Birding safari

17 Days. Trip through the country to observe numerous species of birds.

  • bookDay 1: Dar es salaam > Amani (East Usambaras)

    Meet and greet with picnic lunches and begin the expedition towards the East Usambaras, which hold a number of special and unique species. The forest in this area has sadly been severely reduced by vast tea estates and is now mostly restricted to the tops of the mountains. Fortunately, the remaining area has been declared a nature reserve and this is where we will focus our efforts. Birdlife still abounds here and we will spend the following two days exploring these cool highland forests. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

  • Day 2: Amani (East Usambaras)

    Today we visit various forested habitats through the East Usambaras in search of some of the extremely localized species that lurk here. The highly endangered Long-billed Forest Warbler will be our main target, as this is one of the last remaining areas where this bird can be found. The Amani Sunbird, which is known and named from the area, is however rather scarce here, especially when compared to its relative abundance in coastal Kenya. A number of other localized and range-restricted species that we will be on the lookout for include Kretschmer's Longbill, Green-headed Oriole, Fischer's Turaco, Uluguru Violet-backed and Banded Green Sunbirds, Dappled Mountain Robin, Sharpe's Akalat and the rare and little-known Usambara Hyliota.

    A large assortment of other great birds could easily add to the spectacle and these include Mottled Spinetail, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Green Barbet, Scaly-throated and Pallid Honeyguides, African Broadbill, Chestnutfronted Helmetshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Tiny Greenbul, Little Yellow Flycatcher, the distinctive distans race of Pale-breasted Illadopsis, Black-bellied Starling, Red-tailed Rufous Thrush, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Plain-backed Sunbird and Red-throated Twinspot.

    The scenery here is fantastic, and while enjoying the views of the surrounding landscape we will look out for a number of raptors such as Black Sparrowhawk, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Southern Banded Snake Eagle and African Goshawk, while even the majestic Crowned Eagle could come cruising past. We will also make a night excursion in order to have a shot at locating the scarce Usambara Eagle-Owl. Meals and overnight at a hotel.

  • Day 3: Amani > Lushoto (West Usambaras)

    After breakfast we drive to the west Usambaras. The West Usambaras rise a fair bit higher than the mountains in the east and with this resultant altitudinal change we can expect to find some different species. The accommodation is comfortable and we can enjoy a two-night stay in this wonderful part of the Eastern Arc Mountains. En route to Lushoto we'll have a final chance to search for any species we may not yet have encountered, including the elusive Green Tinkerbird. Other species we will search for include Mottled Swift, East Coast Boubou, Eastern Nicator, Sombre and Yellow-bellied Greenbuls, Red-rumped Swallow, Coastal Cisticola, Kurrichane Thrush, Collared Palm Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, Amethyst Sunbird, Eastern Golden Weaver and Red-backed Mannikin. Meals and overnight at the hotel.

  • Day 4: Lushoto (West Usambaras)

    The West Usambaras are home to some similar birds found on the East Usambaras; however, certain other species are also present. The lush forests above Lushoto, especially the famous Magamba Sawmill Road, are the best areas to search for the West Usambaras specials. Topping the list of specialties is the rare Usambara Weaver and the rather non-descript Usambara Akalat. The weaver tends to associate with mixed species flocks while the Akalat spends much of the time hiding in dark spots among the leaf litter. We will put in a fair amount of effort in attempting to track down these two rare birds. While birding for the specials we will also be on a constant lookout for any signs of other avian activity, and hope to locate several tricky forest species that include Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Hartlaub's Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Stripe-faced and Mountain Greenbuls (the latter sub-species usambarae), Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, endemic Red-capped Forest Warbler, shy Spot-throat, Kenrick's Starling, Usambara (Olive) Thrush, White-chested Alethe, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird and smart Oriole Finch. Meals and over night at a hotel.

