With over 1200 species of birds, East Africa is one of the top birding and wildlife viewing destinations of the world. From the rolling savannah grasslands and montane forests, to coastal forests, deserts and an extensive freshwater and saltwater lake system, this part of Africa is nirvana for the expert and novice birder as well as any non-birding companion.
Aim 4 Africa's ethos is centred around flexible, environmentally-friendly, tailor-made holidays - the perfect combination for the discerning wildlife enthusiast and keen birder. You can spend as much time as you like in a particular area, be accompanied by expert bird guides, learn about unique habitats as well as the surrounding environment and local culture.
You may wish to spend days solely concentrating on a birding safari, or combine birding with other safari experiences, trekking or a beach holiday. There is so much to do, see and explore, that we prefer to create custom programs to suit particular interests.
12 Top Birding Locations in Tanzania
1. Serengeti National Park 2. Ngorongoro Highlands 3. Arusha National Park 4. Ruaha National Park 5. Rubondo Island National Park 6. Lake Victoria 7. Lake Natron 8. Lake Eyasi 9. Lake Manyara 10. Lake Tanganyika 11. Usambara Mountains 12. Kilimanjaro
Tanzania's variety of species of birds, over 1000, vary in each location due to the nation's geographic diversity. From mountain forest to tropical coast, every conceivable altitude range: deserts, open savannah grassland, lowland forest, bush and scrub, lakes and mudflats.
The National Parks have open savannah grassland, bush and scrub with large rivers running through them. Top species include: Secretary Bird, numerous vultures, eagles and hawks, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Gabon Nightjar, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Tit, Sooty Chat, and a wide variety of larks, pipits and widowbirds. The thick riverine forest bordering the Mara and Talek rivers, hold African Finfoot, Livingstone's & Ross's Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Blue Flycatcher, Double-toothed Barbet and the rare Pel's Fishing Owl.
The alkaline Lake Natron is also located near the National Parks; feeding ground for over one million (exceptionally two million) Lesser Flamingo. Greater flamingo are also found, in far smaller numbers. Kilimanjaro has three vegetation zones: Rain forest, Alpine Forest, and Moorland, making for species diversity. Highland species include several extremely uncommon birds such as Green Ibis, Rufous Sparrowhawk, Mountain Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Jackson's Francolin, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot, Hartlaub's Turaco, Scarce Swift, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Montane Oriole, Alpine Chat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Sharpe's Longclaw, Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starling and 13 species of sunbirds; including the Northern Double-collared, Golden-winged, Tacazze, Green-headed and Scarlet-tufted Malachite.
Meet James, Tanzania's Birdman, who would be happy to accompany you as a guide taking you to some of the most unique habitats in northern Tanzania including the only place on earth where you can see the rare Beesley's Lark (Chersomanes beesleyi), - the rarest bird in all of East Africa, with a population of only some 45 individuals.
12 Top Birding Locations in Kenya
1. Maasai Mara 2. Kakamega National Forest Reserve 3. Laikipia 4. Lake Nakuru 5. Lake Naivasha 6. Samburu National Park 7. Amboseli National Park 8. Tsavo East and West 9. Meru 10. Mount Kenya 11. Aberdare Ranges 12. Kenya Coast
Kenya also has over 1000 recorded species of birds. The variety of birdlife in Kenya is enhanced by its visibility. Vibrant Sunbirds flit from tree-to-tree, Weavers build their incredible variety of nests in the open, the Starlings shine, resplendent Widowbirds dance in the air, and bright Turacos are strangely camouflaged in the trees. Kingfishers, Rollers, Bee-eaters, Hornbills, Barbets and Woodpeckers are present in many varieties, and for a greater challenge, the Cisticolas and Greenbuls provide just that.
The sky overhead is alive with a variety of Swifts and Swallows, and raptors are plentiful. Ground birds include several Bustards, Larks, Pipits and Gamebirds, and the cast is not complete without the wonderful sight of tens of thousands of Lesser Flamingo on the soda lakes, and the world`s largest bird, the Ostrich.
10 Top Birding Locations in Uganda
1. Budongo Forest in Murchison Falls National Park 2.Lake Albert 3. Queen Elizabeth National Park 4. Kidepo Valley 5. Semliki 6. Lake Victoria 7. Kazinga Channel & Lutembe Bay 8. Ruwenzori Mountains 9. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest 10.Mgahinga
Uganda has over 600 species of birds and its main attractions are in its forests and swamps, where many species with restricted range can be found. Whilst it only has one endemic species, Fox's Weaver, which occurs in swamps north of Kampala, it has several species which are endemic to specific habitat areas, shared with other countries.One such area is the Albertine Rift, an area of lakes, mountains and forests, which stretches from northern Uganda along its borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several species endemic to this area are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Semilki National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Mgahinga. These include Green Broadbill, Grauer's, Grauer's Swamp and Neumann's Warblers, Shelley's and Dusky Crimsonwings, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Strange Weaver, Rwenzori Double-collared, Regal, Purple-breasted and Blue-throated Sunbirds, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Stripe-breasted Tit and several others.
There are also several highland and lowland forests spread across the country, which offer species which are generally West African. Great Blue and Black-billed Turacos, African Grey Parrot, Green-breasted Pitta, several Woodpeckers, Barbets and Greenbuls, and scarcities such as Weyn's Weaver, Nahan's and Forest Francolins all occur.
