Lonely Planet Writer

A hidden mountain rainforest has been uncovered using Google Earth

In 2018, it may be hard to believe that there are still parts of the world that lie undiscovered. But one intrepid conservation scientist has shown that with a little patience, it’s possible to utilise some of the most easily accessible modern technology to explore the unseen. Using Google Earth, Dr Julian Bayliss recently discovered an untouched rainforest that sits on top of a mountain peak in Mozambique’s Zambezia province.

Mount Lico taken from a distance.
Mount Lico captured from a distance. Image by Julian Bayliss

Dr Bayliss first spotted Mount Lico on Google Earth in 2012, while he was scanning satellite imagery of the surrounding regions. “What immediately struck me when I first looked at it was a volcanic-like structure with a basin of dark green forest in the middle. The surrounding land was heavily disturbed and cultivated, but the forest itself looked intact and unspoilt. It turned out to be incredibly unique, as we have a site that has hardly had any interference from humankind, this is an extremely rare find in the world,” he told Lonely Planet Travel News.

Dr Bayliss made the discovery whilst looking at satellite data on Google Earth.
Dr Bayliss made the discovery whilst looking at satellite data on Google Earth. Image by Julian Bayliss

The expedition to Mount Lico took place last May, with Dr Bayliss assembling an international team of scientists and climbers who worked alongside Mozambican authorities. The main camp was made at the base of the mountain, with satellite camps being set up in the forest basin and close to the crater’s edge, 700 metres above the surrounding plain. “Over the course of two weeks, the scientists moved up and down between these camps investigating fauna and flora to be found in this unique site.  Results are still awaiting final analysis, but already I can confirm a new species of butterfly, and more are expected,” Dr Bayliss said.

A climber ascending Mount Lico.
A climber ascending Mount Lico. Image by Julian Bayliss

It’s not the first time Dr Bayliss has used Google Earth for a new discovery. In 2005 he used satellite data to discover the largest rainforest in southern Africa at Mount Mabu in Mozambique. Commenting on technology’s role in exploration, Dr Bayliss said that new developments make it easier than ever for the average enthusiast to discover more about the world.

The expedition has already led to the discovery of a new species of butterfly. Image by Julian Bayliss

“Anybody can use tools such as Google Earth to explore. This is amazing as the whole world is available for everyone to search if you so wish through such technology. There are real possibilities of finding fascinating places of natural wonder, which one can then explore through other avenues, such as different resolution maps, and internet searches on data, and then even make a plan to visit such places in the field.

More information on Julian Bayliss’ work, as well as more images of Mount Lico are available on his official website.