  • Day 5: Lushoto > Mkomazi National Park

    Today we leave the Usambaras' forests behind us and drive to Same South Pare region. Birding stops on our drive off the Usambaras can be interesting and we could find Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Black-throated Barbet, Pygmy Batis, Pringle's Puffback, Pink-breasted Lark, Dodson's Bulbul, Mosque Swallow, Tiny Cisticola, Red-fronted Apalis, Grey Wren-Warbler, Somali Crombec, elusive Scaly Chatterer, Golden-breasted and Fischer's Starlings, Bare-eyed Thrush, Eastern Violet-backed, Hunter's and Tsavo Sunbirds, Black-necked Weaver Green-winged Pytilia, Purple Grenadier, White-bellied Canary and Somali Bunting.

    Picnic lunch on the way then we drive to Mkomazi National Park which is likely to be one of the highlights of bird watching safaris in Tanzania. Dinner and over night at the hotel.

  • Day 6: Mkomazi National Park

    After an early morning breakfast we begin our bird watching; the game drive takes us through a productive area of grassy plains, which supports large flocks of a variety of Storks including the spectacular Saddle-bill Stork, Yellow billed Stork, Abdim's Stork, Hammerkop, Olive Sunbird, Eastern Violet Sunbird, African Hoopoe, White bellied Bustard. We can expect to see Brown Snake Eagle, Black Chested Snake Eagle, Yellow Throated Longclaw, Rosy Patched Bush Shrike, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Fishers Starling, Black Shouldered Kite, Black Billed Wood Dove, Brown Crowned Tchagra, White Faced Whisteling Duck, Red Billed Teal, Secretary Bird, Blue Naped Mouse Bird, Isabeline Shrike and Grey Headed Sparrow.

    With more than 3000sq km this new National Park takes its name from Pare tribe's word for "scoop of water", referring to little water. It is a fantastic destination for birdwatchers, with more than 450 avian species recorded, among them dry-country endemics such as the Crested Guineafowl, Vulturine Guineafowl and other large ground birds such as Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, and Ground Hornbill. They are also migrants from within Africa and Eurasian, taking this enormous journey in order to escape from the harsh Eurasian winter. The park also borders Tsavo west National Park in Kenya.

    Lunch (packed), dinner and over night at a hotel.

  • Day 7: Mkomazi National Park > Arusha National Park

    We are going to leave Same town just after early morning breakfast. In the afternoon we will arrive on the outskirts of Arusha, the unofficial capital of tourism in Tanzania. Game drive en route to the lodge. Our lodge here beholds some spectacular birds and we shall take some time to search for such beauties that include Brown-breasted Barbet, the large Silvery-cheeked Hornbill and the elusive Taveta Weaver.

    After lunch relax, then out again for the evening bird watching. Late afternoon birding is the best time to take brilliant pictures as the light at this time is just perfect. We might encounter the Long crested Eagle, Amur Falcon, Fan-tailed Widowbird, White-eye Slaty Flycatcher, Black Cuckoo Shrike, Tropical Boubou, Montane White Eye, Cardinal Woodpecker, Taita Fiscal Shrike, Mackinnon's Shrike, Yellow Mantled Widowbird, Chinspot Batis and many more. We will spend the night in Arusha National Park eager to raise early for another day in this paradise.

    Dinner and over night at a lodge.

  • Day 8: Arusha National Park

    Arusha National Park supports an impressive range of habitats: forest, grassland, lakes and swamp vegetation makes it one of the intresting places for bird watchers, small and most beautiful with only 137sq km with more than 400 species of birds recorded in this park including Eurasian migrants.

    Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895 m.) can be visible on clear days from many locations in the park. One of the unique attractions of the park is the opportunity to combine game drives and walk in the many places where visitors can leave their vehicles and walk in fresh air. On this day, we have a whole day game and bird watching drive at the park. We have chances of seeing the Bare-faced Goaway bird, Red chested Cuckoo, Dark caped Bulbul, Tambourine Dove, Hartlaubs Turaco,Yellow brested Apalis, Fawn Collared Lark, Red backed Shrike, Black backed Puffback, African dusky Flycatcher, Montane white Eye, Brown Hooded Kingfisher, Grey headed Kingfisher, Wood sandpiper, Common sandpiper, Little Grabe, White browned Robinchat, Yellow Billed Stock, Spotted Flycatcher, Tropical Boubou, Scarlet Chested Sunbird, White Browed Coucal, Pink Backed Pelican, Red Eyed Dove, Chin Spot Battis, Yellow Throated Longclaw, European Bee Eater, White Fronted Bee Eater, Little Bee Eater, Black Smith Plover, Chestnut Naped Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Saddle Billed Stock, Augur Bazzard, Tawny Eagle, Helmetted Guinea Fowl, African Jacana, Variable Sunbird, Lesser Flamingo, Spackled Mouse Bird, Red Billed Oxpecker, Common Fiscal Shrike, Long Tailed Fiscal Shrike, White Browned Robin Chat, African Pied Wagtail, Mountain Wagtail, Caped Teal, Little Egret, White Eared Barbet, Grosbeak Weaver, African Golden Weaver, White- bellied Go away Bird, Diederik Cuckoo, Klass's Cuckoo, African wood Owl, Marsh Owl, Verreaux's egale Owl, Woodland Kingfisher, Plain Martin, Cliff Chat, Hadada lbis, Scared lbis, White Stork, Yellow billed Stork, Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Long tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Little Grebe, Black Egret, African Spoonbill, African fish Eagle and Long crested Eagle; this are just few of the wonderful species that we will be seaching for.

    Breakfast, lunch, dinner and over night at the Lodge.

  • Day 9: Arusha > Tarangire National Park (via Lark Plains).

    On this lovely morning we will make an early start after breakfast. Our intention is to be in prime habitat at the optimum time for observing the incredibly rare Beesley's Lark. This small population is often considered a race of Spike-heeled Lark, a species confined to the western part of Southern Africa; however, it is far smaller and comparatively much scarcer. Other lark species we hope to encounter include the localized Athi Short-toed and Short-tailed Larks.

    Around mid-morning we will leave the plains and continue towards Tarangire National Park. The roadside birding is always good and we can expect to see many of the typical and more widespread species associated with this area. These include Blue-naped Mousebird, White-headed buffalo Weaver, Redcheeked Cordon-bleu, Long-tailed Fiscal, African grey Flycatcher and Spotted palm Thrush and many more. We expect to arrive Tarangire in the late afternoon for lunch.

    Dinner and overnight at the lodge after a leasurely spent afternoon game drive with splendid and magnanamous views of resident baobabs sun-batthing in the landscape.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire ecosystem is the third largest in Tanzania. Seasonally, the park supports the second largest concentration of wildlife in Tanzania, surpassed only by the Serengeti during peak migration! Tarangire is most famous, however, for its huge numbers of African Elephant that congregate along the meandering Tarangire River. Here we will take time to observe these massive pachyderms and will no doubt be amazed at their tender family interactions. Other mammals likely to be seen include the stately Waterbuck, Impala, comical sounders of Warthog and Giraffe. The Acacia woodland and Baobab studded grasslands also provide a home for almost 450 bird species. During our time here we have the opportunity to find African Hawk-Eagle, the diminutive Pygmy Falcon, Double-banded Courser, Red-necked and Yellow-necked Spurfowls, Black-faced Sandgrouse, White-bellied Bustard,
Meyer's and Red-bellied Parrots, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Redand- yellow and D'Arnaud's Barbets, Mottled Spinetail, Spotted palm Thrush, Banded Warbler and flocks of Northern pied Babbler. Two major targets for the area are the Tanzanian endemic Ashy Starling and East African endemic Yellow-collared Lovebird. We will also visit the vast Silale Swamp which is excellent for waterfowl. Species to look out for here will be African Openbill, the huge Goliath Heron, Southern Pochard, Fulvous Whistling Duck, African Jacana and Long-toed Lapwing. If we are fortunate, we may even spot a Black Coucal or flush out a secretive African Crake! Night birding around our lodge can also be fruitful and we will look for Slender-tailed and Freckled Nightjars and the diminutive African Scops Owl.

