Gorongosa was first established as a 1,000 km sq hunting reserve by 'The Mozambique Company', a private business that managed the center of Mozambique for the Portuguese government.
The Gorongosa Reserve was enlarged to 3,200 sq km to protect habitat for Nyala and rhino.
A new tourist camp was built on the floodplain near the Mussicadzi River but it was abandoned two years later because of heavy flooding in the rainy season. Lions took over the abandoned building and it became known as the Lion House. The building still stands and tourists can visit on their safari, overlooking the floodplains as Gorongosa's lions once did.
In 1951 Chitengo camp was built as the new reserve headquarters and it featured a restaurant and bar.
The government declared Gorongosa a national park while also adding another 2,100 sq km to the park, increasing its size to 5,300 sq km.
The Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) launched a war for independence against Portugal. In 1972, a Portuguese company was stationed in Gorongosa National Park but the war had little impact on Gorongosa and its wildlife.
The government reduced the Park's area to 3,770 sq km to provide more land for local farmers.
Park ecologist, Dr. Kenneth Tinley, led Gorongosa’s first aerial survey for wildlife. Tinley and his team counted about 200 lions, 2,200 elephants, 14,000 buffalos, 5,500 wildebeest, 3,000 zebras, 3,500 waterbucks, 2,000 impala, 3,500 hippos, and herds of eland, sable and hartebeest numbering more than five hundred. His monumental PhD thesis, “Framework of The Gorongosa Ecosystem”, still stands as the definitive ecological work on Gorongosa and is used as a reference tool by Park Management today.
In 1976, a year after Mozambique won its independence from Portugal, aerial surveys of the Park and adjacent Zambezi River delta counted 6,000 elephants and about 500 lions, the largest lion population recorded in the Gorongosa region to date.
Bantu-speaking people migrated from West Africa eastward to Lake Victoria and then south to the area now known as Mozambique.