In the papyrus swamps around Lake Victoria and other lakes, the enigmatic Shoebill Stork can be found, as well as specialities including Papyrus Yellow and White-winged Warblers, Carruther's Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher and Orange Weaver.
10 Top Birding Locations in Rwanda
1. Akagera 2. Nyungwe Forest 3. Lake Kivu 4. Lake Bunyoni 5.Mukura Forest 6. Akanyaru Wetlands 7. Nyabaronga Wetlands 8. Kagera 9. Mugesera-Rugwero 10. Rugezi
Rwanda has a bird list of over 650 species, and supports a higher number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country outside the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Akagera National Park is still home to Shoebill, and it may still be one of the easiest sites at which to find it. In addition, it supports a mixture of acacia and papyrus species, including Red-faced Barbet, Bennett`s Woodpecker, Papyrus Gonolek, White-headed Black and Familiar Chats, Carruther`s and Tabora Cisticolas, White-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and Miombo Wren-warbler. Whilst lack of accommodation (except for camping) makes it difficult to explore the park extensively, it is certainly rewarding for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including Hippo, Elephant and Giraffe.
Nyungwe Forest is a vast tract of forest in the southwest. Much of the forest is unexplored, with access to large parts being extremely difficult, due to being in an area of very steep hills. However, an excellent winding tarmac road bisects the forest, and along this roadside one can find most of the Albertine Rift endemics, including Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Archer`s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Red-faced Woodland, Grauer`s Rush, Neumann`s and Grauer`s Warblers, Masked Mountain Apalis, Rwenzori Double-collared, Purple-throated, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds, Stripe-breasted Tit and Strange Weaver. A speciality is Red-collared Mountain Babbler, which has its only easily accessible site here, as does Kungwe Apalis. Recent possible sightings of Rockefeller`s Sunbird show that much is left to be discovered, and perhaps even such gems as the Congo Peacock (which has sites only 70km distant in the DR Congo) could exist in the remote dense forest!
10 Top Birding Locations in Malawi
1. Lake Malawi 2. Shire Valley 3. Shire Highlands 4. Mount Mulanje 5. Nyika Forest 6. Lake Chilwa 7. Liwonde National Park 8. Thyolo Mountain Forest Reserve 9. Misuku Hills Forest Reserve 10. Mtangatanga and Perekezi Forest Reserves
Malawi is dominated by the lake, however has numerous highlands and forests all providing different habitats for a wide range of birdlife, with over 650 species recorded. The birding habitats of the country must all be visited in order to appreciate the species diversity of this peaceful, pleasant and scenic country. Lake Malawi itself attracts relatively few waterbirds but the often rocky shores have their hyrax colonies and attendant Black EaglesAquila verreauxi and the lake itself is fished by the ubiquitous Fish Eagles Haliaetus vocifer. Lake Chilwa, near Zomba, is comparatively small and much shallower than Lake Malawi. It is a key locality for migrant and wintering Palearctic waders, including Great Snipes Gallinago media and a wide range of storks, herons, raptors and passerines. The Shire river valley is intensively cultivated but there are excellent wildlife areas (including Liwonde, Lengwe and Mwabvi national parks and the Elephant Marsh). Notable species here include Mottled Spinetail Telecanthura ussheri, Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima, Boehm`s Bee-eater Merops boehmi and Livingstone`s Flycatcher Erythrocercus livingstonei.
Low-lying areas of the Shire valley have Mopane woodland, home to a wide range of widespread species such as Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus. More rewarding ornithologically is the widespread Miombo Brachystegia woodland, characteristic of areas above 1000 metres, although much reduced in extent by deforestation. The Miombo endemics include Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti, Racket-tailed Roller Coracias spatulata, Pale-billed Hornbill Tockus pallidirostris, Whyte`s Barbet Buccanodon whytii, Bennett`s Woodpecker Campethera bennettii and Souza`s Shrike Lanius souzae.
It is perhaps the remaining areas of montane evergreen forest which provide the biggest attraction to visiting birders. This scarce habitat is declining in extent, so much so that some of its flagship species are now regarded as globally endangered. They are two small chats, the Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis of Mts Mulanje and Thyolo, and the East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi of the northern Lake Malawi shore and also the Spotted Ground-thrush Zoothera guttata of the Shire highlands. Related species of interest are the White-chested Alethe Alethe fulleborni of the Nyika forests, and the Olive-flanked Robin Alethe anomala of Mulanje and the northern mountains. Other noteworthy species of the mountain forests include the White-winged Apalis Apalis chariessa of Mulanje and the Shire highlands, the Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chorocephalus of Mts Cholo, Soche and perhaps Chiradzulu, Bertram`s Weaver Ploceus bertrandi of the forest fringes throughout and the Red-faced Crimsonwing Cryptospiza reichenovii found in most evergreen forests.
Depending on the time you wish to spend on holiday in East Africa, it is possible to visit more than one country to get a feel for the diverse landscapes and habitats.
Have a look at the links below to some of our popular birding resources and let us know what areas you would be most interested in visiting in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia).The list is by no means exhaustive, and we aim to be adding to this list. Please let us know if you have any useful resources that we may add to the list below.