  • Day 10: Tarangire National Park > Ngorongoro Crater

    After breakfast, we leave Tarangire with picnic lunch and strike out west for the vast Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This 8,300sq km World Heritage Site protects the world's largest intact volcanic caldera (260sq km) and, arguably, the world's most spectacular natural area. Not only is it scenically breathtaking, but the crater is also home to one of the planet's densest populations of large mammals. Our wonderful lodge here is nestled on the edge of the crater rim with spectacular views of the crater itself. The forests that cloak the rim of this iconic site are home to a feast of Afro-montane forest birds. Hildebrandt's Francolin, Schalow's Turaco, the elusive Brown-backed Woodpecker, beautiful Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Mountain Greenbul, Brown-headed Apalis, Brown Warbler, skulking Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, busy flocks of Montane White-eye and dazzling Tacazze, Golden-winged and Eastern Double-collared Sunbirds can be found here. From the lodge we can also gaze down at the Ngorongoro Crater below and watch distant elephants and herds of antelope and buffalo moving over the plains. Dinner and over night at the lodge.

  • Day 11: Ngorongoro Crater

    After an early breakfast, with picnic lunch we will descend 600m to the Ngorongoro Crater floor. This is deluxe Big Five territory and a photographer's dream. Most of the animals are extremely relaxed and habituated to the presence of human admirers, while the high crater walls, usually cloaked in a pure white frosting of clouds, make for dramatic back-drops to animal photography. The crater floor provides a mini-example of a complete African ecosystem with forests, lakes, grasslands, swamps and rivers. Over 35,000 large animals reside in the crater, and large concentrations of Blue Wildebeest and Burchell's Zebra are supplemented by smaller numbers of African Elephant (we hope to find some of the crater's famous Giant Tuskers), African Buffalo, the highly sought-after Black Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, huge Eland, and Thomson's and Grant's Gazelles. The crater reputably also boasts the world's highest concentration of predators and these include Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Spotted Hyena and Golden and Black-backed Jackals.

    The birding is equally rewarding and we can expect to find many of the picture-book species that make Africa so famous. Pink rafts of Greater and Lesser Flamingos on Lake Magadi, Common Ostrich striding over the grasslands, regal Kori Bustard (the world's heaviest flying bird), the elegant Grey crowned Crane and a good numbers of raptors, including the unique Secretarybird, Bateleur and Martial Eagle. Amongst the many other species we may encounter, we hope to see the uncommon Shelley's Francolin, Black-bellied Bustard, Dusky turtle Dove, Whiteheaded Barbet, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Comical anteater Chat, Black-crowned Tchagra, the striking rosy-throated Longclaw, Fan-tailed Widowbird and the skittish African Quail-Finch. In the evening, we ascend to our lodge on the scenic crater rim and at dusk we will attempt to track down Montane Nightjar.

    Dinner and overnight at the lodge.

  • Day 12: Ngorongoro Conservation Area > Serengeti (via Oldupai Gorge)

    This morning after breakfast we make our way to the world famous Serengeti National Park. En route we pass through an area that is home to the Maasai people. These tall, proud nomadic warriors are famous for their legendary prowess in battle and single-handed acts of bravery in fights with wild animals. Here, we have the opportunity for an optional (non-inclusive) excursion to a traditional Maasai village. A local guide will explain their unique culture as you watch the people busy about their daily chores. You will also be treated to a display of the famous Maasai dancing and have unlimited photographic opportunities.

    Our lunch venue will be the well-known Oldupai Gorge, so named after the wild Sisal plant that grows here. As a result of massive geological activities over the eons, Oldupai provides a unique record of countless years of fossilized creatures and plants in a series of stratified rock-layers. Most famous of all discoveries, which revolutionized thinking on hominid evolution, have been those of Australopithecine hominid remains found by the Leakey family. After an introductory lecture we have time to explore the very informative museum at the site that exhibits replicas of the hominid fossils along with genuine fossils of extinct animals that used to inhabit the region, ranging from River Elephant and Giant Swine to Short-necked Giraffe!

    A bird walk around the site may yield a variety of arid-country species such as the vocal Slate-coloured Boubou, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Rufous Chatterer, Kenya Sparrow, Vitelline Masked Weaver, beautiful Purple Grenadier and Southern Grosbeak-Canary. Thereafter, we continue our travels westward on the rutted dirt track across the vast, flat and seemingly endless Serengeti Plains, to spend three nights in one of the world's most renowned game reserves.

    Dinner and over night at the lodge.

