Maputo Special Reserve where luxury meets conservation


Beyond the sand dunes in an untouched wilderness in Mozambique is a space where travellers can view elephants one moment and humpback whales the next. Add to this the privilege of seeing turtles heaving up the beach to lay their eggs during the summer months. and kilometres of untouched beach fringed with coastal forest. lakes. wetlands, forests and grasslands. This nirvana is Maputo Special Reserve (MSR). where low-impact seaside and bush destination Anvil Bay Chemucane is located.


Photo: Jacques Marais

Anvil Bay’s deep connection with both the land and her people is not surprising as Paul Bell. one of the Anvil Bay’s trustees. always dreamt of establishing a community-run beach camp on the exact spot in Mozambique where he had camped with his family for more than
50 years.


The Maputo Special Reserve is located in southern Mozambique. inland from the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve. and is a spectacular l 04 000 hectares of incredible biodiversity found across nine distinct biospheres.

Bell’s dream was realised when the Mozambique government granted the Chemucane community an ecotourism concession in the MSR in 207 7. A joint venture was formed between the Chemucane community and the Bell Foundation. With funding from the World Bank and the Bell and Ford Foundations. construction of Anvil Bay camp began. “The Anvil Bay Chemucane tourism development provides opportunities for the communities involved while supporting conservation efforts in the park.” says Bell. “With the majority of staff being members of the local community, and having worked through the building phase and made the transition to hospitality, their strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to the business is amazing.”

Photo: Jacques Marais

A founding commitment of the project, Bell explains, is to develop local staff to manage the lodge
in the future. A number of rising stars have been nurtured as part of the programme, including Janita Tim bane, Anvil Bay trainee manager.

Timbane, a member of the local community, started work as a teenage camp hand eight years ago, before construction of the lodge had started. “In the construction phase he quickly learnt the details of the plumbing and electrical systems and eventually led the installation of these systems.” says Bell.

Today, Tim bane oversees the maintenance team for the lodge as one of his many duties. while balancing a mentorship programme that is developing his abilities in operations management. among other projects. The concession has created many benefits for the local community, from industry growth through the purchase of local materials and produce to hospitality training for locals as well as employment.

The community also benefits from their share of the profits. while concession fees support conservation efforts in the reserve. This strikes an important balance between community and conservation.

The reserve itself was established in the 1930s to protect southern Africa’s last remaining coastal elephant population, which roamed freely between here and Maputaland in northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Today, the MSR forms part of a wildlife area extending through three countries – Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland – thanks to intervention by Peace Parks and the creation of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

Photo: Anvil Bay

“As part of developing the Lubombo TFCA the governments of Mozambique and South Africa began a translocation programme to MSR in 2011,” says Dr Bartolomeu Soto, director general of Mozambique’s National Agency for Conservation Areas. While challenges of civil war set populations back in previous years. they are now being re-established in the area. “The translocations re-introduce species that were historically found in the area, thereby enabling the fast recovery and subsequent increase of the reserve·s wildlife populations.”

Today, the reserve hosts an abundance of species. including hippo, reedbuck, elephant. crocodile, red duiker, blue wildebeest and zebra. Populations of giraffe, nyala, kudu, bushbuck and waterbuck are growing. With its lakes. wetlands, mangrove swamps, sand dunes and coastal dune forests. as well as savanna grasslands, coastal forests. rocky shores and beaches. the MSR supports an exceptionally high number of endemic species of fauna and flora. The reserve is one of Southern Africa’s great success stories. celebrating the relationship between community and biodiversity, with conservation at its core.


Photo: Jacques Marais

Getting to Maputo Special Reserve

The deep sandy roads and spectacular scenery of the MSR make getting to Anvil Bay Chemucane part of the adventure. Driving time from the Kosi Bay border post between South Africa and Mozambique is around two and a half hours via the Gala Gate. From Maputo. travel time is between three and four hours via the Futi Gate. A 4×4 vehicle is essential and entry to the Maputo Special Reserve is before 5pm in summer or 4pm in winter.

Written by Tessa Buhrmann

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