01 September 2021

The Verge: “The secret garden”

Julian Bayliss (biodiversity and protected areas specialist, professor at Oxford Brookes University): I started systematically going across Northern Mozambique, scanning it using Google Earth satellite imagery. I came across this mountain range where Mount Socone is. It’s in between Mabu and Namuli [two nearby mountains], which I knew about before. Just below that, I could see this sort of crater-like mountain with this dark, round patch. I thought, Oh, that’s got to be a forest. I then zoomed in to that and was looking at detail. I could see that the surrounding land was all heavily cultivated and quite badly disturbed, and there were roads and everything else. But the base in the forest was completely intact, dark green, no evidence of disturbance.

I zoomed in more closely to the crater, the actual sides of the mountain, and I could see that they were this smooth granite. It was an inselberg. The sides were steep, smooth, fortress-like. And that’s when the excitement came because if you can’t get up there, then that forest is unique, extremely special, highly undisturbed, very rare. You’re looking at a site where no humans have been before, or at least very few humans have been before.

Brewin: You’re on this kind of monolith, this big, granite boulder. You’re looking out across the local area for miles and miles, and you see the extent of human interaction with the environment, the amount of deforestation that has gone on, the amount of planting of these eucalyptus plantations. And you know that 50, 60, 70 years ago, it would have just been pristine miombo woodland [a type of African forest]. There’s sadness as well that you feel because you know it’s changed. It’s gone forever, and it will change more. And you know that you’re standing on the last little remaining fragments of what was a kind of African paradise in a way. So yeah, [it was a] privilege but shrouded in a bit of regret and a bit of sadness for what was gone.

Andy Wright & Sonner Kehrt

It feels thrilling to know that, even now in the 21st century, there are still places (on land) that have been hardly touched by humans, where you could venture as an explorer and discover it for the first time. But at the same time I shudder to think that paving the way to these virgin lands will soon strip them of their uniqueness, turning them into yet another farmland for people to exploit.

Mount Lico, an inselberg in Northern Mozambique
Mount Lico Photography by Jeffrey Barbee

The expedition to Mount Lico was featured in a National Geographic documentary as well that I recently watched on YouTube.

The Lost Forest | Nobel Peace Prize Shorts

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