  • Day 13- 15: Serengeti National Park

    Extending for an incredible 14,000sq km, the Serengeti is one of the world's largest natural sanctuaries. Despite the vast space, the numbers of game that we can expect to see here is still astounding. The Serengeti, literally meaning "Endless Plain" in Maasai, consists mostly of grasslands interspersed with Acacia woodlands and rocky outcrops. There is little permanent water in the park and this fact, combined with a fairly regular rainfall pattern, has resulted in the world-famous Wildebeest migration. More than two million large ungulates move between the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya. During visit to the Serengeti we stay in two separate lodges, allowing us to explore the southern and central areas. Once again we have the chance of finding the full compliment of African mega fauna. We hope to see lazing prides of lion, leopard draped over large trees, aloof cheetah resting on or near vantage points, skulking spotted hyena, jackals and, if we are fortunate, the bizarre bat-eared fox. Several species of smaller cats such as caracal, serval and african wild cat may even be seen.

    Besides the wildebeest, the Serengeti supports huge populations of burchell's zebra, african buffalo, giraffe, warthog, thomson's and grant's gazelles, impala, topi, kongoni, bohor reedbuck, eland and smaller numbers of african elephant, hippopotamus, rubber-nosed kirk's dik-dik, oribi and defassa waterbuck.

    Additionally, there will certainly be a veritable feast of superb birds to keep us very busy for the time spent exploring the park. Star birds include the East African endemics Grey-crested Helmetshrike and Red-throated Tit, the striking Steel-blue Whydah and the highly localized Karamoja Apalis. Other specials are Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Fischer's Lovebird, Rufous-tailed Weaver, the localized race of D'Arnaud's Barbet (sometimes split as Usambiro Barbet) and Athi Short-toed Lark. These birds can be found together with a host of other species such the magnificent Saddle-billed Stork, up to six species of vulture and the grotesque Marabou Stork, Secretarybird, Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Kori Bustard, coveys of Coqui Francolin, Temminck's Courser, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Redfronted Barbet, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill, the whimsical Southern Ground Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Black-lored Babbler, Taita and Greybacked Fiscals, Magpie Shrike, Hildebrandt's Starling, both species of oxpecker, Silverbird, the cute Buffbellied Warbler, the aptly named Beautiful Sunbird, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Black-faced Waxbill and, if we are lucky, Grey-headed Silverbill.

    Not only is this a great place in which to find game and birds, but the wide green-gold savannas, dotted with thorn trees, also make it ideal for photography. The Serengeti is ravishingly beautiful and offers long, undisturbed views and utterly dramatic panoramas.

    All meals and over night at the tented camp.

  • Day 16: Serengeti > Speke Bay (Lake Victoria)

    Today we will depart the fabulous Serengeti National Park and make our way east towards the impressive expanse of Lake Victoria. Our morning will be spent driving through the western region of the Serengeti. Raptors could include Western Banded Snake, Long-crested and Martial Eagles and the small but powerful Pygmy Falcon, while regular mixed flocks will be birded for any of specials we may still be looking for. Our point of departure is through the Iamadi Gate and from here we strike out to new habitat and a whole spread of new birds on the edge of Lake Victoria. Our lodge at Speke Bay is idyllically set and the birding around the garden can be superb. Good species include the often tough to find Three-banded Courser and Spotted Thick-knee, while Grey-headed, African Pygmy and Woodland Kingfishers, Beautiful Sunbird and Black-headed Gonolek add an exciting splash of colour to the surroundings. Other species that we may find during our time here include Levaillant's and Dideric Cuckoos, Angola Swallow, Yellow-backed Weaver and Cut-throat Finch.

    Dinner and over night at the lodge.

  • Day 17: Speke Bay > Mwanza

    Today we leave the shores of Lake Victoria and make our way to the town of Mwanza where the tour will conclude.

Depature Daily from Dar-es-Salaam, ending in Mwanza
Duration 16 Nights / 17 Days
Parks included
East Usambaras
West Usambaras
Mkomazi National Park
Arusha National Park
Tarangire National Park
Ngorongoro Crater
Serengeti National Park
Speke Bay