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Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park   

The first proposal to establish a Transfrontier Park linking Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe was in 1938, when the ecologist Gomes de Sousa proposed that the Mozambique colonial administration negotiate with the neighbouring states to establish Transfrontier Parks.

Subsequently an article was published (Clarke, 1973) proposing a linking of Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, Mozambique’s Coutada 16 and Kruger National Park with the St Lucia Game Reserve by way of the Lebombo mountains, Maputo Elephant Reserve, Tembe Elephant Reserve and Ndumu and Mkuze Game Reserves.

Coutada (Red), The Kruger and Gonarezhou National Parks and Their Connecting Corridor (Purple)

In 1986 the Rupert Foundation initiated a Transfrontier Peace Park proposal with the Mozambique government offering funding and facilitation for the development of Transfrontier conservation areas.

The land between the Limpopo and the Olifants River adjacent to Kruger's eastern boundary consisting of hunting concessions, wilderness and community resource land (over a million and a half hectares in extent) falls within this Peace Parks Initiative. Once the capacity to manage this region is fully in place, it will allow the Kruger National Park to drop its eastern fence, a mammoth artificial barrier of some 200km in extent. To date, some 30km has been removed and some animals have moved naturally back into Coutada.

This initiative once implemented will herald Africa's largest international transfrontier mega reserve close on 4 million hectares (40,000 km2) in total extent (including the Central Lowveld and Escarpment Protected Areas).

In November 2000, these visions became a reality with the declaration of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier National Park (GLTFNP) linking the first three of these regions.

Substantial work is now being undertaken on the ground to implement this accord. The history and usage of these areas differs widely and issues are being resolved concerning integration, international borders, management policies, disease and sustainability.

Component parts

Mozambique's Coutada 16 has been a Hunting Concession since 1969.

Civil war in Mozambique during the 1970s and eighties resulted in a complete breakdown in the management of the country's wildlife sanctuaries and the local extinction of most large mammal species.

The habitat remains in good condition however, so that the reintroduction of animals from the Kruger should be successful, provided effective wildlife protection measures can be implemented.

The first steps in this direction have been taken with substantial game relocation to a large new compound within Coutada to allow for re-habituation to take place.

Coutada 16 forms a triangle with the Limpopo River as the northern and eastern boundary, the Olifants River as the southern boundary and the KNP as the western boundary. It comprises an area of 1,123,316ha.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa is a long and narrow area stretching from the Crocodile River in the south to the Limpopo River in the north. The eastern boundary is the international boundary with Mozambique and the western boundary is a fence line more or less on the 22° latitude. Excluding the Private Nature Reserves on the western boundary, the KNP covers an area of 1,948, 528 hectares.

Gonarezhou National Park extends over 505,300ha in the south-eastern Lowveld of Zimbabwe. "Gona-re-zhou" means "Home of the elephant" and, as the name implies, it provided habitat to large herds of elephants.

On the east, it borders onto the Gaza Province in Mozambique and to the south and west, the Park is bounded by the Sengwe and Malapati Communal Land. To the northwest and northeast, the Gonakudzingwa, Matili II, Chiridzi, Mahenye and Ndowyo areas form the boundary of the Park.

It was proclaimed in 1934, and later upgraded to National Park status in 1975.

In later years community-based natural resource management in the form of the CAMPFIRE initiative was established with varying degrees of success in communal areas around this Park.

Large areas in southeast Zimbabwe have historically been successfully managed as wildlife conservancies with tourism and game ranching (mainly trophy hunting) as the main sources of income.

Upon full integration of these parks, the Greater Limpopo Park will cover an area of 3,577,144ha. A corridor to link the KNP and Coutada 16 up with Gonarezhou will be created to enhance the tourism potential.

The following tourism projects now exist:

  • Machampane tented camp, which is situated in the solitude of a pristine wilderness area in the Lebombo Mountains. Accommodation consists of luxury en-suite tents on raised decks, set into the river bank and overlooking the Machampane River.
  • The Machampane wilderness trail, which offers a 3 night/4 day experience with daily walking trails in the company of experienced armed game rangers. The trail meanders through open bushveld, descends into river gorges and winds its way through dense riverine and mopani forest.
  • The Shingwedzi 4x4 eco-trail, which is aimed at true bush lovers and is a guided, self-drive, 4 night/5 day 4x4 trail which offers a unique pioneering opportunity to no more than six participant 4x4 vehicles to explore the tracks and wilderness of the park. Three 4x4 camps with ablution facilities have been built along the trail.
  • The Aguia Pesqueira (Fish Eagle) campsite, which is situated halfway between Giriyondo and Massingirand provides the opportunity to camp on a plateau with a spectacular view of the Massingir Dam, measuring 103 kmē and featuring an abundance of bird life.
  • The Massingir hiking trail offers a 4 night/5 day wilderness adventure hiking experience.


The framework for making the Park a reality is provided by:

  • The SADC Wildlife Policy signed in Blantyre, Malawi in 1997 by the Heads of States. This promotes the establishment of Transfrontier Conservation areas as a means of promoting inter-state cooperation in the management and sustainable use of ecosystems that transcend national boundaries.
  • The SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, signed in 1999 in Maputo, Mozambique by the Heads of States, which promotes regional cooperation in the development of a common framework for the conservation of natural resources, enforcement of laws governing these resources and their sustainable use.

The long-term objectives of the development and management of the GLTFP Park are to:

  • Foster trans-frontier collaboration and co-operation to facilitate effective ecosystem management.
  • Promote alliances in the management of natural resources by encouraging socio-economic partnerships (local communities/private sector/NGO’s ).
  • Enhance ecosystem integrity and processes by harmonizing resource management processes.
  • Facilitate sub-regional economic growth.
  • Develop trans-border ecotourism.
  • Facilitate the exchange of technical, scientific and legal information.