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Known as Safarilandia before Mozambique independence, the area was rated as one of the best for safaris in the ex-Portuguese colony. The 700,000Ha Rio Save Game Reserve extends for 150km from east to west, and 80km from north to south. The Rio Save is the southern boundary, while the Rio Gorongosa forms the northern boundary. The Indian Ocean forms the eastern boundary, and includes the 35 km² Macau Island at the mouth of the Rio Save.

The area remains largely unexplored from a birding point of view, and the potential bird list, based on distribution and available habitat, is around 465 species. However, access to the different habitats is limited and the average list for a short visit is more likely to be in the region of 80 to 100 species


Special Birds

Special birds include Grey-headed Parrot, Brown-headed Parrot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Roller, and in summer Mangrove Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller and Mosque Swallow. Raptors include Dickinson's Kestrel, Dark Chanting Goshawk, and Southern Banded Snake-Eagle. Night birds include African Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Barn Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Swamp Nightjar, and European Nightjar.



Habitats vary from open savanna in the south, through baobab woodland, to dense woodland in the north, and riverine forest. Wetlands include sandy rivers, lakes and marshland, with estuaries, lagoons, mangroves and beaches along the indian Ocean seaboard.



Wildlife includes buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant, sable, crocodile, baboons, nyala, redbuck, oribi, suni and different types of antelope. Tigerfish occur in the larger pools of the Rio Save.
Papagaio Camp

Papagaio Camp



Accommodation at Papagaio Camp includes huts, safari tents, and camping. The camp is an accessible 10km off the main road. Tracks providing access to the reserve require a 4x4. Exploring with a ranger and radio communications can be arranged.



Papagaio Camp is a worthwhile place to spend a few days and bird the surrounding area. In summer the birds include Grey-headed Parrot, Brown-headed Parrot, Broad-billed Roller, Mosque Swallow, Red-winged Warbler, Lizard Buzzard, African Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet, Barn Owl.

Track 1 is the 10km entrance road which traverses some wonderful mixed woodland and provides good birding opportunities along the way. Turn-offs tonearby wetlands provide opportunity to observe a few wetland species.

Track 2 goes south Westerly from the entrance to Papagaio Camp crosses the Baobab Valley ( S 21°04’286” / E 034°15’332”) and goes up to the Ruark Camp ruins (S 21°18’208” / E 034°00’254”) on the shore of Rio Save. The same track leads past the “Hippo Pool”, (S 21°16’44”2 E 034°12’138”) an area with plentiful birds, hippos and crocodiles.

Track 3 starts 10 km north of the bridge over the Save river (S 21°07’945” / E 034°33’884”) and goes in the direction of Machanga ( S 20°58’333” / E 035°00’274”), the District capital situated at the Save river estuary. 30 Km after the turn-off to Machanga, the track moves to the north then north east (S 20°44’516” / E 034°32’670”) in direction of Divine (S 20°42’105” / E 034°47’570”).The route takes about three hours and passes through mopani woodland, lowland forest and savanna. This area is also rich in bird life.

Track 4 to the indian Ocean Coast. For people with a boat, it is possible to access the ocean via Machanga (70 Km from the bridge over the Rio Save). Machanga is the best place to launch, and is situated on the shore of the rio Save. From there it is posible to reach Macau Island.The area is now managed under concession by Eko Turismo Gorongosa Lda (ETGL)



Contact details
E-mail , Rio Save Website Cell (RSA) 082 796 3000, Cell (Moz) +25882 708314, Papagaio Camp cell + 258 82 548 1762,

Papagaio Camp has three rondavels and enough tents to accommodate up to 12 people. Hot shower, crockery and freezer/fridge are at the camp.Work is in progress to rebuild the nearby Mabigode Camp which was destroyed by cyclone Japheth in 2002. Ruark Camp, the ruins of which are still visible (S 21°18’208” / E 034°00’254”), will be rebuilt immediately after the rehabilitation of “Mabigode Camp”.

mCell has recently opened up its network along the EN1 so that both Papagaio and Mabigode camps have full mobile communications. Internal network is done using HF-R/T.

ETGL has its main airfield (S 21°10’090” / E 034°44’849”) an all-weather landing strip 1000 m long and 23 m. wide near the town of Vila Franca do Save. Papagaio and Mabigode Camps have a (30 m. Ø ) operational Helipad.

RSGR inhabitants include buffalo, leopard, lion, and elephant. Visitors should take maximum care and should be accompanied by a RSGR Ranger when walking (you are required to sign an Indemnity Form). Before entering the bushveld, a map of the area and few suggestions will be given to visitors in regard to their own security.

Mosquitoes are not prevalent at both Papagaio and Mabigode camps. However, the whole of Mozambique is considered a “malaria endemic area”, and malaria prophylaxis is recommended.

How to get there
From Maputo, take the road past Xai-Xai and Vilanculos to the Rio Save, 798 Km from Maputo. The turn-off to Papagaio Camp is 30km north of the Rio Save, just before Rio Muari (S 20°57’045” / E 034°21’498”). The camp is a further 10km from the main road. En route accommodation can be found halfway at Maxixe and Inhassoro. The road from Maputo is now tarred, although recent cyclone damage could have affected its condition. Another more adventurous route, to be taken ONLY in winter time, is from Pietersburg to Pafuri, across the Limpopo to Mapai-Mabote-Mapinhane-Vilanculos-Mapinhane-Pasmbara-Vila Franca do Save.

Guy Gibbon 2007

Rio Save
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