Miracles in Mozambique: A Conversation with Brad Hansen
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, GeoEx has created three very special Giving Back trips, to Nepal, Patagonia, and Mozambique. These journeys feature direct support for and exclusive behind-the-scenes meetings with local organizations committed to wildland, wildlife, and community preservation and regeneration. To create our Mozambique trip, we worked very closely with our good friend, renowned Africa expert and explorer, and GeoEx guide extraordinaire, Brad Hansen.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brad about Mozambique and our Mozambique’s Wild Places trip. His excitement and passion were infectious and exhilarating, and made me even more deeply inspired about this groundbreaking journey. I hope you enjoy our conversation, and I hope it inspires you to explore the miracles of Mozambique with Brad!
Don George: When did you first visit Mozambique and what were your first impressions of the country?
Brad Hansen: My first visit was a long time ago, I think it was in 1998, and I would return every 4 or 5 years thereafter, but to be honest, my impressions back then were influenced by limited exposure to the country. Each time I came it was for the beach, and I never thought of Mozambique beyond its crystal-clear coastline.
Now, 20-plus years later, as I keep a very keen eye on the wildlife stories unfolding around Africa, I have realized that there is something very special happening here: the rebirth of a park that was once the gem of African safaris. This park was quite literally eaten during the 15-year-long civil war from 1977-1992. Now, thanks to private enterprise and government collaboration, Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park stands tall as one of the great modern-day wildlife and habitat rewilding projects.
It seems to me that you have been everywhere in Africa. What is different or distinctive about Mozambique?
The people of Mozambique are very special and have endured really tough times. Gorongosa and the itinerary we have put together for this trip represent hope not only for terrestrial and marine wildlife but also for the surrounding communities, and that’s a huge attraction to me.
Yes, my Africa travel has been extensive, but this land was shut off for so long that I’m extremely excited to see it come back to life. I want to be part of the revival! A trip like this is a model for sustainable tourism and will show the good people of Mozambique that tourism and preservation can help uplift their lives.
I agree and I’m hugely inspired by this itinerary. Can you talk about how this new GeoEx trip came about?
I keenly follow the happenings in conservation around the continent. In this arena, there is no shortage of sadness, so when a story like this one about the rebirth of Gorongosa emerges, that acts as a beacon of hope for conservation—well, you naturally want to celebrate it. Greg Carr’s Foundation is doing incredible work at Gorongosa. It’s not just about the fauna and flora, they are even more committed to the people on the periphery of the park. I wanted to help spread awareness of their amazing efforts.
At the same time, I am a big believer in the African Parks conservation model: The work that they are doing around Africa and now in the Bazaruto Archipelago is of critical importance, and I wanted to use this trip to showcase that work as well.
Through the great relationships that GeoEx and I share with these organizations, we have been able to create a wonderful opportunity to go behind the scenes and better understand how these heroes of conservation are turning the tide.
You were instrumental in crafting the itinerary. What was your goal in planning the activities and destinations?
My goal was to introduce travelers to these exciting new areas, and to infuse them with the same passion that I feel about them. Using this trip to give back feels so deeply right and I hope it will be a model for tourism going forward.
What are the three great highlights of the trip?
There are so many highlights to this trip, but here are three that especially excite me:
1. Our visit to the Bazaruto Archipelago: Marine conservation fascinates me, and I am tremendously excited to spend a day with the African Parks conservation team to understand better the crucial work they are doing. Among many other critically important factors, this is the last stronghold for the dugongs of the Indian Ocean, and that fact alone symbolizes for me the urgency and importance of their efforts.
2. I can’t wait to introduce our travelers to the team of conservationists at Gorongosa, from the park manager to the hard-working rangers, many of whom were once poachers!
3. And I can’t wait to introduce our travelers to Gorongosa itself! Imagine a park that was once thriving and then was reduced to an almost defunct status, now once again teeming with wildlife—and I mean teeming! We are talking flood plains filled with 40,000 waterbuck, lions that bounced back from less than 25 individuals to over 250 today, and the inspiring reintroduction of the painted wolf (also known as the African wild dog) to the park.
What are you personally most excited about in this itinerary?
The learning experience, the access to the people on the ground who are doing all the hard yards every day—and of course, the opportunity to see pangolin!
What do people need to know about Mozambique to really understand the country, people, and culture?
Mostly, I want guests to understand that Mozambicans are wonderful people and that despite having suffered incredibly tough times, there is great hope to utilize the wild spaces and beauty of this country to uplift its people and the natural world. Tourism’s part in this modern-day conservation miracle is the final proof of concept that will show the value of preserved land—we will be part of this all-important process. Tourism like this could well make all the difference!
Are there any particular challenges to traveling around the country?
The heat and humidity can be challenging, but they’re truly manageable. In addition, the roads are not quite manicured, but this just adds to the realness of our adventure. This is true Africa!
What would you tell travelers who are thinking about taking this trip?
Come and be part of something bigger than tourism—your dollars will change this place forever! We have a chance to build on the great work that has been done here, and your presence will be a shining beacon of hope for the wildlife, and the people, in Mozambique.
* * * * *
Have you ever taken a trip where you felt you were making a real difference in the condition of the local environment and the lives of the local people? Please share your stories with us. We love to hear from you! Thanks!
* * * * *
To join Brad Hansen on our 40th Anniversary Giving Back trip, Mozambique’s Wild Places, benefitting the Greg Carr Foundation and African Parks, call our travel experts at 888-570-7108.