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It has always been a name on a map, a place that might be nice to visit someday but actually going to the Gile Reserve made me think, “why haven’t I done this before?”

As part of their Anchor Site program, the Mozambican Ministry of Tourism (FUTUR) and the IFC (International Finance Corporation), are looking for investors in the Gile Anchor Site which includes two islands of the Primeras and Secundas Archipelago. The idea behind this anchor site is to set up a couple of lodges or resorts on the two islands, Casuarina Island and Epidendron Island, with the option of later developing some sort of lodge or resort on a concession in the reserve. The investment in the island resorts will help pay for some of the restoration and preservation costs of the reserve. The eventual idea would be to have an opportunity to offer a combination package to guests, to spend time on one of two beautiful remote islands and then visit an off the beaten track wilderness area.

So, being interested, we went to have a look. But first we needed to see what it all looked like from above and chartered a plane to take us over the reserve and then the islands. The Gile Reserve from above is simply amazing. Almost the entire area is covered in forest and even now in the dry season it all looks so green. There are a couple of inselberg formations which have their own forest ecologies growing on them. The two rivers bordering the reserve, the Molocue and the Mulela, are surrounded by lush riverine forest.

The next day, we drove three hours out of Nampula to see what the view was like from the other side, the ground. Arriving in Gile Town in the evening we spent some time getting to know some of the people from IGF, a French NGO working to conserve the Reserve. After a couple of beers we reached lights out time (the town generator goes off at 10pm) and settled into bed at the pensao, which was clean and quite pleasant. (I always expect the worst so was happily surprised)

The next morning we set off for the actual reserve. Once we entered the gates, it was like the other Mozambique ceased to exist, the one where there is always a village in sight or cassava fields. Here there was us and the forest. The reserve is made up of Miombo woodlands and there are a few open grassland dambos but on this first day we saw only forest. And beautiful forest it is, with a few varieties of orchids visible on the trees, slashes of light shining green throught the trees and a sense of quiet immersion with the nature surrounding us.

In one day we manage to drive the ‘road’ traversing the reserve, stopping briefly outside Malema before driving on the outskirts to get to the main camp at Mualama where we spent the night. The next day we have time for a quick (3 hour) jaunt to find the inselbergs and a quick climb up one to see the view – this is the ideal spot for a lodge with views over the reserve forests, feeling like one of the gods atop Mount Olympus. Unfortunately we can also see smoke from the fires that poachers in the reserve make to trap animals then leave them to burn without control. This is one of the first tasks of the IGF, to control the poaching and fire problems.

There is so much more I could say about Gile but here there isn’t enough space. It may have been work that took us there but I think I got more pleasure out of it than anything else. A thanks to the IGF and the Reserve Manager who hosted us and I look forward to seeing their progress in keeping this pristine piece of wilderness alive.

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