa.
Whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish – and listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of species – pass through Mozambique waters as they migrate hundreds of miles up and down the coast of East Africa each year.
If you’re lucky enough to be there between December and April you may be able to spot, or even snorkel with, large groups of these magnificent and completely harmless sharks.
Five species of marine turtle inhabit these warm waters too, and the isolated beaches, particularly on offshore islands, are vital egg-laying grounds. Seeing young turtles break through their eggs, climb out of their sandy nests and race towards the open ocean is pretty special.
Humpback whales also migrate into the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel to feed and give birth between June and November each year. I’ve been privileged to see these enormous creatures breaking through the surface before crashing back down with a huge splash – and even heard them calling to one another underwater when I was diving. Amazing experiences I will never forget.
Moving inland you find the largest remaining areas of coastal forest in East Africa. In Tanzania and Kenya the coastal forests have been significantly reduced and generally only small areas are left. In Kenya, WWF is working hard to protect the last remnants of coastal forest in Kwale. East African coastal forests are a unique ecosystem for hundreds of unique plant, insect and animal species found nowhere else.
Because Mozambique suffered decades of civil war and its coastal forests still remain very remote, little research has been carried out, and it’s likely that new and unique species will be found there.
But as with the rest of Africa, change is coming.
Increased national and foreign investment in major infrastructure projects, mining, plantations and fisheries all have the potential to impact wildlife. The significant finds of offshore gas also have the potential to revolutionise the economy of Mozambique.
We’re working hard with the government to tackle poaching and illegal logging and last year brokered a groundbreaking deal on improved border controls and co-operation between Tanzanian and Mozambican forest agencies.
We’ve supported the establishment of new protected areas. Very recently the largest Marine Protected Area in East Africa (the ‘Primerias and Segundas’) was declared – an exciting achievement that will help safeguard a huge area of the coast. And we’ve agreed a roadmap to make Mozambique a world leader in developing a ‘green economy’.
So watch this (wild) space…